Chief Marketing Officer at Kantar
Nathalie Burdet has worked through the crises of our past while helping global firms manage and even build up their brands from scratch. Today, she is the Chief Marketing Officer of Kantar in London, where she is once again helping a global brand efficiently pivot and support clients in new ways. We caught up with her to talk abut how these unprecedented times differ from huge global and economic events of the past, as well as how the marketing industry has had to shift (for the better!) to have a place in the future of business too.
You’ve been a professional long enough to witness major events that affected the way we live and work. How has this pandemic been at all familiar and what, perhaps not so obviously, is different from crises behind us?
Indeed, these are unprecedented times and as I reflect on this current crisis, nothing much felt or has been feeling familiar. I remember Friday, March 20th, literally hours before lockdown in London when the city started to become a ghost town and seeing restaurants, bars, and shops closing,the supermarket raided and a surreal feeling as if the end of the world settling in.
In the previous crisis in ‘08, there was a heightened sense that being in the office was crucial, with days full of meetings on how to address the impact, etc. This created a palpable sense of shared stress. In the current COVID crisis with the initial lockdown, the stress is of a different type and more individual. It has been more of a struggle to find the right work/life balance and to create a sense of team.
Interestingly, with all of us working from home at once globally, which has never happened before, we are making greater efforts to communicate which has meant new ways of working, more frequent contact with the teams (on a weekly basis and with no agenda) with the greater emphasis on ensuring everyone feels supported and are coping. I believe that building and showing trust in these extraordinary circumstances will have long-term implications for individual teams – so by showing trust now – you build a high-trust workplace for the future.
If there was one thing I could say has felt familiar is the constant struggle to find the right life/work balance which, as I mentioned, over the last 10 weeks or so has been even harder than usual with the always on virtual workplace. I encourage my team to take regular breaks during the day as well as holidays stressing to them that these are key to maintain good mental health. Their wellbeing is important to me and I believe that leading by example not by just talking about it makes a difference.
Have you taken on any new hobbies or revisited old ones? What sorts of extra-curricular activities or routines have you incorporated into your life?
I love running, so took the opportunity like half the country it seems, to do an early morning run. I also tried to take up online yoga and rediscovered my love for baking. Thank god for the running! Probably most satisfying is that I have been able to read more which has been something I have wanted to do for some time. Lastly, I am finding that I am actually having more quality conversation with friends and family realizing how truly precious these relationships are. It just feels easier to have a better life balance.
As the CMO of an international business with clients all over the world, what are the hurdles for marketing the business in the new normal?
For marketing, now more than ever is the time to show our value as a function and as a strategic partner to the business. We have been more than ever externally focused to support our clients and work incredibly closely with the sales team to ensure they have the right, pertinent material to help them engage with their clients and have meaningful conversations.
It has been about understanding our clients, how COVID 19 is impacting their business and industry. This unique crisis has been a catalyst to accelerate our evolution as an organization to focus more on anticipating the needs of our clients, based on changing consumer behaviors.
Is Kantar doing anything differently with the data to market the business now to different industries?
Kantar’s mission is to help our clients understand people and inspire growth. At the very beginning of the pandemic to present, we have been providing with data and insights on a weekly basis that would help them understand people and the impact of the pandemic on brands, advertising and media, consumers and retail, society and health. We are also helping them to plan for recovery post-COVID. In fact, we are using our own data and understanding of the pandemic impact on the industry to inform our own marketing and go-to-market strategy.
What advice would you give a group of young marketers entering the workforce for the first time, or to young professionals who haven’t seen a real global challenge like this one?
The world of marketing was already changing but the pandemic has accelerated the pace and has highlighted that digital marketing is the future. My advice to young professionals would be to:
– Observe and learn from this uncharted territory: look at how leadership teams are managing the crisis, what companies are doing not just from a marketing point of view but across the board to answer business challenges COVID is posing, and learn what is working/not working.
– Develop/master your digital skills. This may be understanding the different channels, how to target clients, personalize messaging, how to run digital campaigns to generate leads, or how to nurture leads.
– Develop your commercial and analytics skills. Being digitally savvy, understanding the data and being able to analyse it to help inform future campaigns as well as being able to showcase ROI will set you up well for the future.
– Finally, learn to have a good work life balance and most importantly, learn to be resilient and flexible – these traits will help you be more productive, happy and successful throughout your entire career as well as stay sane!