Speaking to Paul Frampton-Calero, President of CvE, at MAD//Fest London earlier this month on the Kantar Marketplace Hexagon Stage, Gillane was keen to stress the importance of innovation and urged other brands that it is “the first thing you shouldn’t take off the table in a downturn.” 

He went on to say that, “if you were committed to an innovation or transformation agenda of any significant potential, the high likelihood is that it’s pretty urgent and will be required as you emerge from the downturn.” 

Using Heienken’s innovation strategy and experiences from covid gave them a good footing for the current economic climate and inflationary environment. Gillane outlined that during covid their “innovation and transformation agenda was accelerated.” He said that they “did more things that worked and screwed up more things that didn’t work” during the pandemic than they had done in the previous five years on their digital acceleration agenda. 

Gillane’s advice to the MAD//Fest audience was that their innovation and transformation agendas should be able to “withstand a hell of a crisis”, adding that, “they were never going to take their foot off the gas” with Heineken making sure they went through with major M&A investments into Beavertown and Brixton Breweries in 2020 and 2021, despite being in the midst of the greatest economic shock of our lifetimes. “Putting our foot off the gas with either of those investments would have put us really behind the Eight-Ball coming to where we are now.”

How to get buy-in and speak the language of your CFO 

In the wide ranging conversation Gillane also talked about how marketers get the buy-in to ensure that their brand’s marketing and innovation budget is not the first thing cut when times are hard. 

“When I arrived at Heineken the buy-in just wasn’t there. It was all about the balance sheet… in 2012 there were no career marketers on the executive board in Amsterdam” with the company’s champions “coming from supply-chain or sales.”

What has changed? Gillane said that over the past six, seven years there has been a conscious effort to build a ‘broader culture of marketing’ not “as a colouring in department, but as the growth engine.” He then revealed that the CEO, Dolf van den Brink, is now a brand advocate, who is likely to endorse investment in marketing. 

Despite getting buy-in, talking the language of the CFO and finance can be problematic for most marketers, whatever their seniority. Gillane discussed with Frampton-Calero, that finding a common language is key, usually with the marketer making most of the effort. To ensure that finance understand what marketing drives in terms of the financial agenda: “you don’t approach the the FD and talk about our score on ‘brand I love’ has gone from 10 to 20. You have to talk about it in terms of premiumisation potential and bottom line.” Gillane stressed that this takes time and that you have to have the engagement in whatever your ‘operating drumbeat is’ and that it has to be frequent. 

Michael’s full MAD//Fest London interview which also covered topics such as creating a marketing culture, the stress caused by inflation on labour intensive businesses, its impact on marketing, the brand agency relationship and much more is available here on our YouTube channel.