Lessons from abroad: The holistic thinker

How a stint in Switzerland helped inform Christine Jakovcic's approach to collaboration.

Christine Jakovcic_Headshot

This article appears 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.

Hearing Christine Jakovcic describe P&G’s fabric care floor circa 2005 in Geneva (where she led several major brands for the United Kingdom) brings to mind a mini UN. As she’d walk back to her team, Jakovcic would pass meetings featuring multiple languages, brands and cultures, all working together to solve problems (more related to laundry than international peace, but problem-solving nonetheless).

The Molson Coors CMO describes it as the most diverse group she’s ever worked with, one where a marketer couldn’t be held back by her own biases when collaborating with others from so many different markets.

At the time when Jakovcic joined P&G in Europe from Canada, the CPG company was already bringing together emotional and functional messaging, working heavily with what it called “loop teams.” The process involved providing the loop team (made up of multiple agency partners) with one communications brief all at once, Jakovcic says.

Major presentations and strategy alignment meetings would include all partners until the communications idea was agreed upon. Then, the teams would work more ad hoc to bring in their various expertise, with the brand director being the key decision-maker to ensure all the elements came together as one idea.

“The best ideas come from the people who know your business but don’t have the full weight of the P&L on them,” she says, referring to agency partners as well as junior members of the brand teams.

This approach has served her well since returning to Canada and moving up within Molson Coors to the top marketer position. The multi-functional strategy with its agency partners is a process Molson began two years ago, centred on having a clear communications idea and guidelines upfront so that all partners – from creative to PR to experiential to media – are working toward the same goal, ensuring the program lands in a holistic way.

She points to “One Horse Town,” a platform for Coors Banquet that has benefited from that approach. A 360-program, the country music-centred platform includes small towns competing on social media to host a major festival. From sponsorships and working with Country Music Television (CMT) to pulling content from the U.S. to social media engagement, the program comes together as though one person planned the whole thing, she says.

Jakovcic’s philosophy, though, is that, above all, the briefs must be centred on insights and brand purpose. Her time working on CPG brands in the U.K. market also reinforced the importance of data, which is now more available through Molson Coors’ acquisition of MillerCoors in the U.S., she says.

For her, it boils down to understanding insights and “ideas as currency,” which can cross borders. When working on improving the quality perception of Molson Canadian, for example, the brand launched a spot called “The Process” as part of its World Cup of Hockey sponsorship, likening the craft that goes into its beer to the work it takes to become a world-class player on the ice.

The insight behind that idea is now being used as a best-in-class example for sponsorship with the potential to be leveraged in other markets, such as with soccer in Europe, Jakovcic says. “I think the formula has to be [about] understanding the [consumer] insights regardless of which market you’re in [because] insights can be common globally.”