IRI’s three-day Growth Summit is designed for CPG manufacturers, retailers and their advertising and media partners. Now in its 15th year, the event was held April 16-18 at the Wynn in Las Vegas. FMCG companies like P&G and their retail partners such as Target, look to IRI to track up-to-the-minute market information.
Speakers included Andrew Appel, president and CEO, IRI; Stuart Aitken, group vice president, Kroger and CEO of 84.51 Degrees; Jeremy Gutsche, author and CEO, Trend Hunter; F. Paul Hetterich, executive vice president and president, Constellation Brands Beer Division; Eric Reynolds, chief marketing officer, Clorox; Jennifer Saenz, chief marketing officer, Frito-Lay North America; Stan Sthanunathan, executive vice president, consumer and market insights, Unilever; and Kevin Turner, vice chairman and senior advisor, Albertsons.
Celebrity entrepreneur Bethenny Frankel of Skinnygirl fame also made an appearance. Best known for her role in “The Real Housewives of New York” and her empire of drinks and foods for weight-conscious fashionistas, Frankel recently branched out with a line of jeans. Named one of the top 100 most powerful celebrities by Forbes magazine, Frankel shared how she went from natural foods chef to reality TV star to businesswoman, lifestyle influencer and philanthropist; along the way, she provided insights on how to identify and capitalize on new opportunities.
“As competition in the marketplace continues to grow, it is more important than ever that companies are doing what they can to stay one step ahead in order to meet the needs of today’s increasingly discerning consumer,” said IRI chief marketing officer John McIndoe. “The 2018 Summit is a must-attend for those wanting insights that propel their brands and businesses to remain ahead of the curve.”
Topics spanned from the latest opportunities in e-commerce to utilizing essential new approaches to retailer/manufacturer collaboration. The three-day conference featured training sessions, hands-on demonstrations and several networking opportunities. According to IRI, attendees have the opportunity to leave with the insights they need to transform their marketing strategy and power growth within their business.
Multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer headlined IRI’s Vegas Live: Before and Beyond evening spectacular during the Summit. According to event organizers, more than 1,500 guests attended at least one of the 20-plus best practice and training sessions, which included ones that covered Generation Z, new product innovation, growth leaders, media, measurement, changes in retail and more. And, 1,300 used the IRI Conference app.
The Showcase was hopping, too, as several hundred attendees stopped by to see the latest innovations from IRI and some of its partners.
Kicking off the general session on April 17, IRI President and CEO Andrew Appel affirmed, “We are in constant motion. IRI’s quest is to be a disruptor. The pace of change is extraordinary.”
In his presentation, Appel referred to Amazon as a tastemaker, as its purchase of Whole Foods in 2017 “set off a bomb in the industry.” At press time, Amazon represented 80% of online sales growth. Traditional retailers are having a hard time keeping up with Amazon and its inventory of 430 million products on amazon.com.
The online behemoths, Amazon, Facebook and Google, have a combined $2 trillion market cap, according to Appel. Obviously, retailers and their partners can learn a lot from all three of them.
“The idea was that technology has been the great equalizer—but these companies have taken over,” he said. “It started with simple concepts, for example, shopping with Amazon Prime makes it easy for consumers to add to their carts. Behemoths move fast and make big bets.”
Appel also suggested how smaller companies can go big like the behemoths by competing and collaborating, as seen in partnering with different ecosystems to reach the customer with targeted ads.
“Overall, these companies’ customer-centric speed is seen best in taking risks. Lead the change in our industry to create opportunities for the future,” said Appel.
Household & Personal Care Powerhouses
Perfection is the enemy of greatness and the enemy of speed, noted Stan Sthanunathan, executive vice president, consumer and market insights, Unilever.
Sthanunathan asked how can we bring the outside in and the future forward? Start with augmented intelligence to harnesses human curiosity, he said. Intelligence amplification (IA)—also referred to as cognitive augmentation and machine augmented intelligence—refers to the effective use of information technology in augmenting human intelligence. Augmented intelligence is an alternative conceptualization of artificial intelligence that focuses on AI’s assistive role, emphasizing the fact that it is designed to enhance human intelligence rather than replace it, said Sthanunathan.
For example, make it easy for shoppers to find answers to their questions. Sthanunathan cited the Answer Rocket app for smart phones. This self-service app offers analytics for business users. Questions are answered as data visualizations.
Another one of Unilever’s successful consumer outreach programs is the Allthingshair.com website, added Sthanunathan. This blog-style online hub showcases everything from new product news to expert tutorials for the consumer craving to learn more about the growing beauty business.
Are brands dead? This was a question posed at the Summit by Eric Reynolds, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of The Clorox Company.
“Right now, the tools of our craft have never been so sophisticated. With that said, are we brand builders or brand killers?”
Reynolds’ company bet big on programmatic online advertising, despite industry-wide challenges around fraud, viewability and transparency. But narcissism became a problem.
“What are we telling people about the brand itself?” he stated. “Technology needs to be yoked to connect people and brands—we’re not selling technology; we are selling products!”
Reynolds then referred to Clorox’s latest campaign, Clean Is The Beginning (www.clorox.com/cloroxisthebeginning). It enables the more than 100-year-old cleaning company to be contextually relevant, yet still tells the brand’s story, he explained.
Turner-ing It Around
Kevin Turner started his career at Walmart as a cashier in 1985, culminating in his stint at the retail giant with his appointment to CEO and president of Sam’s Club and executive vice president of Walmart Stores, Inc. Later, he went on to become COO of Microsoft where, during his tenure, the company grew from a $30 billion to a $90 billion business. Today, he is vice chairman and senior advisor at Albertsons Companies, one of the largest food and drug retailers stateside. Turner, then, is uniquely qualified to opine about the CPG category.
“Our world is changing—we are part of the Industrial Revolution. In 1764 there was steam; in 1870, electricity; 1969, electronics and we are currently in the digital era,” he reminded attendees. “Industry disruption is happening in real time. We have a front seat to history right here!”
Turner cited Airbnb, Tesla, Uber and Netflix as game-changers in the digital era. Dollar Shave Club—a men’s grooming online business purchased by Unilever for $1 billion in 2017—also was cited as a leader in digital technology.
“The digital revolution is driving massive business disruption,” said Turner. “These businesses are successful as they take data and turn it into useful information. This will help customers make better decisions. Be an energy creator and demonstrate digital leadership.”
According to Turner, there are eight business facets to keep up in the digital era: the future belongs to the fast; done is better than perfect; sometimes jobs outgrow good people; progress is made when we move from analyzing and reporting to doing; if you find yourself explaining, you are losing; energy and hunger trump experience; the road to excellence is always under construction; and, embrace the disruption.
One of the highlights of the IRI Growth Summit was the appearance of special guests, including celebrity entrepreneur Frankel. Her brand will expand soon with a denim line at Lord & Taylor.
In a Q&A sit down with IRI’s McIndoe, Frankel shared her secrets on excelling in business.
“You don’t need a plan. It takes passion, drive and ideas,” she said. “Business isn’t clearcut. It’s what you learn along the way!”
According to Frankel, the Skinnygirl empire was built on passion.
“Be ahead of the rest and go with your gut!” she exclaimed. “Skinnygirl is my ace in the hole. Be the real deal!”
• Simbe Robotics founder Brad Bogolea was on site at the IRI Growth Summit Conference with Tally, his company’s inventory-auditing robot. According to the San Francisco-based business, Simbe Robotics is addressing the blind spots in physical retail with its autonomous robot that tracks common issues plaguing store shelves like out-of-stock items, low-stock items, misplaced items and pricing errors.
Tally sends digital insights to retailers and brands to help them optimize their merchandise. The robot roves the aisles during normal business hours alongside retail associates to provide a deeper understanding of what’s happening on and off shelves within each store. Ultimately, store managers and associates can better stock items, immediately source items and ensure that customers will never leave a store empty-handed, according to Bogolea.
More info: www.simberobotics.com