101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior

BRAND EDITION

manos Spanos

Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President of Marketing for Danone

 

“Most of us are good at visual consistency, through our film style, tone, logos and the sequences we see in the end frames of our content, but critically, many brands suffer from inconsistency with audio design.”

 
Manos Spanos, Chief Marketing Officer/Senior Vice President of Marketing for Danone

Manos Spanos is the Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Danone North America. In charge of brand marketing for the yoghurt business unit at Danone North America, Mr. Spanos currently leads marketing efforts of some of America’s favourite renowned brands including Activia, Oikos, Light + Fit, Dannon, Danimals, Silk, So Delicious and Two Good. Having won an International Marketer of the Year Award in 2015, his strategic expertise contributed in making Mountain Dew a 10 Billion Dollar Retail Sales Global Powerhouse.

Uli Reese: Tell me a little bit about your role at Danone.

Manos Spanos:
I’m the Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President of Marketing for Danone for the yogurt business in North America. We are the biggest dairy business in north America and hold a 32% share of the yogurt market, so our brands (Activia, Oikos, Too Good) are very much loved. It’s the largest division of Danone globally, and I’m happy to lead a team of 40 marketers.

Reese: If you look at your brands and end-to-end customer experience, what are main challenges in regard to sonic?


Manos:
It’s important to recognise the touch points where audio plays an important role. In fast-moving consumer goods like Danone, the primary role of audio is through media communication. One of the biggest challenges is that we live in a semi-soundless world, so a lot of social media and online video is frequently done without sound. Then, when there is sound, it’s important to get the experience right because consumers are used to tuning out. The two most difficult things to achieve in a world where we have billions of impressions is impact and memorability. Visually, we’re doing a lot of work to optimise our content, however we’re not doing the same to maximise the audio component. Sometimes we get lucky and make great choices, especially with soundtracks, but currently we’re not paying as much attention as we should. We’re missing something and we’re working to correct that.

Reese: How important is consistency in terms of being recognised among the clutter of everything?

Manos: It’s super important but that’s where we’re failing. Most of us are good at visual consistency, through our film style, tone, logos and the sequences we see in the end frames of our content, but critically, many brands suffer from inconsistency with audio design. I can’t recall a brand that built a solid sonic signature quickly. It requires a lot of time and this is our biggest challenge. The average life expectancy of a marketing department as a whole is about two years, so within two years you usually have a 70% to 80% rotation of the marketing department. Where’s the consistency? Unless you have a structure where it’s embedded in the culture, and also consistency with the agencies you’re utilising, that’s where it starts to fall apart.

Reese: Many of your colleagues are in the same boat, so how do you build future proof models that live longer than the next quarter?

Manos: Results sell. Look at what’s happening with MasterCard, Apple, Intel, Netflix. How are they faring? Marketers can always be convinced through wins. You also need one or two people in your organisation that will sponsor the effort and ensure its consistency and continuation. Now, the bigger the company, the more complex this becomes because you have multiple stakeholders. Take a company like Danone; I run the yogurt business but we also have beverages, dairy, coffee and so on. One person is never enough and frequently it will take more than the tenure of one person. Marketers must show results within a specific tenure so for them it’s counterintuitive to say I’m going to spend a lot of time and money building something that 99% is not going to deliver results while I’m on the job. That’s just human nature.

So you need ambassadors to keep consistency and ensure their efforts don’t go to waste. Many of the successful brands have long-tenured marketers. It can’t just be Manos’s pet project because then it’s vulnerable, but if it’s Danone’s, it’s more sustainable.

Reese: That is a great point and thank you for your honesty…

Manos: What I will say is that I’ve had huge success getting solutions around soundtracks right but what we’ve never done is have a sonic signature and a consistent set of assets used across all campaigns. We’ve been good at borrowing equity as I think that’s easier. Not easy but easier than building equity. We had tremendous success at the 2020 Superbowl with Oikos YoGlutes, that featured Major Lazer’s Bubble Butt music track. We were top five without even advertising during the actual Superbowl, only on live stream. In 2021 we’re repeating the recipe for Super Bowl LV and a new Oikos ad called PROFACE, using rapper Mizta CEO’s Ugly Face track. So, huge success but we’d love to be able to do something which has more longevity.

“One of the best examples in terms of sonic branding is the Champions League. If you’re into sports, you hear the anthem and you get immediate chills as you know you’re going to see a good game.”

Reese: Jane Wakely, the lead CMO at Mars, says: ‘We need to think about sound and music very differently if sonic branding is to play an integral role in driving the distinctiveness of the brand’. Would you agree with that and if so, why?

Manos: Absolutely. Marketing budgets are not increasing so it comes down to how you maximise impact and memorability. Borrowed equity helps with impact but not memorability because it’s been used many times. Creating your own equity is honourable and could become memorable but the question is, can it become very impactful? Neural training is required and that’s why consistency is important because that can take years. As marketers we’re happy when 60% of the population listens or sees our creative four times but for your brain to fully associate a sound with a specific brand takes more than four times. You need multiple campaigns and patience.

Reese: What has moved you in terms of sonic branding?

Manos:
One of the best examples in terms of sonic branding is the Champions League. If you’re into sports, you hear the anthem and you get immediate chills as you know you’re going to see a good game. It’s hard to associate that with fast-moving consumer goods brands. Coca-Cola does a good job but it had decades of building equity. It’s challenging because marketers love to change campaigns but fast-moving consumer goods is not an easy one to crack.

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