Interviews

Innovative Marketer Interviews: Prachi Sharma from General Mills

Post by
Ruth Stephensen
Innovative Marketer Interviews: Prachi Sharma from General Mills

Prachi Sharma is an enthusiastic brand marketer with a rapidly accelerating career and numerous success stories already under her belt.

In her short time at General Mills, Prachi has gained experience in a wide range of marketing activities from product development to consumer research. Prachi’s initiatives in brand expansion have seen significant growth for her local and export markets making her a rising star in the ready to consume category.

We had a chat with Prachi to learn about the challenges she overcomes in her role and how she continues to learn and innovate.

Hey Prachi! Thanks for joining us, can you start by sharing your background in marketing?

I actually started my career as a computer science engineer but eventually decided coding wasn’t for me and made the switch to marketing. One of my first roles was with one of the leading tech unicorns here in India called InMobi. I got a lot of experience in digital marketing there working with advertising agencies and brand marketers which inspired me to go back to study and complete my MBA in Marketing.

It’s quite the career jump to go from something so technical to marketing, what was it that inspired the change?

As a student that was good at math and science it was a natural progression to get into engineering but once I had my first job at IBM I realised I wanted to work in an area I found more personally fulfilling. I was looking for a role that was more human-centric where I could indulge my extroverted side and interact with lots of people to try to understand them.

I feel my technical background combined with my love for understanding the consumers made marketing the perfect platform for me. Especially as marketing becomes increasingly tech savvy and reliant on data my experience in tech enables me to accelerate my career.

Tell us about your current role?

I’ve been with General Mills for 2.5 years where I am the brand manager for Pillsbury and Nature Valley. I have also worked across different portfolio brands such as Cookie Cake, which is one of the biggest launches that General Mills has had in India.

I’m currently leading innovations with Pillsbury and we’ve launched new products containing popular commodities in India such as the local wheat flour atta which is also suitable for the export market. We recently launched Pillsbury pancakes which Creatively Squared helped us with by creating some great assets that we could leverage across our social media channels.

What's the biggest challenge in your role right now?

The biggest challenge is to make Pillsbury pancakes successful in India. Pancakes are still an emerging category here with very low awareness. We’ve had to reposition the typical consumption moment of pancakes for the Indian market as a sweet snack.

Unlike in other global markets, breakfasts in India traditionally consist of savoury foods and hot salty dishes, whereas sweet dishes such as pancakes would be seen as desserts like cake or pastries.

Evening snacking occasions are one time where Indian consumers are open to experimenting with different types of food and even then they are accustomed to savoury tastes. So as you can see, marketing this new product category in India is quite the challenge due to local preferences!

What's your favorite thing about your role as a marketer?

I would have to say the best part about marketing is getting to talk to different types of people and learn new things about them. There are so many incredible insights you can get from talking to consumers and doing ethnographic immersions. I actually love everything about being a marketer!

If you could double your budget today, how would you spend it and why?

There are three primary ways I’d spend it for Pillsbury pancakes. The first and most critical part would be to generate a lot of category awareness through focused digital marketing. Digital marketing helps you to track the ROI of every penny you spend so you’d know exactly how much uplift you got for your investment.

Secondly I’d invest in more user trials and sampling for my consumers. I would go door to door and get lots of people to try the product and get a taste for it so that eventually they would go and buy it.

Then the final piece would be to develop my social media presence because it is booming right now. Consumers are scrolling their social channels day in and day out and spending the maximum time on their mobile phones. I’d invest in some really, really good content, which attracts them and inspires them to go and buy the product.

How do you continue to learn to stay on top of things in the industry?

We have regular events at General Mills where we invite marketing industry leaders from different companies and have a collaborative session to interact and learn from them. The discussions are all based around a particular topic so it’s a great way to get involved at any stage in your career.

For my personal learning, I follow a lot of marketing websites such as Mad Over Marketing which has some great sessions on building digital-first brands. I also find a lot of relevant content through following people and publications on other platforms such as LinkedIn and Quora which helps me stay up to date.

What is something you're most proud of during your career so far?

There are two significant things, the first one was when I got accelerated to a promotion at InMobi not long after joining the team. I started as a campaign manager and I became an account manager within six months! The second achievement was at General Mills, where we launched all the atta product innovations in both India and supporting markets within a record time of six months again. I guess six months is a goal deadline that works well for me!

If you could go back to the start of your career, what's one piece of advice that you would give yourself?

I would say don't overthink everything or be afraid of trying out new things. Not everything has to be perfect and it's okay if things go wrong. Mistakes help us move forward and it’s better to make them rather than holding back and not moving ahead in life.

What's one thing you believe that marketing that most marketers would disagree with?

I think science has a major role to play in marketing which can’t be based on just intuition and guesswork. There needs to be a method to all the madness that relies on structure, logic and framework.

[#cta]

What problems were you trying to solve when you started working with Creatively Squared?

The biggest problem that we were trying to solve was how to produce the right asset, which will help us to drive social media engagement. Being a food company it’s important that our brand assets capture the indulgence and experience our customers are looking for.

We’d tried multiple photoshoots with other providers but Creatively Squared was able to capture the right type of imagery that would speak to our socially native consumers and attract them to buy our products.

What were the previous solutions you considered or tried?

We tried traditional photoshoots through our creative agencies, using influencers and also stock assets but they lacked the personalisation and brand requirements we needed.

What reservations did you have about working with us?

My main concern was the lead time and how long it would take to receive assets. We are a very agile team that is used to working at a very fast pace. My apprehensions disappeared after we saw the first delivery of work and the time it took to produce it.

What have you been most impressed with after working with us?

The quality of work, it's absolutely such high quality work.

Your platform is also so seamless to use and captures the brief and brand requirements accurately. We appreciate having a dedicated account manager that ensures everything is double checked and the entire process is very smooth with minimal interventions.

What's your advice to others who might be considering using Creatively Squared?

I’ve actually already recommended you to some of my friends working in other companies! I tell them that Creatively Squared is a one stop destination for all your asset requirements. All you have to do is send out a brief and know that you’ll get amazing work in return.

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