The CMO’s New M.O. – How Henkel’s Patrick Davis Is Helping The Snuggle Bear Shelter In Place
K Patrick Davis SVP, Laundry and Home Care Marketing, Henkel Consumer Goods North America
K Patrick Davis SVP, Laundry and Home Care Marketing, Henkel Consumer Goods North America
For a 140-year-old company with products used in over 90% of US households, the approach to dealing with a crisis is simple – empower inside to impact outside. This month I sat down with Patrick Davis, the CMO at Henkel’s US Laundry and Home Care Division, home to dozens of iconic brands including Dial, Purex, Soft Scrub, Right Guard, all and Snuggle.
As an African-American executive, he brings a unique conscience and voice that allows Henkel to respond empathetically to the current set of crises. Importantly, his thoughtful and optimistic approach to leadership is exactly what is needed right now for his team, for their many customers, and for the larger community they belong to.
Soon Yu: How is Henkel responding to the set of crises that we're facing right now?
Patrick Davis: I like that you put the term crises as plural. Because society is really facing two crises right now that we really haven't faced in my lifetime. I'll start with the pandemic.Most Popular In: CMO Network
First and foremost, as an employee and a leader of large teams at Henkel, I'm really proud of how we prioritized health and safety of our employees. Most of our corporate employees have been working from home since the pandemic began. But because we make products that are deemed essential, the operations in our labs, our manufacturing locations, and our fulfillment centers have never been more important and have remained active. Getting them the PPE they need, and putting protocols in place that meet or exceed safety standards has been one of the first things we focused on.
Second, we're working to keep up with increased demand right now. Usually, our category, laundry, and home care grow at about two to three percent per year. That's what our systems are set up to manage. In March, as consumers prepared to shelter at home, demand spiked by over 50%. Since then, we've been working collaboratively with our customers to refill the shelves and fulfill demand.
Third, we're committed to helping the communities where we live and work. At a time when consumer wash loads are up six percent, but more than 10% % of the public is unemployed, we've donated more than one million units of free hygiene and household products. We’ve also made monetary donations and some of our manufacturing facilities have actually converted our production lines from other products to making hand sanitizer when it was in short supply.
Finally, as a marketer, we've had to adapt the way we connect with consumers. Things as simple as not being able to shoot TV commercials for our new products because productions are shut down became an obstacle. In one case, our Snuggle brand worked with the creative director at one of our agencies, TBWA, to shoot a short COVID-19-related spot as soon as the pandemic began. He did it in his home over the course of a weekend, with his kids and his wife as the talent. We were able to produce, edit, and traffic the spot in less than a week. It really spoke to the moment and connected with consumers in real-time.
In addition to the pandemic, the US is also facing a crisis around dealing with one of America's original sins, of slavery, and the systematic racism that has followed for generations. This really presents a different set of questions than the pandemic, but quite frankly, a lot of opportunities. The videotaped killing of George Floyd happened, as we speak, over a month ago. It happened just prior to our first virtual national sales meeting. After a week of all-day meetings, Monday through Thursday, I was tired and I knew that all of our African-American employees were exhausted as well. Now, these types of injustices aren't new. They have happened in the past. Usually, at times like this, I would be able to see my African-American colleagues, make eye contact with them, and we let each other know, we’re here for one another.
In this situation, because we are working virtually, and I'm the executive sponsor of our African-American employee resource group, I worked with the ERG leadership team to pull together what I thought was a small listening session for people to really come together, express how they were feeling and talk about what they would like to see changed. What started out as a session of 20 or so African-American managers to share their feelings, blossomed into a session of almost a hundred, with not just people of color, but also allies who wanted to learn. I shared my personal story of experiencing racism at a very early age, growing up in a small rural town in South Carolina. I also shared how that's affected me as a Black man working in corporate America, and even more importantly as a parent of three young Black boys. Others had a chance to share their experiences, and many of our allies had a chance to ask questions that were on their minds. It was really powerful and really needed.
That session spawned a listening session with our North America leadership team across all of our divisions. These sessions led to other sessions over the past couple of weeks. Starting to listen and understand has helped Henkel locally in the US, and globally, really craft our corporate response to the Black Lives Matter movement, which of course, includes donations to organizations like the NAACP and United Negro College Fund. But, we've gone further and created a diversity and inclusion council to steer more systemic initiatives. What's clear to me, what's clear to our leadership, is this is not just a moment. It's more than that. It's really a movement and we are proud to be a part of it.
Yu: During these times of crisis, how has the brand DNA and specifically your values helped guide you?
Davis: That's a really tough question because, at Henkel, we aren't just one brand. If you think about Henkel in Europe, we market Henkel alongside the individual brand names, but in the US, we're really a house of brands. While consumers don't always know Henkel the company, they know a lot of our products. In laundry detergent, we have brands like all ®, Persil ®, and Purex ®. In fabric conditioners, we have Snuggle ® and in home-care brands like Renuzit ®, Combat ®, and Soft Scrub ®. If there is one uniting principle or red thread that runs through all of those businesses, it's really our core values as a company and our core strategies around innovation, sustainability, and advancing digital.
These are the strategies that we were focusing on before, but I see us focusing on even more since the pandemic. In terms of innovation, we usually launch more than a dozen upgrades, line extensions, or new products every year. What the COVID-19 crisis has done is it's influenced where we focus. Trends like advanced cleaning, or hygiene are more important for consumers than things that were growing in the past, like sensorial benefits. Consumers are favoring new product introductions like our Persil OXI Power that we just launched in April. We're going to do more of products like that. In terms of sustainability, I think being at home quarantined has heightened consumers' understanding of our impact on the planet. We see the impact of what happens when we lessen our use of cars and lessen our footprint. Henkel's overall corporate goal is to be climate positive to the environment. Each of our brands has a part to play to get there.
An example of that is our all Pure. In April, we actually launched this as an eco-variant on all that has the same cleaning power as the base brand, but it's 99% bio-based. Given the increased focus on the environment, we've increased our support on this product.
Then, finally, digital. We have to take a digital-first approach in everything we do, especially communication. Since the pandemic, consumer media consumption has shifted, and we see a move from linear TV to streaming and over the top. We’re increasing the percentage of our media spend on digital. In fact, one of our brands, Purex, is now 100% digital. We rely on an influencer from New Zealand to help us create content. This allows us to actually spend a similar amount but create more content, interact with our consumers more often, and drive stronger results.
Yu: When you think about the CMO's role during times of upheaval and crisis, what specifically is that role, how does it change, and how is it different than it might be during normal times?
Davis: I may be a little bit different than most CMOs because I get a chance to wear two hats. One as the general manager for national Laundry and Home Care brands business in the US. The other, as the US CMO for those brands. The GM lens, for me, really involves optimizing a very stressed supply chain by working with our sales and manufacturing teams to prioritize the products that consumers and retailers want most. It involves making those short-term plans so that we reach our financial and fiscal commitments.
The CMO lens is a little bit different. It's just as challenging and probably more evolving. Here, I'm thinking about how we drive long-term sustainable growth by creating relationships with consumers. In many cases, it's very different, depending on the brand. On top of that is the ever-narrowing gap between product performance, whether it's against brands, or private labels.
My biggest job as a CMO is probably acting as chief optimist. Pushing our teams to find an edge, or a point of difference, where we don't always think there is one. We're constantly upgrading our formulas and trying to solve unmet consumer needs. In categories like laundry detergent, it can seem daunting to find innovation and new problems to solve. But there are always new problems to solve if you look hard enough. For other brands, it's identifying underserved targets, or finding a way to cut through a little bit differently.
Those are a couple of things, and when all else fails, the smartest thing I can do is to empower a team of really creative, really talented people and break down the barriers that hold them back.
Yu: How has the current climate changed your marketing strategy and activities?
Patrick: Great question. While this continues to evolve, I think a couple of things are beginning to come into focus. As I see it, there are three types of trends we're seeing right now. Accelerations, shifts, and things for us to consider.
Accelerations are really trends that were already happening, but because of the pandemic, they're happening at a faster rate. The biggest one of these for us is eCommerce. Ecommerce was growing double digits, but since March, our eCommerce business is up more than 200%. Now that consumers try these services, many of them won't go back to what they were doing. To keep up with this, we're accelerating the development of bottles and packaging specifically designed for eComm.
Another clear acceleration is what we talked about before, and that's the move to streaming and OTT. I won't divulge any of my personal favorites, but I think we've all streamed a few guilty pleasures since March. That has had an impact on our immediate plans this year and for next year.
We're also beginning to see shifts in the market, and in the way, we engage with consumers or their tastes. One shift we see is in who our media partners are. We're seeing many of our retail partners increasingly becoming media platforms. With consumers staying home more, shopping online, making fewer critical shopping trips, our investment in retailer media is increasing.
A second shift we see is consumers thinking more about health and wellbeing. Consumers are asking for more products with natural ingredients, or that are better for the environment. Our innovation is focused there.
Then, outside of accelerations and shifts, there are some trends that we're reconsidering or taking a pause to develop a point of view. Henkel made a decision to join the #StopHateForProfit Initiative and will not advertise our brands on Facebook's platforms including Instagram in July in the United States, due to Facebook‘s insufficient progress to meaningfully address the vast proliferation of hate and misinformation on its platforms. This decision demonstrates Henkel’s commitment to upholding our values and sends a strong signal against hate speech and misinformation.
Yu: As you look forward to the next 10 or 20 years, how will the Henkel family of brands evolve?
Davis: That's a question that we're having a lot of conversations about, before the pandemic and recent events, and especially now. It's evolving, but there are one or two points I think are clear for us right now. One point is that trust will become even more important going forward than it's ever been. If you think about it, consumers are dealing with concerns about their health, the sudden uncertainty of losing a job or just confronting unequal treatment and racism. Consumers are feeling less safe today than they did four or six months ago.
Going forward, delivering your functional brand promise will be just the bare minimum. We're going to have to work and innovate to do that. However, you look at sources like the Edelman Trust Barometer, and you see that consumers will remember the brands that support the causes they care about. Causes such as those that support their communities in times of a pandemic or causes helping amid the movement to end racial injustice.
In the end, that's what we're trying to do, create lasting bonds with consumers. We're also experimenting and trying a lot of things to see how best to build those long-term bonds. Whether it's being more clear and purpose-driven in our advertising and the way we interact with consumers or deploying CRM programs that go beyond just coupons and offers, to helping consumers solve problems that come up in their everyday lives.
The thing that is going to be more and more important is how each brand has an authentic connection with consumers. Those are the brands that are going to win.
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I am an international speaker and award winning author on innovation and design.My book, Iconic Advantage, challenges businesses, from Fortune 500 to venture-backed…
I am an international speaker and award winning author on innovation and design.My book, Iconic Advantage, challenges businesses, from Fortune 500 to venture-backed startups, to refocus their innovation priorities on building greater iconicity, and offers deeper insights on establishing timeless distinction and relevance. I regularly consults business leaders on developing meaningful Iconic Signature Elements, Iconic Brand Language (TM), Signature Moments and Signature Communication. I most recently served as the Global VP of Innovation and Officer at VF Corporation, parent organization to over 30 global apparel companies, including The North Face, Vans, Timberland, Nautica and Wrangler, where I created a $2 billion innovation pipeline, established three global innovation centers, and initiated industry-leading design best practices.Prior to this, I worked at The Clorox Company, Chiquita Brands and Bain & Company. As a former CEO/founder for numerous venture-backed startups, I was recognized as the Northern California finalist for the prestigious Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award.
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