Speaking at last month’s MAD//Fest London last month on the Kantar Marketplace Hexagon Stage, Houston argued that the current disruption, caused by covid and the current cost of living crisis, is not a storm, “it’s the weather from now on.” 

She stressed that, “there'll be further shocks, undoubtedly, to our political or technological or economic systems,” leaving marketers with an uneasy truth to have to answer: “How do you balance answering fundamental needs, with knowing some of those needs will fundamentally change?” 

Get to know your consumers

Houston said that to make sure you are rowing in the right direction, you have to get closer to your consumers. “You need to try and get inside their heads to really start to understand their drivers and motivations. As you see the disruption and the opportunity that comes with it, you will be able to make the connections that matter.”

However, their human insight is not as simple anymore as getting a group of 50 to 55 year old ladies into a focus group. At PepsiCo they have the ‘Always On Engine’, (something which Houston admitted lacked a catchy title). However, the Always On Engine’ brings together the multitude of data sources into one place where they can be ‘curated and given real human insight… and through doing so, you bring greater meaning and richness.”

Houston added: “In times of uncertainty when you need to know where you want to go, follow the consumer, harness to the wealth of human data there is and use it to really guide you and provide that North Star.”

Fewer, bigger, better!

There’s been a mantra, which has been around in PepsiCo for a few years, which Houston thinks just keeps getting more poignant. It's ‘fewer, bigger, better’ 

What does that mean? “It’s focus. In this environment it's so easy to get distracted by burning platforms, big challenges, which frankly are beyond your control” Houston said that: “In business you have to focus energies on things you can control…Pick your big bets and really line up your organisation behind them”

But it's not just about fewer -  it's about bigger and better too. This is where, Houston argues, creativity comes to play. Specifically, creative excellence. “I think long gone are the days when creativity is seen as a pet project of the marketing department. Creativity is one of the most potent drivers of media ROI of media effectiveness there is. We need to recognise it as such and use it as such. In times of uncertainty, creativity, and creative excellence will drive your ROI.”

Watch the session in full to see real life campaigns where PepsiCo have utilised the ‘Always On Engine’, how PepsiCo harnesses the power of its ever expanding data sources, and why they consider brand partnerships a key tool in their marketing armoury. (Spoiler - it involves the Champions League, so Liverpool fans look away now…) 

This session, along with all the content from the three-days of MAD//Fest, is available here on our YouTube channel.