When data-driven insights guide your selling strategy, it becomes easier to adapt to changing consumer behavior and better serve your customers.
Quartz Network Executive Correspondent Britt Erler sat down with Rick LaBerge, Chief Operating Officer for HARIBO of America to discuss translating data-driven selling insights into innovative customer-focused strategies.
Rick shares insight into:
- Shifting your marketing and sales strategies to accommodate changing consumer behavior
- The role data plays in strategy development
- Why data-driven strategies are so critical now
Quartz Network: Can you tell us about yourself and your role at HARIBO?
Rick LaBerge: I have always been in the consumer products space. A lot of times we like to call it fast moving consumer products. What I’ve always loved about my job whether I was at Procter & Gamble or Johnson & Johnson or Mars – when I told people the brands I worked on from Snickers to Crest toothpaste to Tylenol – people always got what I did.
I’m just a brand geek and I love understanding the consumer. I love bringing a brand to life, especially at retail, because that’s where a lot of people interact. Now I get the opportunity to be the Chief Operating Officer and we have a team of 100 people in Chicago. We focus on consumer advertising. We focus on working with our retailers to help them understand our brand and the import business.
Everything comes from outside the US. So even though we’re building a factory in the U.S. right now, all those little gummy bears have a lot of frequent flyer miles as they’re coming into the ports in LA and New Jersey.
I get a chance to build a team and work on a really fun brand. We’re celebrating our 100-year anniversary. So, 100 years ago, Hans Riegel in his kitchen in Bonn, Germany, created the gummy bear. If you look at the name of the company, it’s HA for Hans, RI for Riegel, and he was from Bonn, Germany. So he just took these letters and made up HARIBO.
I’ve been here six years, and I’m having a lot of fun. So that’s a little bit about me and a little bit about this 100-year-old, family run, private company.
Quartz Network: How did you shift your marketing and sales strategies during the pandemic as consumer trends shifted from in-store shopping to online?
Rick LaBerge: If COVID taught us anything, it was that it’s tough to plan. So about a year ago was when a lot of people were doing that big stock up trip and were a little bit worried. Would the food supply chain remain as we are used to? There was a week in March or April, where the biggest amount of consumer products ever purchased in our history happened in stores around the US, because people were buying food to prepare meals at home.
So we really had to pivot quickly and ship our product to where people were comfortable shopping, then redeploy a product that would have gone to movie theaters or amusement parks.
At each of the gates at an airport there’s always a little kiosk there, and those businesses really became almost nonexistent from the time there was a travel ban. So we had to pivot, we had to be agile, we had to make some changes so that the product could be available where consumers wanted it.
Then we’ve been watching as people are getting more comfortable, they’re getting vaccinated and they’re starting to travel more. We’re now pivoting back to some normal occurrences. If anything, it was about being agile, listening to the consumer, and trying to adjust quickly.
Quartz Network: What are some of the key ideas that have really helped you form the basis of your data-driven strategy moving forward?
Rick LaBerge: I go back to the DNA of the brand, that childlike happiness. You have to be true to how the consumer has fallen in love with your brand. And find ways to make that come to life differently.
For example, we now have an Amazon HARIBO store within the store, where there’s games you can play and there’s videos you can watch. This is right in line and it’s helping moms and dads out.
The other thing is, you have to be true to the brand. But then you also have to know your company core values. One of the fortunate things of being at a family run company that’s 100 years old, we have six core values. They hang on every one of our office walls. When my computer goes into sleep mode, it travels across the screen. One of our core values is trust. And we value long term partnerships with our partners like our retailers.
So you go to the DNA of the brand, and then go to what those core values are. Then you figure out where the sweet spot is for both.
Quartz Network: What final piece of advice do you have for sales and marketing executives that want to be sure they are moving in the right direction?
Rick LaBerge: When I think back to what’s been successful for us, it’s asking lots of questions. Figure out what’s working and what’s not. Check in. But then don’t be too concerned if something you’ve decided to do isn’t working to change it. Come at things from a place of possibility. And then if it’s not working just stop. We’ve changed the ways we’ve worked because what we thought would work just didn’t work out the right way.
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