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Trendsetters: Pete Blackshaw Discusses Nestlé's Digital Transformation to Build Brands and Delight Consumers
In his role as Nestlé's Global Head of Digital Marketing and Social Media, Pete Blackshaw is helping to lead change within the world's largest food company, and in doing so, is also reshaping contemporary attitudes toward marketing's power and value. Throughout his career, Pete has served as a marketer, an entrepreneur, a digital guru, an author, a data analyst, and a community service leader. Much of his success is tied to how he often manages to effortlessly juggle these roles simultaneously, while taking their best attributes to form an enduring vision. Although these varied disciplines may initially appear to be unrelated, all underscore his relentless drive to use the tools of the Internet to empower individuals and change the status quo.
His role at Nestlé is helping the company embrace transformation to become a leader in leveraging digital and social media to build brands and delight consumers. Not only is this ambition a top priority, but Nestlé recognizes just how much is at stake. Worldwide, the company sells approximately 1.2 billion products every day, and an increasing percent of this volume is tied to digital links. Every day, the company produces over 1,500 pieces of original content across its 850 Facebook pages. And now, 200,000+ Nestlé employees are part of a collaborative internal social media network.
Pete notes that Nestlé understands how digital is as much an operating principle, as it is a communications channel. This is significant. He emphasizes that digital "brings ‘better, faster, smarter' efficiency to how marketers organize and collaborate, as well as how they reach and engage with consumers. In every way possible, Nestlé has strived to exploit the synergy of the two."
Three critical factors have helped Nestlé move closer to its digital leadership ambition. According to Pete, "They are relatively simple concepts, but the company has been diligent in their execution and delivery. They include:
- Fundamentals remain fundamental
- External focus and innovation
- Rapid scaling and collaboration.
Nestlé has long-standing, fundamental convictions about the brand-building process based upon delighting consumers and enhancing lives. Digital and social media are not only fully compatible with these central principles, but help to accelerate and enhance the process. Pete Blackshaw admits, "One of the things that attracted me to Nestlé was ‘brand building the Nestlé way' (BBNW), the company's framework for building great brands. Within BBNW we talk about the fundamental requirements of ‘creating engaging brand experiences', ‘winning with shoppers' and ‘knowing consumers deeply.' Within each we define more precisely the Nestlé way.
Pete describes how the second principle of Nestlé's digital transformation, external focus and innovation, takes several forms. Not only is the company invested in partnerships and collaboration with major consumer platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, but it has established its own Silicon Valley Innovation Outpost to identify and apply breakthrough innovations quickly in the digital space. Pete believes, "By working more closely with established platforms as well as with high-potential start-ups, it is possible to understand consumers' needs better and respond to them more quickly."
Another idea that resulted from the company's connection to Silicon Valley was the concept of bringing a slice of start-up culture to Nestlé's corporate headquarters in the form a Digital Acceleration Team (DAT). According to Pete, "This effort undergirds the third principle of digital transformation: rapid scaling and collaboration. The DAT was created as a new approach to foster speed, agility and digitally-powered brand building to Nestlé."
The initiative is comprised of Nestlé managers from around the world with digital brand-building competence, along with a rotation process to maximize learning through local market champions. The team works in the Vevey Consumer Engagement Center, a state-of-the-art facility that includes a multi-media content studio for creation and distribution of best practices. Team members manage social communities for global brands, address fast turn-around projects focused on digital or social media, and learn via an intensive training program anchored to the three pillars of Nestlé's digital strategy: listening, engaging and inspiring/transforming.
Pete Blackshaw is a member of THE INTERNATIONALIST 1000 initiative--1000 Marketers Around the World Reshaping the Future of Marketing in global partnership with the ANA/Association of National Advertisers. He is also a chapter contributor in the new edition of The Reinvention of Marketing, the recent book published by The Internationalist Press with the ANA powered by global publisher, INGRAM.
His background is nothing short of motivational. Prior to Pete's position at Nestlé, he served as Chief Marketing Officer of NM Incite, the collaboration between Nielsen and consulting firm McKinsey, created to improve businesses performance by realizing social media intelligence and consumer insights. The Nielsen/McKinsey role was the culmination of Pete's entrepreneurial years.
He founded PlanetFeedback.com in 1999 as an Internet portal focused on consumer feedback. Three years later, Planetfeedback was acquired by Cincinnati-based marketing intelligence firm Intelliseek, where Pete served as Chief Marketing & Customer Satisfaction Officer. During this time, he also co-founded the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), and continues to serve on its board. Intelliseek was acquired by BuzzMetrics in 2006.
Nielsen then purchased both NetRatings and BuzzMetrics in 2007, and combined the two companies to form Nielsen Online. Pete served as CMO of BuzzMetrics, which helps companies better understand the power of online consumers who share experiences, advice, opinions on topics ranging from customer service to product performance. Today, BuzzMetrics is part of NM Incite.
A Harvard Business School grad, his initial marketing training, though, was at Procter & Gamble as a brand manager in the paper sector. However, the online impetus appeared even then—the mid ‘90s. He helped co-found P&G first interactive marketing unit with early initiatives like online sampling and online advertising qualification.
He's also given back to his Cincinnati home. Pete contributed to establishing Cincinnati as a consumer marketing "Hub of Innovation" with a state designation that provided $250,000 in seed money to promote the industry's growth.