What keeps Caroline Losson up at night?

The VP of marketing at Natrel chats about the struggle with bilingualism, keeping millennials engaged and why numbers mean nothing.
caroline losson

We’ve got a new series, asking top marketers across the country about their biggest fears and concerns. What are the things of marketing nightmares? First, we chatted with Kraft CMO Tony Matta. Now, we’re talking to Caroline Losson, VP marketing at Natrel, about the three things that keep her awake at night. 

What is keeping you up at night?

Recruiting, at the moment. We’re having a hard time finding talent, and keeping them satisfied. Usually, when you find talent, they want to grow really quickly. Especially, as we’re based in Quebec, I need people who are fully bilingual – so I think it’s a specific challenge for the Quebec marketplace.

Retention [is an issue] but not the biggest. Sometimes people who are really talented want to move fast, and I’m not always able to provide them with the fast-pace career growth they’re looking for. It’s a smaller team – and in Quebec in particular, a lot of people who are really talented have moved because so many headquarters have moved to Toronto and elsewhere, so the talent pool is diminished. And if I’m looking for people who are fully trained in marketing, who are bilingual, who are ambitious enough, but not too ambitious, I have a lot of parameters I need to filter through, and it becomes really challenging.

So what’s a solution to that?

If I were to talk to universities today, I would ask [them] to please, please make sure people are fully bilingual. The language is a huge barrier. I’m always stunned by how few people are. We do [on the job language training] but it’s so much harder. I’d rather provide training relevant to the job.

The younger generation wants to move fast, and they expect the organization is going to be really well developed in terms of career pathing and training. I was just doing two interviews, and [I asked myself], “Am I giving the interview or am I being interviewed?”

I really felt like the candidates were evaluating me against a pool of other potential employers. The younger generation is quite demanding – which is fine! They bring great things to the table, but it’s not always easy to fit that in into an established organization.

[As an organization] we’re trying to develop policies and procedures that are one-size-fits-all, and unfortunately for the younger generation, they want things custom-made.

Where might you be able to find some compromises between the quick growth millennials want and the existing structure in place?

We do try and keep them engaged and keep the job interesting – make our marketing activities interesting. You want those really bright young people to be on your team so they’ll fuel you with their bright ideas, but the reality is you can’t always execute against everything [they bring forward].

What are the other challenges you struggle with?

One of the things I continue to spend a lot of time on is finding the right weight, space and magnitude for digital. How much of my dollars am I really going to shift to digital?

We’ve shifted quite a bit over the past two years, and we try and measure return as effectively as we can, but those measures are, to date, not as well established as they would be for other marketing activity. So to measure the real effectiveness of those digital tools [is a challenge].

And I’m not even talking about mobile yet. I know I’m going to have to get to that, but I’m not there yet. It’s going to be very costly when it comes to developing an app, but what am I getting in return? I know I need to get there, but how do I get there and make sure I get a return on my brands?

[To deal with this issue,] we have a digital agency and I throw out my challenges to them and say, “Help me out. You’re my consultant, so give me your point of view.”

I’m joined at the hip with my agencies – all of them. And I expect them to come to me with proposals.

And I take as many opinions as I can [to] go to my boss and say, “Will you allow [me to] take this much money, and maybe [the project] will be a superstar, but maybe it won’t work.”

But even for agencies, it’s changing so fast. And sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a real, lasting change and something that’ll come and go.

For example, mobile, we have the numbers right now showing us how mobile plays into the purchase decision [but] it means different things for different industries. For milk, we’re still at the stage of defining what it will be. So I have the data, and I need to decide is that something that’ll stick with mothers or not – the jury is still out. I don’t have enough data points to indicate I should change my investments to address that particular opportunity – of course if I were selling running shoes to teenagers, I’d probably have to act on it now.

What else are you grappling with?

What I’m personally sick of is data for the sake of data. I want analysis, opportunities, understanding of the data. I’m not impressed with just numbers – I’m impressed with finding what’s behind the numbers.

So I’m putting a lot of pressure and focus on that [deeper understanding]. I just restructured the department to create a business intelligence team, whose purpose is specifically to do consumer, competitive and category mining. And I’m interviewing for six positions at the moment.

And I tell them clearly, “Don’t give me just numbers. I want opportunities, and I want you to tell me why you think they’re opportunities.

“Don’t tell me that 52% of the Toronto population is south Asian.” What I want to know is, “Do they consume dairy? What dairy do they consume? What is their family mapping? How do they consume it? Where do they buy it? Why is it important for them? How do they use it? Who purchases it?” And all of that.

Are you a top marketer with nightmares of your own? Reach out to mhaynes @ brunico.com