As a part of the WARC x Spotify report, Charisse Hughes, SVP & Chief Brand and Advanced Analytics Officer, shares how the Kellogg Company’s values inform their work – from purpose-driven ESG efforts to award-winning education programs for their marketers, and the role audio plays in their journey.

Read the whitepaper 'Sonic boom: How digital audio can help Retail and CPG brands win the path to purchase' here.

Headshot of Charisse Hughes

Charisse Hughes, SVP & Chief Brand and Advanced Analytics Officer, Kellogg Company

Tell us a little bit about you and your role at Kellogg's.

I am a brand builder and modern marketer with 25+ years of experience driving consumer acquisition, retention and loyalty, and digital omni commerce growth. My vision as a member of the executive committee is to create a future-ready Kellogg's with a winning portfolio of leading, iconic global brands and characters that inspire consumers to sit at our table. I'm committed to creating personalized engagement and inclusive experiences enabled by deep data-driven understanding and Advanced Analytics/Machine Learning.

After spending 23+ years as a marketing leader for consumer brands with worldwide scope in beauty, fashion, and retail, I joined Kellogg's as its mission aligns with my values around inclusivity and equitable access to foods. In early 2022, my role evolved from Global CMO to Chief Brand and Advanced Analytics officer – a shift emblematic of what's happening in marketing with the acceleration of digital and our view that data is one of our company's most important assets.

Before joining Kellogg's, I served as the CMO for Pandora Jewelry, Americas Region, spent nearly a decade with The Estee Lauder Companies as SVP of Global Marketing, and held marketing and brand leadership roles with Avon Products, Inc., and the Sara Lee Corporation.

I'm on the board of Crocs and am an advisor to the board for Pixability, the #1 YouTube optimisation and brand suitability platform, and a board member with Delivering Good, a non-profit that donates new merchandise to people in need.

There’s obviously been a lot of change in the marketing landscape over the last 5 years. Which changes would you say have had the biggest impact on Kellogg’s?

Over the past five years, we’ve seen a paradigm shift from organization-led brands to brand-led organizations as now, more than ever consumers want to work with and buy from brands that are purpose-driven and that they trust. One of the reasons I joined Kellogg's back in 2020 was because its values matched my own. Our Vision – A good and just world where people are not just fed but fulfilled. Our Purpose – Creating better days and a place at the table for everyone. Both are a declaration of how we approach everything – from food design to marketing to innovation and beyond – all to reach our consumers in culturally relevant ways.

ESG commitments have been gaining attention with the rise in societal demand for companies to lead with purpose and generate positive impact. However, this isn’t new to Kellogg's. As a leading global food company, we’ve been on a journey since our founding to impact people and the planet positively. We start every project with that foundation, and that discipline allows us to be more creative in food design and communication design because we know what we stand for.

A few examples of how we’ve married our purpose to acts of leadership include:

Ingrained – More than four billion people rely on rice as a primary source of nourishment. However, rice production accounts for 12% of total global methane emissions – a greenhouse gas (GHG) 20x more potent than carbon dioxide. To address this, Kellogg's has implemented a climate-positive agricultural program called Kellogg’s InGrained, which will work with partners in the Lower Mississippi River Basin to reward rice farmers for the tons of greenhouse gas emissions they reduce.

School Breakfast Research – Prior to the pandemic, 41% of children under 15, worldwide, were experiencing food insecurity. We’re proud to say that we have impacted more than four million children in 26 countries since 2015 through our feeding programs. We commissioned research to understand the benefits of school and community breakfast programs. We learned that these programs not only provide nourishment, but also support a child’s sense of belonging, security, and identity.

Movember – Pringles’ Mr. P. shaved his mustache to support Movember. This charity encourages men around the world to grow mustaches each November to raise money for men’s health issues. On November 1st, we kicked off the program for the third year. The objective is to have meaningful conversations about mental health which we are doing internally with employees as well as with consumers and customers.

ATNI – Earlier this year Kellogg's ranked #2 at the 2022 US Access to Nutrition Index. We remain committed to providing access to nutritious foods to create #betterdays for people in the US and across the world. Not only do we have all the programs and initiatives we have the science to back it up. We are very proud to offer a portfolio of choice where consumer can decide if they want food to indulge or food that support their health and well-being.

Other marketers we’ve spoken to have talked about the ‘challenge of balance’. For instance, balancing reach versus relevance. Or balancing investment between traditional media channels and emerging ones. How do you go about finding that balance, and is there anything that tips the scale?

The way we address these issues is different. For Kellogg's, we think through the lens of business and brand goals, considering the brand lifecycle. For instance, brands that have a strong HHP are driving increases in consumption vs. those that are seeing an erosion in consumer base due to shifting habits or diminished brand relevance.

Thinking about brand relevance, we launched an award-winning program to educate our marketers, the K-Way of Inclusive Marketing program was designed to deepen our marketer’s ability to connect with our diverse consumers. The multicultural population has $4 Trillion in spending power; we must represent and understand the communities we serve to provide them with affordable and accessible foods. However, brands today need to connect with consumers on a functional and emotional level, where relevance and, more specifically, culture comes to play.

The other key piece is curiosity and experimentation – starting with a hypothesis about a channel or an audience and then designing a test to prove or disprove. Once we have a winning channel, we can extend to other brands with similar characteristics or issues. We've built a proof-of-concept internally, a rapid, iterative process with our data scientists, engineers, and functional leaders. We then leverage that information to identify availability gaps and opportunities to get the most out of our marketing dollars.

There’s been much debate recently about finding the right balance between brand marketing and performance marketing. What’s your view?

I like to look at this differently because marketing has always been a growth driver. Consumers are moving seamlessly across online and offline channels and amongst various media channels to learn, browse and buy. The purchase path is increasingly complex; therefore, we must have a full-funnel or holistic view of the consumer journey.

Successful brands and companies meet consumers where they are either in the upper, mid, or lower funnel. Having clarity on the job to be done or business objective is the first step – is it about recruiting, reclaiming, or retaining consumers? Once that is defined, we can identify the target consumer, map the audiences to the right creative and media mix, and measure effectiveness by looking at the right KPIs.

Moving the consumer from top to bottom of the funnel takes time, so we must look at it in more extended periods, and the route to "more" growth is both a long- and short-term focus.

Do you think the concept of the marketing funnel is as relevant as it used to be?

The traditional marketing funnel, which outlines the steps that a customer takes from awareness to purchase, is still relevant even in today's rapidly evolving retail and e-commerce landscape. It is true that the customer journey is no longer a linear path and consumers now interact with brands and products in a multitude of ways, both online and offline.

With the rise of retail media and social commerce platforms, customers are increasingly able to discover, explore and purchase products all at once. The lines between shopping, browsing, and socialising have become blurred, and customers expect a seamless and personalized experience across all touchpoints.

In this context, brands must think through the complexity of the customer journey and adapt their strategies to meet the changing needs and behaviours of consumers. A more holistic and customer-centric approach, considering all the different touchpoints and interactions that customers have with a brand, is necessary to effectively reach and engage with them.

Marketers must be flexible and open to new ideas and approaches as the retail and e-commerce landscape continues to evolve.

Let’s talk about metrics. What are the most important KPI’s for your brand(s)? How do you measure the contribution of individual media channels?

Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) is a crucial part of our marketing strategy. Our brand(s) have a diverse range of KPIs that we monitor and strive to optimize, from near-time KPIs for in-flight optimisations, such as Viewability, Invalid Traffic, and Ad-Exposed Sales Attribution, to post-campaign KPIs for future optimisation, such as Brand Lift and Sales Lift. Additionally, we monitor longer-term KPIs, such as Brand Health, sentiment, and penetration, to ensure the overall health and growth of our brand(s).

Each KPI serves a unique purpose in our marketing and business processes. They inform our upstream business strategies and guide our downstream tactical optimisations across audience segments, placements, and media partners. By consistently monitoring and optimising these KPIs, we can make informed decisions and drive results for our brands.

How does all of the above feed into your media selection and planning processes?

At Kellogg's, our media selection and planning processes are informed by a variety of factors, including in-market and historical performance outcomes. These outcomes are just one piece of the puzzle and are combined with other considerations such as business objectives, consumer behaviour, media consumption patterns, and marketplace conditions.

By triangulating these different inputs, we can develop a comprehensive strategy and experience plan that informs our media selection. Our brands take a holistic approach to media planning, considering both the current and historical performance and metrics, as well as the broader business and consumer landscape.

This approach allows us to make informed decisions about the most effective channels to reach our target audiences, and to plan and execute campaigns that drive the desired results for our brands. Ultimately, our goal is to create an optimal media mix that drives results and delivers value to our business and consumers.

Let’s focus on digital audio platforms for a moment. What do you see as digital audio’s particular strengths and weaknesses? At the moment, where does it sit in your media hierarchy?

Overall, digital audio could be considered as one of our media channels for advertising and promoting. Some of the strengths and weaknesses we have identified could be:

Reach: Digital audio platforms can provide us with access to a large, engaged audiences, which can help us reach new customers.

Personalisation: Digital audio platforms offer opportunities to target specific segments of their audience with tailored advertisements.

Affordability: Digital audio advertising can be more cost-effective compared to traditional media channels, providing more opportunities to reach a wider audience.

On the other hand, opportunities can be found in terms of:

Quality: The quality of digital audio advertisements can vary depending on the platform, which can affect the effectiveness of the advertisements.

Ad Blocking: Some users may have ad-blocking software enabled, which could prevent their exposure to our advertisements.

Sustainability: The business models of some digital audio platforms may be unsustainable, which could lead to potential long-term issues for our advertising strategy.

From a measurement perspective, there is room for improvement in determining the most effective way to assess audio performance. Historically, audio has been perceived as a passive channel, meant to play in the background, rather than actively engaged with.

To increase its appeal to brands, it will be crucial to develop a method for measuring audience attention. Our brands heavily rely on visual elements and building a distinctive audio presence will require time and effort. Currently, digital audio and all audio channels have a lower position in the media hierarchy due to these factors and the need for distinctive audio assets.

It’s been shown that across music streaming services and podcasts, digital audio commands a high share of consumption but a relatively low share of media spend. What do you think are the main reasons for this?

There are several reasons why digital audio, including both music streaming services and podcasts, commands a high share of consumption but a relatively low share of media spend.

Lack of established measurement standards: The audio industry has yet to establish reliable and widely accepted measurement standards, making it difficult for advertisers to measure the impact of their campaigns and justify investment.

Limited data and targeting capabilities: Compared to other digital channels, digital audio currently has limited data and targeting capabilities, making it harder for advertisers to reach specific audiences and measure their return on investment.

Perceived as a secondary channel: Digital audio is often perceived as a secondary channel, played in the background rather than actively engaged with. This perception may make it less appealing to brands looking to reach an engaged and active audience.

Emerging technology and new players: The digital audio landscape is rapidly evolving, with new players entering the market and technology rapidly advancing. This can make it challenging for advertisers to navigate the landscape and make informed decisions about where to invest their media spend.

As the digital audio industry continues to mature and measurement standards and capabilities improve, it is likely that more brands will increase their investment in this channel. However, for now, the reasons listed above are contributing to the relatively low share of media spend in digital audio compared to its high share of consumption.

Do you think ads in music streaming services play a different role to those in podcasts?

I believe that the role of advertisements in music streaming services and podcasts can differ based on the context and format of the content.

Music streaming services often feature short, interruptive ads that play during natural pauses in the music. These ads are typically intended to reach a large, passive audience and drive brand awareness.

Podcasts, on the other hand, typically feature longer, less interruptive ads that are often read by the host and integrated into the content. These ads are intended to reach a highly engaged and attentive audience and often drive product consideration and purchase intent.

Given these differences, it's important for advertisers to approach each platform with a tailored and effective strategy. Our company, Kellogg's, will continue to assess these platforms and evaluate the best approach to reach our target audiences effectively.

Where does each fit in terms of the marketing funnel?

In terms of the marketing funnel, ads in music streaming services tend to fit into the Awareness and Consideration stages, while ads in podcasts tend to fit into the Consideration and Conversion stages.

Music streaming service ads are often designed to reach a large audience and build brand awareness. They aim to introduce potential customers to the brand and create an initial impression.

Podcast ads, on the other hand, are typically longer and more integrated into the content. They are intended to reach an engaged and attentive audience and are often designed to drive product consideration and purchase intent. The goal is to persuade listeners to act and make a purchase.

It's important for advertisers to consider where their target audience fits in the marketing funnel and choose the appropriate platform to reach them effectively. For example, if we are looking to build brand awareness, we may choose to advertise on a music streaming service, while if we are looking to drive conversion, we may choose to advertise on a podcast.