Feb 02, 2012 • By

TweetChat with Mark Addicks

We did our first TweetChat on Twitter yesterday. Our interviewee was General Mills Chief Marketing Officer Mark Addicks. Over the course of an hour, he responded to several questions posed by people who followed the chat in real-time.

The topics focused on digital marketing trends, Mark’s views on advertising, advice for building an international brand and more.

I’ve compiled the questions and Mark’s answers in the same format as they were tweeted, into the transcript below.

By the way, you can follow us on Twitter, we’re @GeneralMills. You can follow Mark, at @MarkAddicks.

Tell us about your background.

Addicks: I grew up in Houston. Went to UT Austin. Worked in Houston and launched several entrepreneur initiatives … I then went to graduate business school and found General Mills from there. I thought I was joining for two years… but it has been 23 years of various brands and challenges. I have also continued to be involved with several external ventures I started here in 1988 … 23 years ago. I have been CMO for many years, lucky to outlast the average CMO stay!

What are the key metrics by which you measure marketing success?

Addicks: Key metrics for marketing success are faster than competition share growth and household penetration … Focus should be on unit share growth vs. dollar share growth. Can be deceiving to just focus on dollars.

Best advice for graduating MBA student to get foot-in-door in marketing at General Mills?

Addicks: You can always check and post a resume to our digital site. I personally look for empathy, curiosity, strong analytics … ‘marketing wrist’ that is strategy, positioning, creativity in idea and activation, willingness to lead change.

Is social media changing the consumer decision journey? If so, how?

Addicks: Social media is the major source for how consumers hear about an idea, a recommendation, and where they seek/find inspiration. More and more consumers are looking for ‘what’s for dinner?’ ideas from people and communities that look like them. The ideas from the social space are highly valued and highly relevant and believed to be tested and proven when coming from their social network, usually made up of people who know them or whose circumstances are similar.

Report today says 84% of smart phone owners use the device to enhance in-aisle shopping. Your take?

Addicks: I believe that is true. I see people myself checking labels, ratings but mostly for video ‘how to’ ideas that match product. It is like a mini-food network show at your fingertips and on-demand. Smart phones point to solutions with zero time for push marketing. It is all about solving the problem or opportunity in front of me right now … marketing truly becomes about being in service to what/when/where/how the smartphone wants.

What are some of your favorite ad campaigns among your General Mills brands and why?

Addicks: I love “Cheech and Chong” for Fiber One Brownies (click here). It truly entertains yet markets in a mutually beneficial way. I love the digital campaign for ‘Fundamiddles’. Again, the differentiation comes clearly through as it is the point of the animated story. Love the Betty Crocker Holiday cookies TV ad for its simplicity, all in 15 seconds …

Favorite of all time spots are Cheerios ‘Adoption’ which was first a movie theater pre-run trailer … it was inspired by real consumer stories sent to us digitally … a big deal when it happened 10 plus years ago. Now commonplace. Other long time favorite is the launch ads of Frosted Cheerios with Chris Elliott, Queen Latifah, Kathy Griffin … years ago.

How do you manage and grow your brand in new international markets?

Addicks: Brand principles still apply. Understand the market, how the brand can be in service to that market, what is its purpose in that culture, who it is for, and how it provides better than the considered set of options … how it is truly remarkable and different vs. category competitors and the consumer’s larger sphere of competitors. It is interesting to see some brands that seem to have a universal truth and translate globally while others need a a market by market review and positioning.

As CMO, what are you most excited about from a technology perspective? How do you see General Mills implementing?

Addicks: I am really excited by having direct one-to-one relationships with our brand champions, not going through intermediaries … but being able to engage directly and being able to provide specific, customized solutions where/when/how the brand champion wants us to deliver a solution. In a one to one relationship – with consumer permission – we can now be more predictive and thoughtful, more helpful than ever before.

We can deliver that pasta idea on your iPhone at 4 p.m. on Thursday when you always want it. This is revolutionary and means we are truly consumer marketers … not just pushing messages through mediums and in ways that we guess – only guess – that you want. Now we know with more precision and can actually be better servers.

Hardest problem CPG marketers can help their organizations overcome?

Addicks: Marketers need to be catalysts for change. They need to continually help their organizations to dream big and imagine in bolder ways what a business can and should be, what a brand can and should mean and do. That sounds so lofty but it is true. Consumers always change so consumer marketers either lead change or suffer the result.

More and more marketers need to be great storytellers, highly empathetic and intuitive, and inspiring. Organizations follow leaders, follow a vision, follow ideas. That is when you get the most commitment and contribution from others.

You also asked me a question about Big Data. We are on the verge of a massive change where there will be lots of data for teams to decipher. Data mining is going to be big. But it will need intuitive marketers to add and find the insights as to what the data really means and what you should do next. We see this today in examining our search data. Alone it really doesn’t tell us much but with brand and category intuition, it starts to point to many more possibilities for brand engagement.

How can marketers partner with General Mills to create dynamic content on the cereal box platform?

Addicks: We launched G-WIN Digital officially so marketers can connect quickly and directly with us to share ideas, for our packages or our brands. We want to open source and invite great ideas and this was our way to overtly doing so. So far, we have seen great ideas and are pursuing several. Check out G-WIN Digital on the General Mills website.

What makes a great Super Bowl commercial?

Addicks: First, let me say that I already love the Honda CRV Ferris Bueller ad. I think great SuperBowl ads need to over deliver on the surprise and entertainment factors. I think of these as watching movie trailers. They need to be more than typical TV. There is a Bigness factor. That doesn’t mean over production … in fact I would love to see something incredible simple and profound something that makes you feel.

Last year’s Chrysler ad with Detroit moved me as an American, it made me want to join a movement to reclaim America’s greatness and history. It made me consider Chrysler and moved me beyond a car sale.

Editor’s note: For more insight from Mark, check out this USA Today article and video interview.