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Agility and Adaptability: a marketing expert view

Feb 01, 2021

What happened since the start of the pandemic, when pretty much everyone had to adjust to unforeseen circumstances, is just the most dramatic evidence on how important agility and adaptability are.

Barbara Galli, Marketing and Communication Director with over 25 years’ experience in the Food business shares with The Marketing Leaders her views on this subject both from a personal point of view and a professional perspective drawing from her experience of leading the marketing efforts behind global brands such as Mars, McCain and Chiquita.

Here are some highlights of our conversation with Barbara. The full interview is available to the FULL Members of The Marketing Leaders in the Knowledge House.

Agility and adaptability are very important from a personal point of view. Can you share any key moment in your career where agility and adaptability played a key role in your success and personal development?

After 3 years as Marketing director for McCain in Italy, the Sales Director left the company and the General Manager offered me to also add the Sales responsibilities to my current marketing role.

So, I became Commercial Director in Italy without having spent a single day in sales in my entire career; on top the Sales team in Italy was composed by very opinionated, quite experienced old-fashion-type salesmen. I was scared of not being able to take over the job, as well as to be seen by my new team as “just the bullshit marketing lady”.

I started by being honest and declaring I did not know a lot about their everyday job, but also trying to understand and see with them where and how I could bring value to the team.

I also decided to leverage the highly competent area manager of Northern Italy, who was already seen by the rest of the team as a leader. I was therefore able to bring the team to work cooperatively and in the same direction, by increasing the brand distribution and market share and overpassing the local competitor in just 3 simple moves:

  1. Clarifying the strategic objectives fixed by the European headquarter in a straightforward way and protecting the team from all the politics that were polluting their everyday job on the field;
  2. Focusing the sales objectives more on profitability than volumes, leveraging on innovation and introduction of new SKUs;
  3. Coaching the Northern Italy manager to become a real leder of the team, preparing him to take over the Sales Direction in 2 years, once I left for another job in McCain European headquarters.


And now from a broader perspective, can you give us some insights on agility and adaptability in the context of the large organizations you were part of?

A recent example is Chiquita campaign during the Covid pandemic.

Together with my team we prepared a full rounded PR, Social Media and communication plan for the Spring and everything was ready to kick-off. Then the Covid19 hit us and all the beautiful ideas and projects of bananas and outdoors activities were gone in the space of a couple of days!

We had to cancel everything that was planned and change our communication to adapt it to new consumers concerned about their health and safety, forced in their homes and profoundly affected by scare for their future.

As a consequence, we conceived a campaign when the iconic Miss Chiquita silhouette left the logo to… STAY HOME, inviting everyone to do the same.

The campaign, broadcasted through Chiquita Social Media, was a huge success and even quoted by the Harvard Business Review as one of the best examples of brand marketing through the Coronavirus crisis.