Faced with a changing market where it found itself in the ‘squeezed middle’ between premium and private-label products, General Mills has had to rethink not just its brands but how it operates internally.

While the cereals giant has acquired or taken a stake in brands which capitalise on the natural and organic trends shaping the snacking category, the biggest change has come from within, according to chief brand officer Brad Hiranaga.

General Mills shifted its mindset and embraced disruption, Hiranaga told WARC in an exclusive interview during the recent Cannes Lions International Festival for Creativity recently. (For more, read the full interview: General Mills on transformation, disruption and ‘the squeezed middle’.)

“We’ve been having success with disrupting ourselves internally by pulling brands out and putting different kinds of teams around them, structuring them a little bit differently, and giving them more latitude to try new things. That’s worked really, really well,” he said.

This successful approach started with the smaller brands and is now being applied to some of its more conservative large brands.

“We’ve transformed how we do that on our big brands, because people see those big brands internally and they’re like, ‘wow, we’re doing something on Cheerios and it’s working, we should be doing something in the rest of the company’,” said Hiranaga.

“We’ve almost had to self-disrupt in that way because we are an optimised, efficient scale model – we were doing that for decades really, really well. We needed to change that model and figure out how to use our scale, but in different ways.”

This change also means the modern marketer at General Mills needs to have a different skill set to before.

“I’m looking for somebody that can play a role of directing and doing. They need to be able to look up to see the bigger picture and connect the dots,” Hiranaga explained.

“That can be somebody from supply chain, marketing, finance, sales or anywhere, but that ability to live in both worlds is more critical than ever so they can understand the big picture and pull things together.”

Sourced from WARC