Marieke van Balen – PepsiCo

Marieke van Balen – PepsiCo

Marieke van Balen is one of the 3 Commercial Directors at PepsiCo Benelux. PepsiCo’s brand portfolio is divided in 3 categories: Snacks, Nutrition and Social Beverages; Marieke is responsible for Nutrition which includes the brands Quaker, Tropicana, Looza, Alvalle and Naked. Her role combines both marketing and category management. The approach to combine marketing and category management was installed in April 2018.


Capturing the momentum with activations

For PepsiCo as a company, sales objectives and share of market are leading KPI’s. “These are common denominators that are valid for all brands. Next to that we monitor household data such as penetration, The usage of KPI’s based on image statements and awareness are very diverse. On a European level, choices have been made about which data is collected for which brands; efficiency is an important criterium in that respect. Consequently, there is much more knowledge about a large brand like Lay’s than about the majority of the brands in my category. For most smaller brands we track penetration and in-market data, but we don’t always set targets on image statements.”

“To grow our brands, the first prerequisite is to make use of the momentum in the market, capture it with activations at the right moments in time. Building blocks on top of that are innovation and mix management or revenue management. For activations we set targets based on measurable elements, such as uplift in campaign period and shop floor presence. It is difficult though to measure the direct contribution realized by an activation or to set targets based on sales. For example: in a declining market an activation may boost sales, but not fully turn around the decline. Does this mean that the activation was not good enough? Or would the decline have been far worse without the activation? It is very complex to make any proper analysis on that, also because support normally is combined with other marketing activities, product innovations and renovations, etc. Consequently, we build our activation calendar largely based on lapping what we have done previously. And we are in the lucky position that we can benefit from experiences with other brands and in other countries.”


A mix containing digital, TV, but also trucks

“Short term activations for us in general have a media component. But the dominant part of our media spend is focused on long term brand equity growth and innovation support. For me the scope of media is broad: ranging from traditional media to everything digital, but also our owned media, such as packaging, trucks and for Tropicana even fridges.”

“In the digital team we have a media manager, who works closely with a colleague in procurement with an A&M focus. One of the advantages of such a central position is that it is easier and more efficient to build knowledge; it is f.i. decided on a central level for which brands to invest in test-and-learn.  At the same time the marketing teams have their own media knowledge and they make the decisions. All media buying is centered at the media agency, OMD. Especially in the past few years we have made major steps together to grow in digital engagement. TV remains important, but we are more and more capable of communicating the right message per segment and moment in the consumer journey. The local agency also gets a lot of support from OMD Europe, who produce a media playbook with general recommendations, for instance about the share of digital vs other media. But also general learnings in Return of Investment, based on marketing mix modelling. We use this playbook as a guideline, but if we have good arguments to try something different, we are free to do so. Quaker has in the Netherlands for instance a completely different market position than in other countries, with Cruesli®. And thus international learnings don’t always apply for the local situation. If we choose a different media channel, we also have to think how we’re going to measure it. For example: in Belgium TV costs are very high, and thus we sometimes choose for out of home, even though that is not the recommended choice. We then make use of JC Decaux analysis.


A common language based on Byron Sharp

Marieke is familiar with Byron Sharp’s work. “It has taught me some new things, but I think that its most important value is that it offers a common language, a shared vocabulary. It is not new that a brand needs to be consistent, but How Brands Grow has made it easier to put topics like that higher on the agenda. Another example is that we define in our marketing capability building program “How PepsiCo Brands Grow” which type of penetration we define, is it about retaining existing buyers, regaining lapsed buyers or acquiring completely new buyers?”


Always-on in media with a consistent brand purpose

“In the past years we have learned a lot about media effectiveness – the playbook is of great help in that. An example is that up until a few years ago we believed in media frontloading; bursting with high GRP-levels at the start of the campaign support wave. Now it is proven that peaks like that are not needed, and that continuous presence is much more valuable. By diminishing the GRP-level, we can afford more active weeks. But at least as important is to ensure that you communicate a consistent brand message. It also requires courage – an example is the rebranding of Smiths to Lays. This was a difficult decision, that made some people quite nervous. But a clear focus makes it so much easier to create a winning marketing strategy, and we see that Lay’s benefits from that greatly.”
“For the new Quaker-campaign a powerful new advertising idea will be rolled out soon; this idea is able to serve as a framework for the brand as a total, including Cruesli®. All based on a simple, powerful brand purpose – which was always there, but not leveraged enough. This new framework offers Quaker the consistency that is needed to be always-on. I find it cool to be at this stage now – for a big global brand such as Quaker it takes a long time to develop a brand purpose that is sharp, engaging and works for all countries. And the global and regional teams did a great job there.”