Lessons from abroad: The relationship crafter

Former Kraft marketer Julian Franklin brings decision-making and consensus-building home from the U.S. (Online Exclusive)
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This online exclusive is part of Lessons From Abroad – a series that first appeared in the June 2017 issue of strategy.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

Who wants to go to market with only a page worth of insights? Knowing your home market is critical but sometimes the best growth can come when you look outside the border. From finding commonalities in universal brand experiences to taking cues from fast-paced, product-oriented markets, strategy presents a five-week series on worldly marketers who prove that there are gains to be made from importing – and even exporting – ideas.

Julian Franklin can get behind small but mighty ideas. Not every swing should aim for the fences.

“Singles and doubles are good,” says the longtime Kraft Heinz marketer who has now gone agency side, joining Geometry Global’s Toronto office late last year as SVP and managing director. “There’s no shame in small but successful ideas.”

It might seem a statement parsed in characteristic Canadian humility, but he’s quick to point out that there’s no dearth of creative ideas with home run potential in Canada.

Take Kraft Hockeyville, a Canada-born program Franklin was tasked with bringing south after joining the Chicago office in 2013. In Canada, the company had become a leader in scale marketing, and exporting Hockeyville ultimately drove a 72% sales lift for Kraft in the U.S. in the first quarter of that year and $60 million in incremental revenue.

Even though the Chicago office was inside the same company and many of its nuances were the familiar, the pace was undoubtedly quicker and the responsibility for decision-making was much bigger, Franklin says. That meant that while the importance of being right is paramount, the old saying “perfect can’t be the enemy of good” applies.

Good ideas, even if not earth-shattering, can scale when consensus is built, he says.

The Canadian market undoubtedly has its challenges. Fewer retail partners means “the ability to take risks is really predicated on the fact that you may only have one shot or maybe two,” he says.

But that also means there’s a scrappiness that comes with working here, which lends itself well to building relationships and pushing ideas forward south of the border. That was especially the case when working in markets where regional retail powerhouses like Publix or Meijer rule over their respective states and can’t be ignored for a brand hoping to scale on store shelves.

“My decision-making became a lot more refined and improved,” Franklin say. While he says he trusted in his abilities while working in Toronto, his U.S. role came with the opportunity to take action quicker.

Franklin has now brought that mentality into the agency world at Geometry Global. As managing director of the Canadian team, Franklin is able to place himself squarely in the clients’ shoes, working on defining business challenges and helping drive decision-making forward.

From the client side, it was always important to have the agency bring insights to the table and be part of the discussion sooner, to get to decisions faster, he says. “Even when they don’t work out, you don’t stop there.”

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