Katie Williams, Chief Marketing & PR Officer at Haleon, Talks Purpose | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

Katie Williams, Chief Marketing & PR Officer at Haleon, Talks Purpose


Considering the importance of purpose-driven marketing within the healthcare industry, Katie Williams, chief marketing and PR officer at Haleon U.S., will discuss the process of developing purpose while accelerating growth, as well as share learnings at the upcoming ANA Brand Masters Conference on April 15 to 17.

Check out the interview with Williams below.

Haleon, spun off from GSK just a few years ago, is essentially GSK's DTC portfolio, if I understand correctly. What is the fundamental difference between the two when it comes to marketing, and what is the biggest challenge, or opportunity, as CMO of Haleon? Is it as simple as B2C versus B2B?

Haleon was born in July 2022 as the first stand-alone consumer healthcare company in the world, home to iconic and beloved brands like TUMS, Sensodyne, Advil, Centrum, and more. As an organization now separated from a pharmaceutical parent, we have new ambitions and expectations for how we connect and resonate with consumers. We are excited to move faster on priorities like digital transformation and acceleration of our creative capabilities.

From my perspective, the biggest challenge for any marketer now, regardless of industry, is the sheer magnitude and pace of change. It is relentless. For example, the explosion of technology we've seen in the last year alone has come with its own set of navigational challenges from simple questions such as how to incorporate it into our day-to-day to more complex ones like how to do so effectively and ethically.

However, the explosion of new data and technology is also a huge opportunity, empowering us to reach consumers where they are, to improve and customize their products and content, and evolve the ways we connect with them. As a consumer health company, this shortens the pathway for how we can best meet consumer needs and aid people in their personal health journeys, making our mission to deliver better everyday health more tangible.

I read that just recently Haleon sold the Chapstick brand, to "simplify its portfolio and pay down debt," as it was not a "core focus." Yet from an outsider's perspective, this would seem to be a crown jewel for the portfolio. How does this sale illustrate the path to Haleon's future as you've charted it out, and can you tell us a bit more about the filters used to make these decisions on what stays and what goes?

Selling Chapstick is an example of how we're being proactive in managing our portfolio. While ChapStick is a great brand, much loved by consumers around the world, it is not a core focus for us. Selling the brand allows us to simplify our business.

At the ANA Brand Masters Conference in April, you'll be speaking about "Driving the Development of Purposeful Brands with Humanit," as Haleon leads on "reimagining everyday health." With your own deep roots in the CPG world including stints at Mondelez, Kraft, and P&G, what's your take on the brand purpose debate the industry is having these days? P&G and Unilever seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum on this topic.

Everything we do at Haleon, from marketing to innovation and beyond, is in service of our purpose to deliver better everyday health with humanity. That means doing everything in our power to make health more inclusive, accessible, affordable, attainable, and sustainable.

At Haleon, we believe that delivering on our purpose, to deliver better everyday health to more people, is not in conflict with our growth agenda. In fact, realizing our purpose is a critical component to delivering on our business goals.

Delivering everyday health with humanity and doing that in an inclusive way — that is who we are, how we operate and how we grow. It's our long-term business strategy.

How does your own filter on purpose shape "everyday health?" Does it stop with specific health-related issues, or does it take you to some of the societal issues being debated today, such as the inequities surrounding "underserved communities?" Does a strong brand purpose need to connect to issues of the day to be effective?

The pandemic was a real eye opener for us all, and illuminated first-hand the healthcare disparities that exist.

At Haleon, we recognize these disparities and are driven by our larger purpose as an organization, to close the gap every day through our brands. Take, for example, Advil's "Pain Equity Project," which is working to bring visibility to systemic bias and inequities in pain management, particularly for people of color. Moreover, this program is championing equitable pain relief via a multipronged approach:

  • Illuminating the impact of pain equity through powerful research
  • Funding solutions to progress medical education to train medical students on racial bias
  • Developing tools and resources for improved pain management
  • Creating informative content to support the community

When taking a closer look at the "health-related" issue at the center of this campaign, it's evident that its truly a symptom of a more macro-level societal issue. Our role as a consumer health company is to find the space where our brands have a right to play and do our part to offer solutions in our areas of expertise.

A key point of your presentation is around being informed by both purpose and accelerating growth. Are these goals always complementary? Are they ever at odds with each other and how does one approach resolving any conflict between the two?

A modern approach to marketing demands that we listen to consumers, meet them where they are, and deliver solutions that meet their needs. As gen Z gains more spending power, we're seeing that this generation more than any other is demanding the brands they interact with to act with a mindset that incorporates purpose and a share value system. And we're seeing this in the results of our campaigns.

At Haleon, we believe that building brands infused with purpose not only means having a strong assertion of a commitment but following it with real action. For example, one of our key focus areas is to make health care more inclusive. We do this to live our purpose of delivering better everyday health with humanity, but also because we understand that younger and more diverse consumers are driving growth across many of our portfolio.

As a result, we are actively involved in programs that make sure our content is culturally relevant and as inclusive as possible. We know that in doing so we can advance both goals.

Advil's custom content partnership with diverse-owned media company Urban One & MadameNoire is a perfect example of where purpose and growth align. The content we co-created saw respondents to a brand lift study indicate 80 percent "favorability" of the brand video content and 60 percent "more likely to purchase" after seeing the content. The content was relevant and authentic; it featured Sora Rochon, an African American female park skater) and showcased the Advil brand as an integral part of her recovery routine allowing her to skate more fearlessly, as well as address the importance of representation in skating.

Flonase is another case study of success where they partnered with media company NGL to create an award-winning Latino cultural spin on Flonase's "Allergy Monsters" delivering a 5 percent increase in growth for Hispanic audiences, a 7 percent increase in brand favorability, and a 15 percent increase in brand consideration.

The key lesson? Culturally relevant, custom content drives the most brand impact.

Haleon U.S. is owned by a British parent. Do the vastly different approaches to healthcare in the U.S. and U.K, impact your discussions, and approaches to marketing here? Are there disconnects, or are the consumer insights and truths universal? Anything get "lost in translation?"

We are a world-leading consumer health company with a global footprint, built on decades of trusted science and a deep human understanding. Independent of individual markets, what consumers want and need is our north star, guiding everything we do.

Something we have seen across the board is that consumers care more about health and wellness coming out of the pandemic. They want to do more than just survive and get by — they want to thrive. More and more, they are taking care into their own hands, and looking for the right health solutions for them.

However, we also recognize that consumers are all vastly different, each with their own unique preferences and needs, even within a single market like the U.S. That's why data-driven consumer insights, as well as the inputs of diverse, authentic partners is so critical. One of the things that sets Haleon apart is our deep relationships with a slate of multidisciplinary experts, such as healthcare professionals. We have a massive network of experts that do everything from informing the development of our products, to understanding consumer behavior, and endorsing and educating people about our products and their benefits.

Our network of partners combined with our approach to data-driven consumer insights, help us understand our consumers and their nuanced needs and behaviors no matter where they are in the world — across generations, geographies, race, cultures, and gender identity.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

A shorter version of this piece was originally published at MediaVillage.

John Paquin is senior director of Brand & Media at ANA.