Nestlé marketing chief discusses challenges of marketing in digital age

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Tom Buday, senior vice president and head of marketing and consumer communication at Nestlé, spoke to a full audience in the Struthers Auditorium of the Business Building Oct. 2 as part of the Smeal College of Business' Executive Insights series.

Buday started the session by delivering a talk titled “Timeless Fundamentals, New Realities.” He also spoke about his career path after graduating from Penn State in 1980 with a degree in marketing.

Full video coverage of the discussion can be viewed online.

Buday said he has seen a dramatic change in the media landscape in his more than 30 years in marketing.

“The media landscape has changed more in the last three years than it has in the previous 29,” he said. Facebook, for example, which connects more than a billion people, has become an advertising platform at global scale, he said.

“As recently as three years ago, most of our traffic to Web assets was coming via desktop. Today it’s completely reversed and more than 60 percent of our traffic is coming from mobile platforms,” he said.

With so much change in such a relatively short amount of time, Buday said he and his colleagues debated whether they had to succumb to a revolution of technology and ideas or if they could evolve their practices.

“We believe it’s neither a call for revolution nor should we be uncomfortable with minor tweaking or evolution. We think of it as a situation where there are timeless fundamentals of successful brand building,” Buday said. “There are principles that were true 30 years ago that are still true today and, in all likelihood, will still be true 30 years from now. What has changed, and the change is radical, is that those fundamentals have to be applied in very different ways.”

One way, he said, is by producing marketing campaigns that grab the consumer’s attention.

“With today’s content-savvy and content-demanding consumer, we need to increasingly stimulate their senses, if not attack their senses, in a nice way, a positive way, in order to get their attention,” Buday said.

Other points raised during Buday’s discussion included:

Corporate social responsibility

“I think it’s the single most important thing we do. We try to attract people like yourselves to enjoy Nestlé. One of the ways we do that is by ‘merchandising’ the company’s mission of enhancing your way of life. You don’t need to dig too deeply to know that promise is about pleasure and enjoyment, and it’s also about health and wellness. If we don’t live up to our promise, take stock in where we need to improve, and accelerate our contribution, we won’t be credible.”

Leadership

“My leadership style? I like to get involved in details. I’m obsessed with precision and professionalism in everything we do. … I see myself as a supplier of service to my team. They are my customers. One of my major jobs is to serve them well with coaching and feedback, career development advice, helping them get the resources they need to be successful and then stepping back and letting them do what they do.”

Honor and integrity

“One of the many things I love about Nestlé is that the culture of honor and integrity has not changed, has not fundamentally changed in the 32 years since I’ve been there. Nestlé has grown to the size it has because of an internal, organic growth, and because of a number of acquisitions through the years. I’ve seen other acquisition cultures join the company. That integrity culture is actually a screening criteria for acquisitions. We screen acquisitions not just based on financial criteria and strategic fit, but also does this culture align with what we define as honor and integrity. If the answer is no, then we pass.”

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Last Updated October 16, 2015