ORLANDO, FL: General Mills, the food group, is putting "brand champions" at the heart of its marketing efforts, in recognition of the fact these shoppers can become powerful advocates and influencers on behalf of its products.

Mark Addicks, svp/cmo of General Mills, discussed this theme while speaking at the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) 2014 Masters of Marketing conference, held in Orlando, Florida.

"At General Mills, we believe behind every great brand there are champions who must advocate, who must create, who must influence others. They're the super-consumers of your category," he said.

These buyers, he continued, need no convincing regarding the merits of a specific product or service. (For more, including examples of this model in action, read Warc's exclusive report: How General Mills muscled up its marketing with a purpose.)

"They're already thinking about brands; they're not thinking categories. They are thinking about brands and where they can go and what they can be."

Understanding such shoppers is key for brand custodians, and contrasts with the "fuzzy and generic" profiling often used in the industry, where targeting can be as loose as "women with a pulse between 18 and 49".

General Mills has thus gathered deep insights into its brand champions – "how they behave, who's in their life, the people around them, their passion points and where the brand can connect to those passion points".

Zeroing in on these customers – or what Addicks described as "putting brand champions at the centre of everything you do" – has significant implications.

"It's really forcing us to rethink our model – all those assumptions we have about what works; how you build a brand; how you build a brand over time; and where you put your money, your emphasis and your focus," said Addicks.

Having already road-tested the brand-champion model with a diverse range of brands, General Mills' marketing chief was able to report positive results.

"The good news is that they are really growing. In fact, they are outgrowing their competition and they are outgrowing their categories," he said.

"It's about all the different things, today, that you can offer and make your brands surprise and delight [consumers] through content, through creativity."

Data sourced from Warc