The queen of rapid turnaround

There's no denying Helena Myers knows how to get stuff done. Fast.

There’s no denying Helena Myers knows how to get stuff done. Fast.

In just 12 months, the Turtles marketing manager led a complete brand overhaul of her product, taking it out of its traditional tray and into a stand-up, expandable box with individually fresh-wrapped pieces.

At the same time, she introduced four new premium flavours, like macadamia nut and white chocolate, to make the brand more giftable, and a flashy new three-piece bar to improve the brand’s presence on shelf and position it as an everyday snack.

The primary goal behind the relaunch was to revive the struggling brand and change its image from granny’s brand to a young, fresh, social one. The one-year turnaround included consumer research, package redesign, production and advertising. But Myers isn’t done: There are even more changes to come.

‘She has the ability to produce at a fast pace – creatively and analytically,’ says Ken Shaver, Nestlé Canada’s VP marketing, confectionery. ‘That results in speed to action and speed

to market.’

While the overhaul was executed quickly, it wasn’t just hastily slapped together in the name of speed. Myers oversaw a thoughtful, carefully planned, high-quality project. And the rewards are starting to roll in. In April, Turtles took home two gold medals in the brand marketing category at the Packaging Association of Canada’s National Packaging Competition awards gala – one for original Turtles, and another for the new premium Turtles.

While Myers can’t share specific figures, she says Turtles sales have gone up significantly since the relaunch. ‘Turtles was under a very significant attack by private label brands. Without the relaunch, it would have been in trouble,’ adds Shaver. ‘With the relaunch, Turtles has remained the number-one-selling chocolate at Christmas time.’

Myers, 30, was drawn to marketing during her time as president of the Student’s Society of McGill University in Montreal, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in North American studies.

‘There’s a lot of overlap with politics and marketing,’ she explains. ‘Politics is all about understanding Canadians – and when it comes to packaged goods, it’s very similar. What do Canadians think and feel about your product? What do they want for the future? There are a lot of similarities.’

This belief helped Myers land a summer internship at Procter & Gamble’s Toronto office, working on Pampers. After graduating from McGill, she signed on as assistant brand manager for P&G’s Pampers and Always brands. While there, she accelerated a major U.S. product launch by quickly developing a solid business plan.

That’s an achievement that seems consistent with Shaver’s opinion of Myers: ‘She thinks beyond just marketing… she’s an exceptional business manager.’

From P&G, Myers moved to Toronto-based direct and e-mail marketing company ICOM, and then went on to earn an MBA at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont.

In May of 2003, she wound up at Nestlé Canada’s Toronto headquarters as the Turtles marketing manager, where she was immediately charged with the daunting task of executing a complete brand overhaul.

She soon found that numerous focus groups overwhelmingly reiterated the same conclusion: Consumers like the Turtle as it is. So Myers was faced with the challenge of rejuvenating the brand without messing with the product itself.

As a result, she zeroed in on the positioning. For example, Myers and her crew revamped the brand’s snack size packaging by replacing the two-piece bar with a three-piece and giving it a more contemporary wrapper.

‘The perception is that it’s grandma who has Turtles in her closet. We want to enliven the brand, give it a face lift,’ she explains, noting that the bar targets 18-34 males and females. ‘Moving to this was a huge win along the way – we’ve had strong sales with this bar.’

More youthful and playful advertising has helped, too. Last year, a 30-second spot for the bar by JWT featured a young couple: In the ad, the man is shocked that his girlfriend is casually eating Turtles, instead of saving them for

the holidays.

Myers and her team also tackled the traditional box packaging of Turtles that is so synonymous with the holidays. They were in the research stage when the SARS crisis (and, hence, germ-a-phobia) was on everyone’s mind, which reinforced her instinct that individually wrapped pieces would be the

way to go.

The toughest part was redesigning the outer packaging. The relaunch team went through dozens of prototypes before finally whittling it down to about 10.

Ultimately, the goal was to wind up with

a package that could double as a serving

tray, since consumers associate Turtles

with sharing.

When the chosen prototype was shown to focus groups, the team knew they had a winner when they saw people react to the package’s expandable feature. ‘When we opened the box, everybody said ‘Oooooh,” recalls Myers.

That ‘oooh’ reaction made its way into another humorous 30-second TV spot in which the new guy at the office opens a box of Turtles, inspiring awe among his coworkers.

This was JWT’s first campaign for the Turtles brand, and the time constraints made it an unusual experience. Nestlé needed as many ideas as possible within a week of briefing the agency, so it proposed having all of JWT’s available creative teams compete against each other.

The Nestlé team threw in an incentive to sweeten the deal: The company sent the two winning teams (they needed a spot for the three-piece bar and a spot for the box) to an awards show of their choice, all expenses paid. Seven teams ended up pitching, and the winners were rewarded with a trip to the Clios.

JWT CD Martin Shewchuk admits he’s not typically receptive to pitting his creatives against each other, but Myers and her team were able to convince him that the internal competition was the best way to go in the limited amount of time they had to work with. ‘She made the process a lot of fun for us,’ Shewchuk recalls. ‘She’s a great team leader.’

What’s next for Turtles? This month, the brand is unveiling a giant, individually wrapped 50g Turtle, dubbed the ‘Mega.’ Focus groups have indicated that customers want their Turtles to look like turtles, and Myers says the larger size allows for a more realistic turtle shape. ‘It makes it more fun,’ she explains. ‘Canadians love that the Turtle is unique.’

5 Questions

Favourite current TV show: Alias. It’s a very suspenseful, action show so you just get hooked. You’re always trying to figure out who’s the good guy, who’s the bad guy. It’s a thinking show.

Favourite magazine: Fitness. It’s all about balance and moderation.

Last ad that inspired you to make a purchase: The Swiffer. I think they do a really good job of showing how easy it is to clean. P & G does a very good job of visualizing the benefits in their advertising. It was a no-brainer.

Favourite vacation spot: Anywhere warm and sunny. I’m going to Bali for my honeymoon this fall.

Favourite way to unwind: Closing my eyes on the subway ride home. AB