Transforming Merchandise Industry with New Market Possibilities

By Antonio Sciuto, EVP & Chief Marketing Officer North America, Nestlé

Antonio Sciuto, EVP & Chief Marketing Officer North America, Nestlé

MEETING DISRUPTION HEAD ON: We need progress, not process, to capture new market possibilities.

Business today is a heaving landscape across which we have never traveled. None of us—whether behemoth corporations or entrepreneurial startups— have a true market advantage because we simply don’t know what’s ahead. Bill Gates once said, “Yesterday’s answer usually has nothing to do with today’s problem.” Even the best minds can’t lay out a predictable path in a world in constant flux.

"Everything is possible, provided we think and act differently and accept disruption as the norm"

These realities don’t spell gloom and doom; in fact, just the opposite. Everything is possible, provided we think and act differently and accept disruption as the norm. Today’s environment demands we have a clear destination, but doesn’t expect us to know the exact route or the details of how we’ll get there.

"It's quite fun to do the impossible" - W. Disney

Consultants and agencies can help, but we can no longer afford for them to slow us down with process, bureaucracy and yesterday’s answers. We value their skills and insights, yes, but not in drawn-out strategy meetings and reports. We must leave on our journey as soon as we know the destination and trust our partners and teams to deliver any needed process and navigation as we go.

I found a good analogy for the journey to new market possibilities in, “Hidden Figures,” a great movie about the NASA mathematicians who calculated flight trajectories for astronauts circling the earth in the early years of the Space Race. They had to do something that had never been done before—in crunch time— with the whole world watching. “Look beyond the numbers.” “Look for answers to questions we don’t even know to ask.” “Whoever gets there first will make the rules.”

In today’s digital reality there is no clear path from good to great. Like NASA exploring the unknown, we must push ourselves like never before to realize opportunities and success in the current business milieu. We must move from “good to grey,” i.e., shift from relying on defined processes and metrics to being courageous and comfortable working in vast grey areas and uncharted territories. We need to be comfortable setting out quickly on each business journey with the best existing business solutions— and confident we can continuously improve these programs as we face grey areas in our journey to be great.

Importantly, no one conquers the summit alone. To prepare for the journey, we must know our team and, like NASA’s Space Task Group Manager, Al Harrison, find the genius among geniuses —in the image K. Johnson who crunched the Numbers for NASA. We must equip and integrate our people and our culture for the lean, quick, inventive journey ahead. It may mean mixing people who don’t usually work together. Or adding people with less experience but more innate skills and intuition. On the road through the unknown, diversity, technology and energy are what matter.

As marketers, we run the risk that with all the rich metrics available, we can forget why we do all we do. That’s why it’s so important to set process aside in favor of a clear vision and a destination. We must articulate the reasons for the journey, then leave, not knowing what we’ll discover along the way, but being confident we’ll get there. We must be like Al Harrison, who said, “In my mind, I’m already there.”

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