Sherice Anibaba learned her marketing fundamentals at McDonald’s restaurant . Her career spans senior roles held at Britvic Soft Drinks, Speedo as Global Head of Brand, and is currently at Greene King as Head of Brand.
In this episode we discuss:
- Lessons from McDonald’s
- Staying customer centric
- How innovation really works
- Innovation within a heritage brand
- The benefits of The Marketing Academy
- Why it’s important to pay it forward
Sherice Anibaba learned her marketing fundamentals at McDonald’s restaurant . Her career spans senior roles held at Britvic Soft Drinks, Speedo as Global Head of Brand, and is currently at Greene King as Head of Brand.
She was a 2020 Marketing Academy scholar and believes in paying it forward mentoring marketing students and junior marketers , she believes in belonging for all and uplifting the next generation of leaders.
Find Sherice on LinkedIn.
Black History Month
This is the first in a mini series of podcasts for Black History Month. Throughout October, we’re celebration some of the best black marketing talent from the UK, with episodes of the Strategy Sessions.
Strategy Sessions Host – Andi Jarvis
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This transcript has been done automagically using Happy Scribe and hasn’t been checked by a real person, so there may be some hilarious mistakes where the AI can’t work out our accents – I’m sure they’re trained on just the American accent.
[00:00:00.220] – Andi J
What one thing do you wish you’d have been told 10 years ago?
[00:00:03.990] – Sherice A
Gosh, first of all, I’m like, Oh, my God, how old is that 10 years ago? It was like the first thing that came into my head. Oh, my gosh, time is gone. But 10 years ago was quite a pivotal time for me because I just had my son. And prior to that experience, I’d been, I was quite fortunate. I left. I graduated from uni, went pretty much straight into a job within six months. I was literally out and then straight into work. By that point, I had been working for a good six, seven years. But what I observed in those six, seven years was a marketing culture, but I think it was just corporate culture at the time, that I didn’t see many examples of parents, women and men that were successfully balancing a career and being a parent. I observed women feeling guilty leaving the office at 4:00 PM. Because I was one of the younger ones without kids, you hear the conversations as they leave like, Oh, leaving at 4:00 again, or, We can’t put that meeting in because they’ve got to leave it for, or they don’t work Fridays. As I became obviously pregnant and I was happy, but part of me actually really mourned my career because I didn’t believe I could successfully have the two.
[00:01:54.360] – Sherice A
I went for a whole moment of, My career is over. I’m going to have to change industry. I don’t know if I can do my job and be a parent. I think the advice that I would give myself in that moment was becoming a parent is going to be an undeniable superpower that is going to make you a significantly better marketeer. A, because it just gave me a empathy and a perspective that… I don’t know, I just felt a lot more connected as a human being. Sounds might be, but that’s the truth. I felt really connected as a human being, which made me a lot more empathetic, a lot more insightful. The other area was I just became fantastic at managing time. I became a lot more efficient and a lot more focused in terms of really prioritising the things that matter. I went from feeling like my career was over and I went for a whole period of really mourninging. I’m not going to able to really fulfill my potential to actually realising, actually, it is going to be hard. It is hard juggling, but it would be the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
[00:03:30.420] – Sherice A
I just wish if I could go back to myself in that moment, I would really tell myself that because I genuinely believe something different.
[00:03:38.860] – Andi J
What a start. What an answer. Thank you very much for that. Eyup and welcome to The Strategy Sessions. My name is Andi Jarvis. I’m the host of the show and the Strategy Director at Eximo Marketing. I am here to welcome you to Season 4 of The Strategy Sessions. You just heard a wonderful intro there from the guest of today’s episode, episode 1, Season 4. You’ll hear a bit more about that guest, who they are, and what they have to say in the next couple of minutes.
[00:04:58.700] – Andi J
But before we do that, I just want to tell you a few things about Season 4. What’s going to be different? Not a lot, actually. It’s going to be great interviews with great guests sharing their marketing story, their marketing history, and giving you some hints and tips along the way. If you came here because you listen to Rory Sutherland at the end of Season 3, I’ve got some fantastic news for you, he’s going to do part two, and that’ll be coming out in a couple of months. He’s got something big on it at the minute, which we’ll probably talk about when he does the episode. So it’s probably going to be the same. Tune in, episode every three weeks, generally speaking, and you can tune in and hear some great marketers. I say generally speaking, every three weeks. Why is that? Well, because this is episode one of the series, and it is October. October in the UK is Black History Month. If you’re listening in the US and going, Black History Month is not October. It is here in the UK. It’s not in the US. We’ll maybe talk about that another time. We’re celebrating the best black marketing talent in the UK in Black History Month.
[00:05:55.670] – Andi J
As a special feature, we’re going to do an episode a week. There’s Tuesdays, our release date, and there’s five Tuesdays. We’re going to do five episodes. This is the first one. Let’s get back to the guest. Because I could waffle on for ages about why I’m doing this and how wonderful it is, but I just want you to listen to this guest because that opening answer that you just heard is amazing. Let’s hear what else that she has to say. Here we are. Let’s get into the episode. As always, like the episode, share it with your friends, give it a five-star rating if you can, subscribe if you’re on YouTube, all the usual stuff podcasters say, just do it. But mainly, put your earphones in and have a listen to today’s guest, Sharif. She’s fantastic. If you are listening and you’re wondering whose voice is that, that is Sherice Anibaba, who is the Head of Brand at Green King. Sherice, welcome to the Strategy Sessions, and thank you for that amazing start to the show. How are you doing?
[00:06:52.120] – Sherice A
Yeah, I’m good. Thank you. I’m excited to be talking to you. I really can’t wait to just get into it. Thank you.
[00:07:00.600] – Andi J
I’m going to park some of the things you’ve just mentioned there. I am going to come back to them because I think there’s some really, really important subjects there. What I want to do is just to go right back to the beginning of your career first, because I think that will help frame some of the things you’ve just said, and then we can dive into that as well and talk about your future career to find out if your career did die by becoming a parent. Spoiler alert: I don’t know. But let’s see where we get to. If you’re watching the video as well, apologies, you probably can’t see too much of me, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’ve got some sunshine. It’s autumn, and I’m not closing the curtains, so I’m just going to be overexposed. That’s fine. Don’t worry about it. So, Sherice, let’s start with where you started your career. You started at McDonald’s, and I find this a really interesting place to learn to cut your teeth. What was it like working at McDonald’s?
[00:07:53.480] – Sherice A
It was brilliant. It was just amazing training ground A, because I was surrounded by just some of the best marketing brands, the best agency partners. It’s not often in your career or many people get to experience what amazing looks like and what a successful organization, marketing team, agency-client relationship, what that really looks like. I was just really, really fortunate to be at McDonalds specifically at that time because when I joined the business, it was just coming out of the back of the whole supersize me. We were just coming out, or we were just around in a recession. It was a really quite tumultuous time for the business. Actually being part of the team and understanding the pivot and what moves to make, what not moves to make. It was just an amazing experience, actually, that I often lean on now. I got to experience very, very early on in my career probably things that people much later on in their career experience from shooting. I think one year we did like six or seven TV ads in one year, huge outdoor campaigns, lots of innovation. At that time, there was a lot of innovation coming through, which is McDonalds actually doesn’t bring a lot of new innovation to market.
[00:09:39.230] – Sherice A
But at that time, there was quite a lot of change. It was just a really exciting place to be and I really felt like I was in a context that I literally could do anything that I wanted. I was really giving the space to grow, to be successful, to have failures and learn from them. It was just a really great training ground and I was really nurtured while being there.
[00:10:11.500] – Andi J
I’d forgotten about the supersize me show and the huge debate that that caused. But I did go into a McDonald’s recently, probably for the first time in maybe a decade or more. I’m old these days and not a core customer for McDonald’s. But now with a daughter, I went into a McDonald’s. I was amazed at what was still broadly the same, but how much of it had changed. Was that all driven off the back of the supersize me debate, an issue that forced a relook into what a McDonald’s restaurant looks like?
[00:10:41.260] – Sherice A
Yeah, I think what was really interesting at the time is from a CSR perspective, and they’ve been pretty consistent for the last 15, 20 years around being really honest and open about what goes into the product and really being true to the messages of 100% beef, these organic milk in their coffees, in their tea. The beef that goes with the beef, the beef, burgers, is for quarter and plank. These things that get drummed into you from like a… Beaken into you from an early service. Yeah, I remember all of the quality messaging. It’s been pretty consistent and had been. I think we were at a time where actually, as a society, we were obviously looking for more choice and more balance, particularly as when you’re at the end of the market, you are serving customers who may financially may not have many other choices. Being able to have a choice, be it I really want to treat myself when I want a cheeseburg and a Mcflory or actually I want something that’s going to be good for me at a price that’s affordable. What was really interesting at that time was ultimately given that choice.
[00:12:09.830] – Sherice A
Whilst I was there, I worked on the wraps and the salads platforms, which was super, super interesting and obviously is still there today. I think ultimately what I took from that experience and what I’ve really held with me throughout my career, be it working in food or drinks brands, is you have a responsibility to provide choice and making sure that choice is balanced, particularly when you’re serving a segment of the market that is less affluent. Maybe you don’t have the the means or the money to have those choices available to them. There are different occasions. You might have some occasions that are a bit more indulgent versus you might not want a quarter pound of McFlory and large fries at lunchtime, but a wrap and a diet Coke will be okay. I think for me, having that choice and balance was really key, and that’s been consistent. I think they’ve maintained that from when that first came out to what is happening even today.
[00:13:17.780] – Andi J
Innovation is a thread that stayed with you throughout your career. But before we dive into that, I just want to go back to the learning experience at McDonald’s as well. I know from talking to a lot of people who work in retail that at some point during the year, they go from head office or marketing or wherever, go and spend some time on the shop floor. But you’ve spent a lot of time on the shop floor as part of them. What was that ethos at McDonald’s about making sure everyone’s spend some time connected to the customer.
[00:13:47.690] – Sherice A
Yeah, this was an amazing. This is something that has stayed with me my entire career. Before you join the business, you have to do, as part of your induction, you have to do two weeks in a restaurant of your choice. It’s usually your local one where you work for two weeks. Usually, you’re more of a hindrance than a help to the store. They’re like, Oh, here we go. Someone from.
[00:14:17.350] – Andi J
Head Office. Someone else from Head.
[00:14:18.710] – Sherice A
Office here. You’re there for two weeks. But it’s brilliant because you do everything from understanding how to make all the core ingredients to tills to interact with the customers to cleaning. You really understand the machine that you’re part of from a head office perspective, it really makes sense because that’s the point of execution and delivery. You understand the 100, 200 decisions that are made prior to that to make that moment, A, as special as it can be for that customer in that moment, but B, as efficient, as operationally excellent, and also dealing with a team of people who could range from age 16 to 75. It’s a job that is accessible to everybody because actually there’s a whole ecosystem behind them that has great training and quite great development. It’s a fantastic, fantastic philosophy and actually it’s not just the two weeks. During my time there, I built great relationships with some franchisees who became really great supporters of… Whenever I was thinking of something, I would have one of them I’d call and go, I’ve got this idea of what do you think? They’ll go, Yes, she won’t work. I spent a lot of time with the categories I worked in just sitting in a restaurant and observing people, seeing how they engage with the product and what they were doing and just the customer behave, the types of people that came in.
[00:16:09.310] – Sherice A
It’s a really great philosophy, and I think it’s really born from the fact that you could be a crew member and CEO one day. Actually, one of my good friends, we came in as graduates at the same time. He started as a crew member, came in as a placement student. We both came in as graduates, and he’s now head of marketing there. But he started in, as a crew member in the McDonald’s business. I think as a philosophy, it’s really true. There are so many people in the business that started on the shop floor and now are in really senior roles. It literally is one of those businesses that you can go in and almost the sky is the limit. You can really realize your potential and your dreams, like the opportunity is there for you. I think that’s this amazing philosophy.
[00:17:02.040] – Andi J
I think there’s something really important about staying customer centric in a marketing role. I talked frequently about a conference I was at in Athens, Greece, earlier this year, where there was 300 e-commerce practitioners in the room. I asked the question in the Q&A at the end of the audience is that, How many of you have spoken to a customer in the last six months? I made it clear I was talking about actually exchanging information, not just reading a customer report, for example. And six people put their hand up. Six in a room of 300 had had a conversation with a customer. Now, I know McDonald’s is a restaurant and you’ve worked in retail, but that’s maybe an easier bridge to cross. But how you can your market to without understanding your customers just beyond me? How do you do your job if you don’t understand the people who are buying the product? I don’t get it. I just don’t know how we do it. How do we get into this position where people don’t talk to them?
[00:17:58.630] – Sherice A
I think it’s tough and it’s as you get more senior in the business, you’re often there and the senior management team below you are preparing you reports and presentations and decks. You can see how it happens, but I feel like if you know you’re in that moment where you’ve gone, Actually, my understanding of my customer is a swanky segmentation or term that a marketer or brand person is made up. Actually, I’ve not actually really spoken to them. Actually, I myself am probably now completely disconnected from that sector of society. I would just always say it’s something that stayed with me. But in my time at Speedo. I often… Slightly weird, but if I was in the changing room and somebody wasn’t wearing a Speedo, I’d be like, You’re not wearing a Speedo. Why? Or if they’re wearing a speedo, Oh, you’re wearing the racerback. Have you talked to me about it? Or if someone’s got goggles on? No, you’ve got speedo goggles. If they haven’t got speedo goggles, why have you not got speedo goggles on?
[00:19:00.060] – Andi J
I can see me using this in my defence in court, and it’s like, so why were you arrested for pestering people in the swimming change in the. Well, Sharif told me that it’s market research and that’s what I needed to do. So I’ve got it on the podcast.
[00:19:16.340] – Sherice A
But it’s so insightful. Honestly, it’s so insightful. But one woman said to me, I can’t be asked for Speedos because you have to size up about two, three sizes, and I just don’t like the idea of having to buy a size 16, when I’m not a size 16 or whatever size it is.
[00:19:41.420] – Andi J
And that’s such an emotive.
[00:19:43.330] – Sherice A
Response, isn’t it.
[00:19:44.210] – Andi J
To a practical product. But people are like that. People are messy, complicated, difficult, and they don’t fit into these lovely little boxes. I say if I can’t throw it in a pyramid, it’s not marketing. But people don’t always fit into upside down pyramids and and bullseye charts and things did it.
[00:20:02.190] – Sherice A
Yeah. Or they don’t care enough. They’ll be like, Oh, it’s just the same. It’s just.
[00:20:07.190] – Andi J
No different. Why did you buy that swimming costume? I don’t know. I went into buy one and it was the.
[00:20:13.560] – Sherice A
First one I saw. It was the best one there.
[00:20:15.660] – Andi J
[00:20:16.780] – Sherice A
It’s something that’s really stayed with me. I don’t think even if you are working in consumer goods or retailer where you’re a little bit more removed from the customer, you can still go into your supermarkets and go down to your aisle and observe people. What are they doing? How are they picking that you put it up? Are they looking around? Where are they looking? And you can still be that worder that asks them questions. And I’m also that person as well.
[00:20:45.210] – Andi J
You’re my type of weird. I like that. I like that. So from McDonald’s, you moved through your New York bagel company in Britvick. So you stayed in food and drink as a broad category. What were those two jobs like? And then we’ll talk about the other food and drink job as well that you went into.
[00:21:03.560] – Sherice A
Yeah. New York Bakery Bagel was a really, really great role. It was very different to coming from a big, huge global business going to New York Bakery Bagel, which was probably, I would say, a size up like a scale-up, so very small team. There’s probably about five or six of us. There’s only two of us in brand and marketing and we did absolutely everything. So going from a marketing team of 40 people to a marketing team of two. There’s two of you and I’m one of the two. It was like a bit of a shock to the system, but it was amazing because A, it really stress-tested my skills. So all of that infrastructure and that training support I got at McDonald’s, it really stress-tested them. People thought I was crazy making that move, but honestly, I think it was the best decision I did make in my career at the time because it actually enabled me to just have some freedom and try some stuff. The marketing director I was working with was just… He was just like, What do you want to do? What do you want to change? What do you like?
[00:22:17.080] – Sherice A
What don’t you like? There was that real freedom to explore and be strategically creative. Also, I learned in that role, it was my first consumer goods role, but our offices were above the factory and we had another factory in Rotherham. It was the first time I’d worked on a manufacturing business and it actually taught me the power of having that connection down to the factory floor. As you can start to see, if it’s not customers, but having that connection again to the product, the people that are making your product and really learning how the manufacturing process works and as marketers, how you can add value in when you start to understand how your product is made and the cost associated with that. That was just a really great experience of just being able to be quite entrepreneurial, be quite agile, and having the freedom and the space to be quite innovative.
[00:23:15.980] – Andi J
I think that’s a real important point, and one that when I die, somebody will probably write on my gravestone, Andi always said, Talk to your customers. It almost becomes a thing I’m known for now. But it’s a really important point then about having to have that connection with manufacturing, because as a marketer, you can listen to customers, you can come up with all sorts of wacky, weird, and wonderful ideas. But when the rubber hits the road and you pop down to see manufacturing and they’re gone, Well, you can do that, but you’ve just quadrupled the price of the product.
[00:23:46.410] – Sherice A
[00:23:47.620] – Andi J
It’s going to take us an extra six months to be able to make it, and we’re going to have to turn the production line off while we re-gear it all, and you’ve just cost the company eight million quid. Right. Or whatever that might be. But having that connection really helps drive innovation, doesn’t it?
[00:24:03.590] – Sherice A
Yes, it does.
[00:24:04.920] – Andi J
I always think there’s a problem with innovation. People think that innovation is this blank piece of paper with no boundaries, no wild ideas. But I actually think it works the other way. I think innovation comes when you draw boundaries around something. These are the restrictions we have. Now, what can we do? Is that right? Wrong? How does.
[00:24:23.550] – Sherice A
That- No, I 100 % agree. And also after the people that are working with your product day in, day out, so the people on their line, they sometimes will have ideas themselves. They might be like, Oh, Sherice, I’ve always wondered what would happen if I put this in it. They’re actually a really good source of ideas because they understand how the equipment work. But it means you can just ask some really interesting questions like, Okay, this process, if I add in this ingredient, what would happen? Will it still work? It just enables you to understand at what point within that, as it goes through the line, where you can add something different or better. If I leave it in a little bit longer there, is that going to give me a benefit, actually, that actually makes it more distinctive versus the rest of the category? If we roast it for a little bit longer or if we prove it for a little bit, or it enables you to understand, because everyone in your category is going to have very similar kit. If you’re… But then if you understand how that kit works and where you can even make it better, different, add something in, it inherently will give you potentially an advantage that your competitors in your category may not even be realised yet.
[00:25:44.350] – Sherice A
Then if that benefit then equals a customer benefit or is in line with the trends and then almost there is your holy grail. I think, yeah, it’s probably something I think not many marketers do or they may be too far from the manufacturing plants. But it’s something that I would always encourage marketers to do, get to your line, understand how your product is made, and really understand how you can add value also in a way that’s not going to drive a million pound of CaPEx or significantly change of process.
[00:26:18.670] – Andi J
I think one of the big takeaways from this episode, particularly, we know when it finished yet, but is that to be a good marketer, you’ve got to get off your chair. I used to have a boss who called it marketing by walking about. By that she meant get off your backside, go and talk to the customer, go and watch what they do. But also go and talk to the people in production as well and walk about, just go and get down, which I think comes from your McDonald’s days of being on the trip.
[00:26:45.030] – Sherice A
Yeah, 100 %, I think so. Actually, interestingly, my mom, who is quite… I always think if she did… She’s a social worker, but she did something different. She probably would work in food or drink, like innovations, because she’s always mixing stuff and creating her own concoctions. She always used to say to me, Oh, why don’t you just mix it yourself and see what happens? I think as I’ve been going out for my career, she’s also quite grounded me and just have a go, try it, just be creative. I think, yeah, 100% get off your seat, be curious. Yes, you need the strategy, yes, you need the brief, but also just be quite playful, have fun and try some stuff. Some things will work and some things won’t, but that’s okay.
[00:27:43.990] – Andi J
From there, you moved into working at Britvick, where you got your hands on the grand old lady, for want of a better phrase, of a brand in that category. What happened there? What was that like? And what brand was it? As well, I’ll let you explain.
[00:27:59.620] – Sherice A
Yeah. I joined Britvick and I worked in Robinson. Even before joining Robinson, I was a huge, I still am a huge Robinson fan. I’m not really a fruit juice drinker and I struggle to drink water, so squash is my drink of choice. I was so excited to join Robinson because as a category at that time, it was just quite dull. There was only really a couple of flavours and there really wasn’t much distinctiveness between a label and the branded players. I was just like, Wow, it’s an amazing brand, but what is its reason for being. Why is it better? Why is it different? Actually, the taste is just as good sometimes, depending on which own label brand you buy.
[00:28:56.870] – Andi J
[00:28:58.410] – Sherice A
Isn’t it? Yeah, it’s really subjective. There was no real… It lost its way a little bit. I was really excited at the concept of taking that brand and driving some meaning behind it and pulling out the brand’s story and doing something with the brand that was distinctive. That led to being part of what with now is it won the Marketing Weeks Innovation Award, Project Revitalized, which basically looked at creating a completely new innovation pipeline for Robinson. It was a new range of drinks, reddish drinks as well with Robinson’s refreshed. That was a really great example of taking something that was, some could say, quite old, quite tied and just breathing some life into it. Again, understanding the product and what makes it different and better, but being really clear on what that benefit was to the customer, which at that time was real fruit, and being really creative in terms of how you present that to the customer, but also extending the brand into new occasions. That was often the term of being… Robinson’s been tied to the tap. Robinson’s refresh was interesting. Actually taking inspiration from my mom, I had an idea for a to drink.
[00:30:30.920] – Sherice A
I remember my first presentation in the activity exec, I actually made some. I said, I put some in the bottle, created the colour, and I said, This is what I think it could look like. The colour of the squash is what I think the drink could taste like.
[00:30:48.100] – Andi J
You won’t full Dragon’s Den with it.
[00:30:50.700] – Sherice A
I won’t full Dragon’s Den with it. I won’t full Dragon’s Den with it because I knew there was some naysay in the business that would say, It would never work. We’ve done it before. I was like, No. And I think this is another point. If you’ve got an idea as a brand person that you really want to champion, go full Dragon’s Den. Bring it to life. Make it tangible for people, make it memorable when you’re presenting. Really think about all the senses. I think that’s what I did in that moment. I got the go ahead to do it. It actually became one of the biggest soft drink launchers of that year. It’s still listed today, which actually is quite interesting for innovation to last a test of time. It delivered everything that, when I said it was going to be half the size of a IPI, people at the time look at me like, What? And it is. Again, I think going back to that idea of get off your seat, be creative, be playful, throw things around, and be really innovative and creative about your innovation. A, in terms of how you present it to the business, but also how you storytell that when you’re in meetings and in forums.
[00:32:13.840] – Sherice A
I think if you really believe in something, I think having that entrepreneurial, almost start-up energy even within quite a corporate space, I think is brilliant because you’re selling it constantly to your customers, but you’re also selling it internally and then obviously to your retailers as well.
[00:32:31.850] – Andi J
I’m sure Paul, Maya, Angelou rolls in a grave every time a marketer says, quote her, but it really resonates to me at times like this. People don’t remember what you say, but they remember how you make them feel. You could have put 50 slides together and a deck about that product, might never have got off the ground. You bring it to life and people go, Oh, yeah. They see the passion, they see the commitment, and they really buy into that, which I think is another great lesson to take.
[00:32:57.040] – Sherice A
[00:32:58.650] – Andi J
My maths is correct, it was around this time to go right back to the beginning and what you said about becoming a mom. That was happening around this time. I’m not pointing fingers at employers or anything like that, but I don’t want to skip over some of the things you said. I’ve… As someone who’s brought up in a single parent family always thought it’s madness how the whole working world has almost thrown women on the scrapheap when they have kids for so long. It just seems utterly ludicrous to me. But it happens, and I’m pretty sure it still happens, I’m absolutely certain. But what was your experience like then? You had this fear and this concern that your career was going to disappear because you were having a family.
[00:33:40.600] – Sherice A
Yeah, your timeline is right. Actually, interestingly, my confidence at that time had really taken a knock. I think actually it was more perception than reality. I perceived the story I was telling myself was that I couldn’t go for the big roles, I couldn’t. Often it happens to women, also happens to men. Imposter syndrome at that time, you’ve been out of work for a year, it’s at its all time high and the gremolins are talking very loudly. I was working actually with a recruitment consultant and she actually says, Oh, I think you could go for this role. I was like, No, I can’t do it. They’re never going to take me. She’s like, Just try. She was just, Go for it. Do you know what? I really actually reached out to her some years after that to say thank you because of the headspace I was in. She recognised that. That she really pushed me, encouraged me to go for it. Whereas I was like, I can’t do it. I did it, and I got the job.
[00:34:59.900] – Andi J
Those quiet moments, my brother refers to them as the brain whizles, where they just keep chipping away, telling you that you can’t do something that it’s not going to be there. And it’s an awful space to be in, isn’t it? And it does sometimes take external intervention to get you out of that space.
[00:35:18.930] – Sherice A
Yeah, 100 %. I think actually that really gave me confidence. It brought my confidence back to say, Okay, I’ve given birth, I’ve had my year off, and now I’ve done this. Actually, it made me feel like, Well, I’ve done all of that. I’m a superwoman. The world is my own now, and I can really grab it by the balls. I think probably what I would also say at that time is having some support, be it I had the recruitment consult, but obviously now it’s a different time where you could, whether your employees have like return to work schemes or mentorship or getting yourself a coach or anything just to disrupt, to interrupt some of the stories that you might be telling your sofa all different reasons at that time, I think is so important to both women and to men who are returning to work. But it could be due to childbirth, it could be lots of different reasons. Yeah, it was really pivotal for me.
[00:36:28.380] – Andi J
Sorry. Do you think that… Because you told me beforehand, obviously, that you’ve got a younger child as well. And in the gap between the two, do you think the work world has changed for the better for mothers? Or did you still recognise the same pressures as you were going through the second child, did you still recognise the same pressures on a mom?
[00:36:51.400] – Sherice A
I actually think it has moved on. I think things have improved from the world of work that I was in when I had my first child was very different to… I think the expectation was very different. There was no work-life balance. We all worked till seven, eight o’clock, finished work, put our heels on and went out for drinks afterwards. That was the culture. Whereas now I think employers are a little bit more respectful of work-life balance. I think obviously COVID has shifted that dramatically of understanding that people have things they want to do, be it children or pets or caring for relatives or just time for yourselves. I think employees are a lot more respectful of that than they were 10 years ago. Also, I think we’ll come on to talk about it, but I was fortunate enough to be on the marketing academy. In that you have access to mentorship from, I think in the end, I had about nine mentoring sessions with CMOs from all different sectors and industries. What was really pivotal to me was how a lot of these women and men that were parents and mothers who were balancing successful careers, had written books, were working four days a week and had this construct of just life as a whole, not just work, but life that really served them.
[00:38:32.990] – Sherice A
That just completely reframed for me what my work in life and career could look like. That really helped actually going into my now 18 months here that really helped frame that experience to go, Okay, how do I organise my life in a way that fulfils me with my career, fulfils my purpose, my values, but also enables me to be present in the way that I want to be with my daughter. I think almost seeing it, seeing what it could look like through that mentorship just helped reframe a lot of the myths or the stories I’ve been telling myself up until that point. I think that was a real shift for me, which meant that I could quite confidently go into my next world and go, I want to work four days a week and I want to do some consulting and work on the side, because that’s really important to me. I was a lot more confident in orchestrating and creating the infrastructure of the work and career life that served myself and my family and ultimately what I saw is like that was success for me.
[00:39:48.490] – Andi J
Fantastic. That’s a great… I love that story, listening to that. I love the impact of mentoring and support and that which came through the Marketing Academy. Let’s talk about that. I don’t think I’ve heard a bad thing about the Marketing Academy. We’ve had Amy Smith previously on the podcast who’s been through that. Just give us the highlights of that experience because it’s a gold standard, isn’t it? A great training to be through.
[00:40:13.320] – Sherice A
Yeah. Oh, my God, I’m not sure what Amy said, but I never know what she said to me like, What’s the marketing academy like? Should I do it? And I’m just like, Yes, yes, yes. It changed my life. It changed my life. Im completely reframed my idea of leadership and what it meant to be a leader, not just in the workplace, but in all facets of my life. It really helped align my values and what I’m here to do, what’s my role in the world and where do I fit into that? What value do I need to bring? It really solidified that. Just having 29 other scholars who are on the programme with you, you’re just surrounded by the most incredible people who are smart and intelligent, but also grounded by stories of, you see this person, you see the title, but then actually when you hear their story, you’re like, Wow, that’s so amazing. It’s so inspirational. Even that in itself, just being in 29 other people’s presence is massively impactful. Obviously, as I mentioned, the mentorship is just amazing that you have access to some of the biggest CMOs in the business who are just so generous, so helpful with their time, really supportive, and really lay out to you how to…
[00:42:03.490] – Sherice A
One of the interesting things is, and I think for me is, I’m probably the only person within my family that is in corporate or marketing and advertising. I don’t have the benefit of somebody else telling me what to do, how to navigate the spaces, how to navigate the room. I often found actually, when I got to a certain level, I’m like, How do I navigate this? Where’s a manual? Who tells you what to do here? Make it up quick. And actually being part of a programme, but having the mentorship to help you navigate some of the tricky situations, it’s just fantastic. I’m a huge advocate for the programme. It’s so much more than just the marketing program. It is a leadership philosophy that as soon as I see somebody that has been on the marketing academy or CMO that’s been on the fellow program, I automatically feel the connection with them because I’m like, OK, you buy into the same philosophy as I do in terms of leadership and using brand and marketing as a force for good and being a change maker and paying it forward and giving back to paving the way. So yeah, it’s an incredible programme.
[00:43:28.170] – Andi J
I do want to, again, I’m bouncing around a little bit, I want to come back to that about using marketing as a force for good, because some of the voluntary stuff you do now. Before you do that, I just want to touch on a short term role you had at Innocent Smoothies as a group Marketing Manager in Innovation. Innovation at Innocent Smoothies, but tell us about that, about that time you had there.
[00:43:49.200] – Sherice A
Yeah. Innocent was one of those jobs where I’m a very values-led person, so I really do believe in branded marketing as a force for good, having a positive impact on people and planet. Actually, it’s not very often where you have your core values, your personal values, aligned with a brand or work values, your back to Barclays. For me, it was a huge alignment, so I was really excited. As an organisation, it’s super interesting because actually, it does really live by those values. Everything that they put in their packaging, it’s true. The full transparency is they really go to the nth degree to make things that are sustainable, that they’re having a positive impact on the world. But also what was quite interesting for me at that point was I’d been quite lucky in the sense of at McDonald’s, I was in an environment and a space where I was given freedom to succeed. I felt like I could do anything, be anything. There was really that path. Same at New York Bakery, Bakers. I’ve been really, really fortunate at that time to be in spaces that felt like they were for me. I never really observed my difference in terms of my background or race or sexuality or anything.
[00:45:17.600] – Sherice A
I just felt like I could just be me. I think that role for me was the first time where I actually felt like, Oh, I’m different. I’m different here. I’ve got a Midlands accent. My socio economic status is different. It was very evident. I was quite different. I found that very difficult to navigate, actually. I think obviously, Innocent, as all organisations do, they’ve got some work to do, and I think they’ve really acknowledged it themselves of creating an environment that feels where everyone is equitable and is inclusive and where everyone can just be who they are, because ultimately, if you create that environment, you get the most out of people. For me, culturally, I was like, This is probably not somewhere that is for me right now. But that’s not to say in the future that it may not be. I think that they’ve done a lot of work since then in terms of making a space that feels more welcoming to everybody. It was an interesting point in my career that it was the first time that I’d felt that. Often when you feel that, it’s quite hard to articulate to people. I just don’t feel like I fit in.
[00:46:40.140] – Sherice A
I don’t feel like I wanted it. Sometimes you feel like it’s in your head and you’re like, No, it’s not in my head.
[00:46:49.480] – Andi J
It’s really easy to explain to someone who’s had that and really difficult to explain to somebody who’s never had that.
[00:46:55.500] – Andi J
I remember having a conversation with someone. It’s like, When did you realize you were different? I’m like, Never. I’m like, But why? Because I’ve always been this way. Other people point out to you sometimes that you’re different, and that’s a really difficult conversation. It happened to me at school, and I used to get chased home sometimes by the local racist kids, which was a great experience as an eight-year-old child. Oh, man. But you don’t realise you’re different until they’re telling you you are. You don’t grow up looking in the mirror going, Why do I look this way? You’re normal. This is me. This is who I am. When other people start pointing it out to you and go, Well, am I different or is it you that’s got it wrong? But when you’ve lived that, as soon as you said it, I know exactly what you mean.
[00:47:46.250] – Andi J
For listening to this and maybe never experienced that, I’m going, I don’t quite get what she’s talking about. It’s okay that you don’t get it, but let’s talk. Let’s have those conversations.
[00:47:55.690] – Sherice A
That’s what we’re here for, I think. Yeah, 100 %. I probably didn’t have the language at the time to really articulate it. But yeah, it was a really interesting experience for me because I was like, Oh, okay, there’s still work to do. There’s still work to do in the industry. There’s still work to do at organizational level. I think it lit up a fire in me a little bit because I was like, Well, I’ve had some amazing experiences to this point. I’ve had some amazing organizations, and I’ve got great… And if I feel like this, then what does the first time graduate who’ve just come out of university feel like? That was almost like a little bit of a fire that started in me of actually wanting to influence and trying to support organizations, support individuals of creating spaces that are a bit more inclusive and also supporting the next generation in terms of how to navigate spaces that sometimes will be for you and sometimes you will have that feeling that we’ve just articulated. Oh, my God, I’m different here. How do I navigate it? That was almost a start. That was a bit of a catalyst for me.
[00:49:14.370] – Andi J
Years ago, early on in the podcast, we did an edition called The Black Edition after George Floyd was murdered and some American guests on. Isha Edwards talks about Rubik’s cubing your organization. And by that she meant, it’s not just about what you say at the top, you’ve got to align all those things as well, so you deliver them throughout the organization. That’s really critical, because when you’re saying, I didn’t have the language for that, and again, I know exactly what you mean. But that’s when you say, We’ve got a great culture, to me, what that means as an organization is people, even if they’re struggling with the language, well, you probably shouldn’t feel like that in the first place if you got a great culture. But if you do have that culture, it should be easy for them to be able to go, I have an unspecified blob of feedback for you, and let’s try and work through that. I think that’s what Rubik’s Cube in your organization means, is not having everything perfect, but having it so that things can be raised and sorted if they do go wrong. I think that’s an important part of it, isn’t it?
[00:50:12.030] – Andi J
That’s going to be not always easy to do, very difficult to do, but it’s easy to talk about.
[00:50:17.180] – Sherice A
[00:50:18.670] – Andi J
But you’ve then jumped forward to your values driven, and you’ve mentioned that a couple of times. So you do some voluntary work with AddSalt. Can you tell us a little bit about that organisation and what you do there?
[00:50:33.210] – Sherice A
Yeah. So AdSalt is just, well, the organisation is called Salt, of which Ad is one of the areas that they’re focused on. So as a whole, as an ethos, they’re an organisation that seeks to drive change within the consumer goods industry to make it more equitable and more inclusive for individuals and brands. The Salt Rise that is a mentoring programme that supports young people from black or backgrounds disadvantaged from a socio economic perspective get their first role in mentorship. And AdSOL is essentially a brand accelerator program that supports start-ups or scale-ups to get them retailer-ready or investment ready. They’re supported to go through like a 12-week program where they have a range of consultants from brand to investment to category. Almost as an ecosystem that sits behind the founders to get them ready for whether it be investment presentations or retailer sellings. It’s a fantastic programme because I think coming out of the back of George Floyd, as a lot of people did, I had that moment of, This is awful. This is terrible. But what do I do? I want to do something. I don’t know what that something is. I’m quite action-orientated. I was like, Okay, whatever I do, it needs to make an impact.
[00:52:15.750] – Sherice A
I want to have a genuine impact on either a group or an individual for good. Adsol is exactly that. All the consultants that work on that you genuinely are impacting someone’s life. I’ve worked with founders who have got the most amazing product and you work with them developing their brand and their positioning and you get to this great selling story and they’re balancing that with a full-time job as a carer or they’re a sole founder, where it’s just them and they’re boxing, they’re making their product, they’re doing all the labeling, they’re shipping everything to Amazon or to a retailer. They’re like, Oh, my God, I’ve not had someone with me to help me before. You really are genuinely impacting people’s lives for the better and ultimately helping them get their product onto supermarket shelves or into pure play or different retailers or e-commerce. It’s a fantastic philosophy and an amazing programme. I just feel really fortunate to be part of it, to be honest.
[00:53:36.520] – Andi J
I think they’re really fortunate to have you as well. I think your passion for it comes through. Your passion for inclusivity, diversity all comes through as well, but also being as sharp as they come when it comes to what you do. And that’s just a great combination to have that passion and that fire along with those skills as well. Fantastic. I’m not trying to think of an idea I can then push to get on.
[00:53:57.970] – Sherice A
[00:53:58.700] – Andi J
That’s a job for a different day. So before we wrap up, tell us about your current role. So you’re at Green King as head of brand. Talk to me about that. And again, tell people who Green King are, I used to work in pub, so I was like, oh, I.
[00:54:12.300] – Sherice A
Know that brand. Oh, you know Green King. Yes, Green King has two assets. It has a brewing business. Those people might be familiar with Green King through the brewing brands, but also is one of the biggest pub and restaurant and hotel operators in the UK. I sit on the hospitality side. In my role at Green King, I essentially work on innovation again. I’m basically taking brands and creating new concepts to be tested and launched within the hospitality space. I was really excited to go back to the hospitality industry, probably from the McDonald’s days of having that direct connection with customers and being able to walk into a space and speak to them. That was really exciting for me. But also just the concept of I’ve never created something where you’re physically building a building that you can go into. I’ve created products, I can go down the line, but creating a space. I think it’s such a fantastic experience. The pub industry as a whole, I think, is really at a really interesting time. I think Green King are really leading the way of how to make the hospitality industry just more inclusive and more welcoming.
[00:55:47.540] – Sherice A
That is really at the heart of what I do and people who sit within our team do is of bringing all of those insights. There’s lots of gaps in terms of people not feeling that pubs are welcoming; be it for lots of different reasons. How can we create environments that are more welcoming and are more inclusive and do meet people’s needs? It really is a role that actually enables me to draw from lots of different facets, be it my voluntary work or also understanding how to really centre the customer experience at the heart of an idea or proposition. In this essence, it’s a restaurant or a physical building that really meets their needs in a way that the industry doesn’t now. Green King are really leading that space. I think it’s a really exciting time to be at Green King at the moment.
[00:56:48.060] – Andi J
You’re right. The pub industry is under pressure. You open the newspapers, well, the digital newspaper, because nobody actually reads them anymore. But you open the newspapers regularly and there’s a number of pubs shutting on a weekly basis. Innovation in that sector seems like it’s definitely needed. Do you have a process you use for innovation or anything you can share with us to wrap up and give us a little insight for people thinking, Yeah, but how do I do innovation? Is there any steps along that journey that you go through?
[00:57:16.160] – Sherice A
Yeah. To be honest, I think what you probably observed through this conversation and my career is, obviously I’ve worked in with lots of different brands in lots of different industries and lots of different sectors. Probably what I would say is the process to get from idea to physical product or physical space is very similar. I think that’s probably why making that shift from an industry perspective, I’ve been able to do, because actually the construct of how you do it is pretty much the same. It really does all center of twofold of really having a deep understanding of trends, your category, but also culture, combining that with having a deep understanding of the customer’s needs, wants, and what is that power, killer insight that enables you to spark and actually then fits with the trends and where the sector is going as a whole. That’s always the starting place, I would say, irrespective of industry or brand or it’s finding that. I think once you’ve got that, then the process has always been the same of writing multiple, multiple ideas and concepts and going through a series of testing and see what customers think and really just making it very customer-centric and being obviously led by them, but also keeping an eye on from a trend perspective, where the future is going.
[00:59:01.500] – Sherice A
Go from idea to concepting to testing that concept to commercialization to understanding how you’re going to either operationalize it, how you can make a really compelling business case for it, does it make money at the end of the day? Then I think the beauty of innovation in whichever sector is, and I think particularly within hospitality industry is, I almost see it as like you’re the conductor and you need to understand how you really leverage the orchestra, the organisation to bring to life your idea. You’ve got everything from food to drink to service to HR to people to tech to all of the facets that make up the experience. Your job is to, as a conductor, hold the tune and the beat and beautifully get them to the end of the casengo, which is it’s brought to life in reality. I think that’s the same irrespective of whichever industry or category that you’re in. That, for me, is actually the difference between a great idea that never makes it anywhere and a brilliant idea that makes it into the market is, I think, as an innovator, the ability to really leverage your organisation to make it happen and to bring it into fruition.
[01:00:24.650] – Sherice A
It’s the same within hospitality. I would say it’s even harder in hospitality because it’s an industry that’s powered by people and people were complex. You’re complex and your brand has to come to life through that person, whether that be on a Tuesday at 10:00 AM or 9:00 PM on a Saturday, your brand promises can be broken in an instant if that moment isn’t as you realised it. Having that connectivity and really understanding how you leverage your organisation, really understanding the people that work in your businesses and what motivates them and how you can support them, bringing your promise and also what is in it for them as well so that they feel motivated to, I think is a really interesting dynamic within the hospitality industry that I’ve not really experienced working within consumer goods, which is super interesting.
[01:01:26.990] – Andi J
That is a superb answer and a great place to finish. So thank you very much for your time. I am going to put you on the spot for one more question. Okay. Hopefully a quick-fire one. Do you have a book you’d recommend to people who’ve listened to this podcast and think, All right, definitely. What should I be reading? What’s influenced you? Is there anything in particular that stands out from your background and things you’ve read over the years?
[01:01:51.860] – Sherice A
Yeah, actually. It’s a book that’s not really like a typical marketing book or like a business book, but it was a book that I randomly picked up in a airport. Slightly deviation. If I wasn’t in marketing or brand, I loved science and I really loved physics and chemistry at school. I sometimes wish that somebody spotted that in me and really nurtured that because I probably could be doing something different now. But the book that I would really recommend is by Stephen Hawking, and it’s brief answers to the big questions. And the reason why I recommend that book because as a brand, a marketer person, I think on a whole, you’re quite curious. You think, well, that’s where it sits in. But generally, we’re quite curious people, curious our customers and curious about how things work. What that book does is it really helps frame and set up the world and where it could go and what it could be in the concept of the progress of quantum physics, the big questions around human race, Earth, AI. I think as marketers and brands for me, it just really helped frame where we could be in the next 10, 20 years.
[01:03:40.150] – Sherice A
It has got me thinking quite differently, actually, about now and thinking about where I take my brands for the future, where we could be, and what I need to be thinking about. It’s a brilliant, brilliant book, quite probably unexpected as not a typical brand or marketing book, but it.
[01:04:01.220] – Andi J
Really is. It’s not how brands grow.
[01:04:02.860] – Sherice A
That’s for sure. It’s not how brands go. But I think as a book that really sparks big ideas and big thoughts and looking at the year and our role on the earth and the role brands and businesses and products could play in where we potentially are going, I think I just find it hugely exciting. Probably a slightly bit of a geeky answer.
[01:04:26.520] – Andi J
No, listen, I’m a big believer in not just diversity by protected characteristics, but diversity of thought. And if everyone only reads the same books, we only ever get the same ideas coming, you might take something slightly different. So when I ask people questions and like this and they come back with a book about astrophysics, or I was recommending a book about how the finance markets work by Benoît Mandelbrouie, I think it was by. And most of the book, I didn’t understand, but the bits I did have a real impact on, okay, so if that’s what moves that and it just takes your brain into different places. So that’s exactly why we asked that question at the end. So thank you very much for that.
[01:05:12.160] – Sherice A
[01:05:13.210] – Andi J
Sherice, thank you very much for your time. I’ve gone way over time, so apologies if we made you late for you next meeting. It’s okay. Thank you very much for that. This has been an amazing way to start this mini-series and just an amazing episode and part of the whole four seasons. This is incredible. So thank you very much for your time, Cherie.
[01:05:30.520] – Sherice A
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.