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Why Millennials are quitting your marketing team

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We all know that finding truly great marketing talent is hard. While many might say it is ultimately about cultivating and investing in the employees you already have, the job-hopping itch many Millennials feel doesn’t make it any easier on management.

But Corine Ooi, group general manager of global maternal – paediatrics, for Fonterra Brands, thinks otherwise. Rather than throw up your hands in despair, she says companies and managers need to start finding a way to sell employees a vision.

She adds that marketers need to take the time to find someone who lives and breathes the brand. This is essential in keeping them in the company for the long haul. But to do so, a vision needs to be sold. Marketers, she explains, are often great at crafting a narrative and selling a vision to their consumers, but they still haven’t mastered the art of doing so for their employees.

“If an employee is able to genuinely live and breathe the brand and believe in the company’s or the brand’s vision, not only will he or she internalise brand values, he or she will stay because of passion,” she says.

Proudly donning lilac – the signature colour for one of Fonterra’s leading brands Anmum, she says what is harder than finding good talent is retaining it. Ooi, who has been with Fonterra for more than nine years, is very much aware of the increasing job-hopping trend present in the mind of younger marketers, who often leave after a two to three-year stint.

Before her stint at Fonterra, she worked with Johnson & Johnson for more than four years. She has also spent years building her career with the likes of Beiersdorf, Abbott and Mead Johnson Nutrition. All in all, she has about 28 years in sales and marketing experience.

As such, she believes an individual needs to be at the one company for at least five years to see the fruits of their labour.

Marketers are often great at crafting a narrative and selling a vision to their consumers, but they still haven’t mastered the art of doing so for their employees.
– Corine Ooi, group general manager of global maternal – paediatrics, for Fonterra Brands

“If you have passion for the brand and the business then why would you want to leave? And that too so quickly,” she said. This is where good training comes in. She urges that company heads move away from standard run-of-the-mill training to something that is innovative and cannot be found elsewhere.

“Take measures to imbue a sense of ownership of the brand and the business. At the end of the day, it is about selling the vision.”

When asked about what skills would make a good marketer, she says a strong background in sales is necessary. This will enable marketers to familiarise themselves with the customer journey and essentially know the nooks and crannies of the purchase process.

In a sales role, an individual gets first-hand experience on the challenges and drawbacks of marketing plans and this enables them to later have a clearer implementation plan. Their marketing theories will be more practice-driven rather than constructed based on theory.

The new age consumer

With the marketing industry seeing a colossal shift of power being in the hands of consumers, targeting mothers has also evolved for the brand. In the past, Ooi says, convincing mothers about products was far less daunting a task than it is today. Parents in the past were more trusting, and as such, grabbing their share of wallets was also easier.

Modern mothers are very much research-oriented and better informed because of the proliferation of content sites online. As such, brands have to work that much harder to gain their trust. Millennial mums, she explains, weigh all the different outcomes and possibilities before making purchasing decisions. They are also more likely to engage in a discourse before their purchase.

“Due to the proliferation of the media, especially digital platforms, mothers today have the option of not listening to the company, but instead to other mothers,” she says. As such, the brand needs to find a way to weave itself into being part of the conversation. She adds that how Anmum is adapting to this new breed of mothers is by trying to provide a platform for conversations to happen across the region. On top of executing tactical ad activations, the brand also has a forum where mothers can communicate.

If you have passion for the brand and the business then why would you want to leave? And that too so quickly.

“It is really about the way you speak and your tone. Don’t push your brand messaging. Instead allow for Millennial mothers to talk to their peers and express their views. Be the conduit for conversations.”

She adds that Southeast Asia being a diverse region has mothers from all walks of life. Hence, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to communicating with them. For example, she finds that consumers in Malaysia and Indonesia tend not to be as vocal as their counterparts in China.

“SEA mothers are more likely to sit back and watch the action unfold. You don’t have consumers making a stand against topical causes especially in the paediatric products segment.”

But, ultimately, to navigate the fragmented media landscape today, you need to put trust in your agency partners. She says leveraging on agency relationships is crucial in creating successful brand campaigns with consistent messaging.

“Be open and receptive to what the agency has to offer and their ideas and proposals. Don’t be myopic,” she says. Much like her advice to Millennials job-hopping, she also advises against agency hopping. Especially if consistency is something a brand values in its campaign executions.

“There is nothing worse than having multiple agencies involved that are mismatched in the level of understanding of the brand and industry,” she says. Hence, for long-term campaigns, it is advisable to stick to a single creative agency which understands the brand to ensure sustainability, she explains.

“Otherwise, you will be doing a lot of work as a marketer trying to explain, guide and hold their hands through understanding the brand and the industry. I don’t think anyone has the time to do that.”

This story was first published in Marketing magazine.

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