Mary Katherine (MK) Woltz Transcript    Listen Here

Mark: Welcome to Family First, The Wild World of Marketing to Parents. My name is Mark Giovino CEO and founder at the Allionce Group. I’d like to welcome MK Woltz to this episode of Family First. MK has worked at some of the most popular brands on the planet, including Coca-Cola. Kraft Nabisco, several brands within the Johnson and Johnson skincare business. And currently at Danone, she has led media strategy, planning, and buying. And now in addition to media leads sponsorship at Danone, MK is also a proud mom. Mk, thanks for joining me.

MK: Thanks so much for having me Mark. Excited to have a conversation about marketing and being a mom. . .

“for example a lot of our brands are marketing to parents for their children like Horizon or Happy Family or Danimals”

Mark: Let’s start as a mom. Let’s start with family first. Tell us about your family, how many kids and what are their ages?

MK: Yeah, so I have two kids. I have a son who is just 10 as of yesterday. So that went by fast. And then a daughter who is six. So a fourth grader and a first grader.

Mark: How has being a parent influenced your perspective as a marketer?

MK: It’s not something that I think about regularly, but when posed the question, I guess a couple things. It’s influenced how I operate and, different priorities from a personal and professional life, and then from a marketing perspective every stage of being a parent. Starting from, when you’re a new parent to all the different stages, which I’m in a very different stage now, almost having kids in middle school and doing different things and all the technology that’s around. I’d say it’s recently opened up my eyes to how much marketing influences children.   My son knows a lot of jingles to commercials that are still out there because of watching sports or watching YouTube like he actually, he told me the other day, he’s mom, I saw your Silk ad. And I was like why are you getting that ad when he was watching YouTube?

So I’d say it’s  opened up my eyes to the power of marketing and how kids are paying attention based on what into and paying attention.  It’s going through my career it’s very different, having to juggle all of the pieces in terms of raising your own family and then being in involved in a pretty fast paced and I’d say job that moves quick and has a lot of demands is what I was trying to get out.

Mark: Is it fair to say that being a parent and juggling a career, to your point, forces us to become more efficient with our time because we have so little of it?

MK: Yes. It’s funny you say that because when I first started to have my kids and work I figured out how to work smarter. I had less hallway talk.  I would block off certain times to get things done so I could be more efficient so I could get out on time because I didn’t have a choice. You have to go get the kids when the school closes. And then also trying to create boundaries and shut things off because yes, when they’re babies, they don’t really understand and notice.

You’re on your computer or your phone all the time, but as they grow and have more demands with homework and this and that, and they stay up later your window to get work done outside of work hours shrinks or at least it has for me. And I’m too tired to stay up until midnight and do work so I get up early, I get up really early, and that’s when I knock out a lot of things that either take a lot of thought before my day gets going. Or I’ll flex it between busy work things that are a little bit mindless if I’m like tired, like going through my emails or scheduling meetings more administrative type things.

Mark: Before we chat more about marketing to parents and families I’m curious to know your thoughts on retail media networks. I’ve been surprised, in fact, almost shocked by recent surveys that show, I think it’s 90% of marketers plan on investing in retail media this year. What do you think has changed either in the last few years or recently to draw attention to these media channels, these media network?

MK:  I like that you had that question because it’s one of the things I’m actually focused on at Danone in partnering with our shopper internal teams and sales teams to really crack the code of retail media because we’ve historically done, obviously through shopper marketing a ton with our retailers. And now that it’s becoming an additional revenue stream for retailers and becoming more of an awareness building channel, which is where we spend the majority of our media dollars, is in that driving awareness for our brands and then partnering with our shopper teams to do more of the quote unquote lower funnel type activities. But it is a big area for us that we are interested in because of the data that they sit on. They  know who’s buying our products. They know who’s buying our competitors. They have all of that insight.  And then they also are able to, when we run these campaigns, show us what the impact was from a sales perspective.  So it creates as closed loop as you can get especially for a consumer package goods manufacturer to understand what, how our media’s working more real time.

Mark: So it’s been validated then through that data, so it’s less of a shiny, new, cool thing. And it has been validated or is there a balance of it’s new, we want to test it and learn.

MK: It’s definitely a balance of a new, we want to test and learn. We’ve done a lot of things over the past, I’d say a handful of more tests and learns where we’re using retailer data with connected TV publishers and then seeing the return on that.

“90% of marketers plan on investing in retail media this year”

So we’ve seen success across some of that, I’d say it’s new because I don’t think that a lot of the retailers we’re not have figured out every bit of it.  So you see a lot of Walmart or Kroger partnering with Roku, partnering with TikTok, and you’re using the Walmart or Kroger or whoever, data and still working with a publisher that I’ve worked with we’ve worked with for years. So I think those connection points haven’t yet to be figured out in terms of a seamless ways of working. But it’s really exciting to us because we can drive consumers directly to the point of purchase through more awareness driving media and see that impact.

And it also helps develop our relationships deeper with our customers. You’re wearing a bit of a different hat. When you’re working with them, because they are customers first a lot of the times, and then publishers. But we’re trying to figure out the right kind of playbook and investment strategy with a lot of these retail media advances that are coming on and how do we invest our media dollars versus our shopper dollars versus our trade dollars. So it’s complex because of so many people involved, but that’s CPG marketing.

Mark: Do you think these retail media channels are an effective way to address marketing to parents?

MK: For sure, especially thinking about the different stages. I know for example a lot of our brands where we are marketing to parents for their children like Horizon or Happy Family or Danimals, right? We’ve done quite a bit with Amazon, of course, which Amazon is a publisher first and then a retailer. I think about them a bit differently than I do others. But for sure because you’re if you’re a busy parent and trying to figure out what to buy your family and doing online shopping and all that kind of thing and being in front of them when they’re shopping is really influential, I think, and providing value.

Mark: How do you engage with the brand teams internally to offer an integrated media or sponsorship plan and activation?

MK: Yeah, so our role as the internal media experts is to partner with the brand teams to understand their goals and the brand holistically and take what they have from a marketing budget perspective and work also with our agency to put the best plan together. So we’re working as a cohesive team to understand the landscape, understand the consumer drivers, and then work with agency and then own our own internally to identify opportunities that might be a fit. And then we’re evaluating those if we’re having multiple opportunities and coming back to the brand teams with the best opportunity and then executing and measuring, et cetera. So we’re really that partner from a media perspective to help guide them like a consultant.

And then the agency really is the, in the weeds, getting all the details executing, et cetera from more of just a day-to-day media operations and planning and buying standpoint. And then from a sponsorship element, because that’s been a new role in our team over the past couple years, we’ve been trying to  identify more opportunities beyond just what a media agency would identify as a media partner. Not saying that they couldn’t do that, we were just trying to look at sponsorships more specifically across the portfolio to identify low hanging fruit and also something that we think the brand teams could benefit from.

Mark: Do you approach sponsorship from a portfolio perspective, or is it more brand specific?

MK: How we’re set up right now it’s more brand specific because we have master brand efforts across our Silk portfolio, which is includes beverages, yogurt, and creamer. And then you could say the same for Oikos, where we have Oikos Pro Oikos Triple Zero, Oikos Core and drinks or so we haven’t cracked the, what’s our total Danone portfolio go to market from an awareness perspective because not many people, if you say Danone, know what that is in the U.S.,  you have to start to explain it a bit more.

And we’ve been focused more on B2B education and then I know our corporate comms teams to roll that out to more of a consumer facing landscape. So the way that we educate people on unknown and here’s our house of brands that we have. But for how our marketing teams are set up and for our goals and how our budgets are set up, we really approach it like on a brand by brand basis based on the opportunity

Mark: Are there any new sponsorship opportunities you’ve found either in your current role or even in prior roles that speak to marketing to parents more than others?

MK: The one thing that we’re looking at right now that’s top of mind more so than I’d say like the early life stage, in endemic areas, if you think about a baby center or things of that nature where we’ve leaned into a very specific product. For example, we have Horizon Growing Years, which is a product marketed to parents who have children age five, it’s really one to five. After they’re done with formula or breast milk, they move onto this. It’s developed by pediatricians, has all the specific nutrients that they need. So we went to that partner to have specific educational elements within the content that we’re creating together to bring awareness to that product based on the life stage.

I think Happy Family does a lot of things like that too. The other thing I’d say that we’ve done quite a bit, and this is more like marketing. , it might be marketing to kids but through a lot of our licensing agreements like to Danimals has done a lot of things with licensing Disney characters and Nickelodeon characters on our bottles.

Mark: It’s an interesting conversation, especially when you talk about licensing and Disney, and other properties. I can’t help but think in that same spirit about what you mentioned at the beginning with your son, I think he sees some of these Silk commercials and wondering, wait a second. And it’s interesting how intuitive kids really can be. How do you balance some of the restrictions around FTC and COPPA guidelines? Because what’s been surprising to me is a recent vote by the Senate Commerce Committee that extends protections to kids up to 16. and actually bands targeted advertising to children under 13 regardless of parental consent.  It makes a strong case for finding ways to reach families when they’re together, those shared family experiences. But at the same time, digital is just continues to grow. 50, 60, 70% of the total media mix.  How do you think about that at Danone and the challenges marketing to kids, but not marketing to kids, but being compliant.  What are some things you think about and how you approach those challenges?

MK: We definitely have to work with our agency and legal counterparts to report all of the places where we’re advertising and stay compliant. What the main brand where we’re  doing that on is Danimals. We do market in places like run on Nickelodeon or other places where children are actually being the primary viewer. Yes, parents are around, et cetera. But honestly it’s more making sure that we’re compliant within that and within those boundaries and guidelines.

More than that I don’t know other than making sure that we are being compliant and delivering what we’re supposed to and staying within in those realms.

Mark: How much do you prioritize licensing within the overall partnership, sponsorship media? Where does it fall in terms of priority?

MK: Yeah, it’s actually been a bigger priority I’d say. More licensing of our products to other businesses is what we’re working on now. Yes, it continues to be a priority for Danimals as well as International Delight. Us licensing other brands for our products. For example, right now, not related to any type of children marketing because it’s a coffee creamer. But we license brands like we licensed Friends from Warner Brothers.

So we have a Friend’s limited time flavor out in the market now. We license the crunch we license. So it’s very seasonal type products that are rolling out and that we high on rely on heavily. That’s basically for that brand a must do all the time. So on the reverse side, we’re trying to identify opportunities to create different revenue streams for our brands as well as create more awareness by working with.

Making it up a lip gloss brand and taking our flavors of International Delight and making things like that, right? So it’s becoming increasingly more important for us and in some brands that we make, like Dunkin Donuts, creamers, that’s hundred percent licensing a whole other brand. And that’s that whole product so it’s quite important to our organization and it fits now within our media team licensing as well. So we’re helping the brands identify those opportunities. and making reviewing contracts, making sure it’s good, et cetera.

Mark: Do you think of those examples as more licensing or more as collaborations or maybe a bit of both?

MK: I’d say probably a bit of both because there is a strict business transaction, but then there’s ways to figure out how we obviously make this better and benefit both of us and really find a consumer point of need and figure out how to build a program around.

Mark: Let’s talk for a minute about Danone as a certified B Corp. And your positioning for One Planet, One Health.  It’s really well documented millennials and certainly Gen Z and definitely Generation Alpha, and I have plenty of examples with my own children at home. They all have a greater appreciation for brands that stand for something or support a cause important to them.   I think because of your designation as a certified B you may be better positioned than most brands to talk about ESG. How do you authentically communicate that to consumers and what is your sense for the value they see in that designation?

MK: We communicate that as Danone, but we don’t have, I was talking about earlier, like a big marketing campaign for Danone as a whole.

So each brand has their way of supporting that, right? So through an example like Silk, we obviously use a lot of almonds for our product, right? So how can we communicate the sustainability story about. they take a lot of water. So what are we doing from the wastewater to put back into that product and grow?

Our packaging, we use a lot to tell that story. So I’d say it’s more through not mass marketing that I would say at this point some brands is more than others.

And then other PR initiatives that we’re doing across the board. So it’s really honestly been less of advertising, marketing, mass communication in a TV spot. and more so like really specific messages, either like on social or PR effort or things around Earth Day where we can communicate that because yeah, it is, like you said, a very important piece of our, the fabric of our culture. And what’s important to consumers.

Mark: Do you use ESG  initiatives at all as a filter to identify sponsorship opportunities or media partner?

MK: We haven’t yet, but I think it’s can be a hard thing to measure. We are from a global standpoint there is like a carbon footprint kind of ca calculator that, that someone’s working on and trying to roll out where we can use that as a filter to evaluate different media properties or sponsorship opportunities. So it’s definitely something that’s on our minds, but we haven’t really cracked that code yet.

Mark: What do you think motivates parents and how can marketers apply some of those insights to shift from brand first to consumer first? And maybe this is a question where you can put on both your marketer and mom hat at the same time.

MK: Oh, yeah. I know, right? I jumped straight to okay, what is the, what’s the main benefit and how is it going to make my life easier , or how is it gonna make my family happy? I just think and I think what, obviously a lot of marketers are doing today, and we are seeing this across the board in terms of being real and authentic and helping consumers and providing a product too that makes them, that obviously tastes good, but makes them feel good about where it’s coming from and what it’s doing for their family and or the planet.

And then how we are giving back to that, I think is a big important story of the products that we, and brands that we have in our portfolio. How

Mark: We often talk about the art and science of marketing and the balance, but how do we talk about that same balance when it comes to digital versus physical experiences.  I think in a lot of respects it’s well regarded that the experience economy’s back now post covid.  How does Danone or some of the different brands think about when, where, and how to balance those two?

MK: Yeah. I’d say, I can answer it from the media’s perspective specifically.  It’s a lot more, I’d say, easy and efficient from a time and dollar, sometimes perspective to just, yeah, put up a digital campaign and move on. I think we think about these experiences more centered around our tent pole events that we’re doing.

For example, our Oikos brand has historically done things around the big game the past few years. So I know this year we are partnering with a publisher and doing an event around that game, right? So it’s a very thoughtful, specific thing that we wanna get people involved and also then think about how we can leverage that content that we’re creating at the event.

Or you continue to get people involved, even digitally. It does take obviously more time and effort, like I said, from a resource standpoint, but I think the payout can be impactful on a multitude of levels across not PR as well as just general, obviously media and things like that.

Mark: What do you think is the right way to approach ROI when it comes to sponsorship?

MK: Oh, I don’t know if I’m equipped to answer that question because typically yes it’s not, you don’t see a ton, right? Because, and I’d say it’s more of a long-term value versus a straight media ROI.  It’s a long-term brand building effort versus okay, I did this event and now I expect to see a million dollars in sales. That’s just not realistic.  I don’t think a model is gonna tell you to keep doing sponsorships cause of the cost that it produces. And I don’t think you’re gonna see like a huge payout in terms of ROI. So I think about it more as like, how are you creating that relationship with customers who are at the event, how are you creating impressions beyond that and using content to your benefit and then looking at it as more of a long-term type of partnerships or sponsorships versus just so one and done.

Mark: Let’s end as we started with family. What are some activities that or experiences you and your kids enjoy or your family enjoy together?

MK: We do a ton of skiing because we live in Colorado. We have access to all this wonderful ski areas. So January to March, we are there all the time, and yeah, my kids love it and I. I like it. I don’t love it, but I do it because I will wanna enjoy the time with them and see how they’re progressing, even though they all leave me behind. But that’s fine. They can wait for me at the bottom or do other runs while I catch up. So that, we do a ton.  And then the Summer we like to travel to go visit family at the beach in Lake and we stay busy with all their sport activities, which is like swimming, lacrosse, soccer, all the things, So really embracing Colorado lifestyle and and then spending time with each other and then their grandparents too.

Mark: Thank you so much for joining me. This was a lot of fun.

MK: Yeah. Thank you.

Mark: And thank you for listening in to this episode of Family First, The Wild World of Marketing to Parents.


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