B&T’s Women in Media profile is back again and you’re in for a treat! Meet Amanda Banfield, managing director of Mondelez Australia & New Zealand- the company behind big brands like Cadbury and the Natural Confectionery Co. Banfield has had a illustrious (and delicious) career in the marketing of treats, she is here to share some chocolaty words of wisdom:
How would you describe your role?
I lead the business in Australia and New Zealand, but where people get excited is when I say “I look after brands like Cadbury, Oreo and The Natural Confectionery Company”. That’s when we normally have a conversation about chocolate and whether we get to taste all innovations. Then I recount the stories of earlier in my career when I was a brand manager and I had a filing cabinet full of chocolate. The job definitely has its privileges.
What’s your day to day role?
It’s really my job to make sure that we’re running the business here in Australia and New Zealand in a way that is continuing to grow the brand and take the snacking market forward. Also making sure we do that in a way that’s making sure the business is sustainable; that we’re managing our cost properly, that we’re being a good corporate citizen, that we continue to have a vibrant and successful business.
What’s the best thing about your job?
It always comes back to the brand and the people. It is such fun working on iconic brands that we’ve all grown up with, it’s just so rewarding to work with people who I think are the best in the industry and be able to learn from them every day. In the end we’re in the business of little moments of pleasure and putting a smiles on people’s faces. So it’s just lovely to work in a business where you can always say at the end of the day that it’s only chocolate. You can test your day by how many smiles you created.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I’m a very big believer in leadership partnership. I think it’s all about working collectively, being really clear about what we’re trying to achieve and then very much working together hand-in-hand to make that happen.
What’s the most challenging part of your role?
What’s difficult is balancing, sustaining growth and always taking the brand forward, coming up with new and exciting ideas and doing it in a way that is also cost effective. It’s really about balancing the different needs that we have in the business.
Do you have an example?
There are a million ideas that you and I could come up with in about two minutes about new brands, new offers that Cadbury could bring to the table. The challenge is how you pick the one that’s really going to fly and fly to the extent that they’re big enough that you can justify the investment.
We just launched Cadbury Dairy Milk Oreo, we’d like to think it’s a bit of partnership of two flagship brands coming together and having a bit of a romance. What’s lovely about that is we’re having fun with the brand, but we’re also bringing together those two products in a way that’s really interesting for the category and offering something new in the innovation space. Clearly that does cost us money to do that, we’ve had to put in entirely new technology into our factory, we’ve invested about $3 million in new kit to make that product.
The only way we can do that is believing that we can create the brand and make it big enough that the sales will justify that investment. When we come into a concept like that; we’ve got to firstly, believe there’s a need there which means we can make it big enough and secondly, sustain it in a way that keeps that scale which would then justify the investment. You’ve also got to have a plan for that the technology that says not only am I going be able to make this products, but I’ve got a whole raft of other ideas coming behind that will also give me a return.
What’s been your career path to this role?
I started my career in a whole raft of different consumer marketing, mainly strategy roles with some manufacturing as well. Then I did a series of roles working for a candy business back in the UK, in marketing. Then I had a long stint marketing chocolate, leading innovation for the UK business of Cadbury. I was also the strategy director of the UK business.
I came over here to be the marketing director for Australia and New Zealand, was here for six month and then the company was integrated with Kraft. I thad a whole range of new brands I was marketing on the Kraft side of the portfolio. After I had done that role for about three years, I went to Zurich to run the marketing for Cadbury’s European business across the 33 countries that make up that region. Then I returned back to Australia in 2013 to be the managing director for the business here. I’ve always been in food and I’ve always been in the ‘treat’ end of food.
What’s changed in your role since you started three years ago?
When I returned we really were in a position of needing to stabilize the business, we weren’t growing, we were struggling with some of the core processes not working very well. As a result of that we were actually disappointing our customers in terms of our ability to service them well. There was a period of really needing to stabilize the business, finding out what were the issues that we needed to address and getting fast action against that. It was about problem solving, getting a correction plan in place and keeping the business calm and steady through that. We’ve now come to a position we’re we have great performance. We’re now leading in a different way, it’s about sustaining that level of performance and keeping those standards high.
What annoys you about the industry?
One of the things that we have to manage very carefully is the desire or need to always bring new initiatives. I think in the branded world we’ve got to be really careful with that. Because what you don’t want to do is be driving short term results by constantly pursuing novelty or changing something on your brand. You can sometimes forget that the value of the brand is consistent around what it stands for. So I think there’s this real tendency now to reinvent everything and uproot it all the time, but actually often it’s much better as a brand to be consistent and constant. Then to focus your effort on bringing in new twists without fundamentally changing.
What’s your proudest professional moment?
There’s lot of lovely brand moments that I’ve had real fun with. When you’re a brand manager in particular just the joy of seeing the thing that you worked on on-shelf and someone picking it up and buying it, those are the moments that are absolutely priceless and stay with you. But in terms of bigger things: i sit here today and I’ve been back in Australia for two and half years, for me the big achievement is i’m so proud of my team here have really got our business into really strong and sustainable growth. We’re now able to put investment into our manufacturing side, we’ve really seen our brand grow and our total business grow.
What’s the most exciting thing about women working in senior leadership roles?
Working in the world of mass, everyday brands our perspective has always been that our workforce should workforce should mirror as close as possible our consumption basis. Because our consumers come in all shapes and sizes, they come from all backgrounds, clearly it’s both men or women. Therefore our philosophy is really the more our workforce represents those people the better we’ll be at understanding them and anticipating their needs. That does very much drive our desire to support and promote gender equality in representation in our business.
I chair Mondelez Internationals’ Diversity and Inclusion Council for Asia Pacific; we’re very focused on how we can enable more women to be in our business and in all parts of the business as well. It’s fascinating because many of the barriers to that are different in different countries, so your solutions need to be different. It’s definitely around supporting flexibility, mentoring and support and obviously setting a target and actually holding people to it and making that matter.
For me personally; I was reflecting back to my school days when I was about 14 and my teacher said to us “you girls are so lucky that you’re living now because it’s your generation that will have the opportunity to make that break through to achieve real gender equality. But you’ve got to go out and make that happen, so you can’t let yourself be defined by society’s expectations of you.” I do often think back to that stuff, because my education and my upbringing has really allowed me to do that. I’ve never felt constrained by being a woman in this industry.
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learnt in or out of the workforce?
I think the hardest thing is you really have to be focused. You have got to decide what matters and really care about that, be relentless about that but with other stuff you’ve got to let go. Particularly early in my career I found that hard because I wanted everything to be perfect. The reality is, in life as in your jobs, you’re always balancing priorities and choices.
The other thing I’ve learnt throughout my career is: you don’t have to be the fountain of knowledge, in fact you can’t be. Other people always have the answers. It’s about listen, listen, listen and ask questions. People in this industry bring a natural curiosity anyway, but I would really dial that up because being curious about what happens and asking the questions is how you really learn.
I still have a draw full of British chocolate.
Your house is on fire (people and animals are fine). What is the one possession you would you save?
Tea or coffee?
Coffee. You’re going to be horrified, I drink instant with milk.
What turns you on? What do you love?
I love the outdoors, nature, just seeing the landscape.
What turns you off?
Endless, mindless, late-night meetings. Pettiness.
What sound or noise do you love?
The sound of the ocean, classical music and people laughing in the office.
What sound or noise do you hate?
Fire sirens, fire evacuations. Alarms in general.
What profession, other than your own, would you love to attempt?
I would have liked to be a doctor in a parallel universe.
What profession, other than your own, would you never want to attempt?
Acting, I can’t imagine myself doing that. I just think I would find it exhausting getting in the character, that duality of being there and also in the real world.