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General Mills CMO Talks Growth, Sustainability-AdAge

General Mills CMO Cheerleads for 'Brand Champions'
Addicks Stresses Importance of Consumer Input

By Natalie Zmuda

Published: October 17, 2008 

 ORLANDO, Fla. (AdAge.com) -- The first thing marketers need to do upon returning from the Association of National Advertisers conference? Make sure you know who your brand champions are, instructed Mark Addicks, chief marketing officer at General Mills.

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One result is that General Mills has been defining a "brand champion" for each of its labels. That fictional champion is given a face and a name -- Josh, for example, in the case of Fruit by the Foot -- and embodies the target consumer's worldview, habits, likes and dislikes.

"Working with our brand champions is less about us getting [consumers] to believe something and more about us enabling them to tell us where the brand should go, what it should be, what role it plays in their life," Mr. Addicks said. "Open up these brands, and let consumers tell you, 'Here's where you can go, here's what you can say, here's what you should be doing.'"

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The company has also been rethinking its packaging. "A lot of our packages might have come off a hardware-store shelf," he admitted. Not so today. Cascadian Farm packages now picture the Cascade Mountains in Washington. And Multi-Grain Cheerios' curved box -- a picture of a tape measure is wrapped around the middle -- hits home the message of weight management.

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