3 CPG and Wellness Takeaways From Adweek Presents: The Way Forward

PepsiCo's CMO and WW's chief creative officer talk agility and empathy during this health crisis

adweek presents: the way forward

Key insights:

In our fourth installment of Adweek Presents: The Way Forward, Adweek’s Lisa Granatstein, editor and svp of programming, examined how CPG and wellness marketers have been flexible during the pandemic, forging their way through this dark chapter in history, and, as Winston Churchill once advised, “never letting a crisis go to waste.”

WW chief executive officer Mindy Grossman and PepsiCo chief marketing officer Greg Lyons shared how their organizations have had to quickly adapt their businesses to meet the evolving needs of customers and to prioritize supporting frontline and essential workers.

For the next edition of Adweek Presents: The Way Forward, Granatstein speaks with Chipotle CMO Chris Brandt and Athleta CMO Sheila Shekar Pollak about restaurants and retail. Register now for the member exclusive livestream, which airs May 20 at 3 p.m. ET.

Here are some key takeaways from the latest episode:

Care for the people you work with as well as the people you market to

Lyons has seen an increase in expressions of care and understanding within the PepsiCo marketing department. “We’ve seen people’s dogs climbing on them, we hear the kids screaming in the background. We know each other as human beings better than we ever have, and we’re really authentically looking out for each other,” he said, adding that sensitivity and awareness have become part of PepsiCo’s marketing.

For example, PepsiCo is working on campaigns to capitalize on the excitement of the return of live sports—whenever that eventually occurs—and keeping that momentum going through the NFL season.

Leverage user-generated content and first-person data

Understanding the desires and concerns of the communities PepsiCo serves and sells to has led to shifts in investment. More money has been put into PepsiCo’s ecommerce channels, leading to the fast creation and subsequent debut of two online stores, where people can purchase food and beverage products directly from the brand, in the safety of their homes.

“We’re trying to learn as much as possible to inform how to merchandise in the retail business or with our other ecommerce partners,” Lyons said, observing that PepsiCo has been much more flexible with its plans to make sure that the company is speaking to the consumer in the right way these days.

Like PepsiCo, WW Wellness has been paying attention to the needs of its members. Because of the ability to observe behavioral changes in real time, Grossman and her team saw that members were pivoting from cooking with a lot of fresh foods to making meals with more accessible, nonperishable pantry products. They also saw that people are baking a lot more. Menus and recipes were then adjusted to be relevant to today’s world, so that these instincts and searches for comfort in food would be provided in ways that were healthy.

“Health and wellness are going to become necessities, not luxuries,” Grossman said. Changes in membership behavior and concerns will continue to serve as WW Wellness’s roadmap.

Think forward and think positive

Grossman feels that it is important as a leader to understand that this time can be valuable for a business, providing an opportunity to innovate, reinvent and reimagine what you want your organization to be.

“When everyone is so heads-down, you have to be heads-up and think about what you should be doing right now,” she said. With that mindset, WW Wellness has been conceiving and launching new products such as in-app features that enable sleep tracking and dietary preference personalization to meet the current and future needs of consumers.

PepsiCo is also keeping the behaviors of people during and post-pandemic at the forefront of its innovation. The CPG brand recently released a drink called Mountain Dew Amp Game Fuel, which was developed in partnership with pro and elite esports athletes to be “the first beverage designed just for gamers.” The decision to come out with this drink was borne from teenagers and adults in quarantine gaming more than ever before.

“Once people are able to get outside, there will be a big relief that we can go out, so it might take a hit during that rebound,” Lyons noted, “but esports and gaming are here to stay, so we will continue to invest heavily in that.”

@monicroqueta monica.zorrilla@adweek.com Mónica is a breaking news reporter at Adweek.