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Quaker PepsiCo marketers discuss consumer insights, brand engagement

Northwestern alumni at the helm of worldwide product campaigns returned to campus Wednesday to speak with IMC students on Tuesday, Oct. 8, as part of the TalentQ speaker series.

Heather Smith (BSJ02), Sarah Bierig (WCS04/Kellogg09), Marissa Pines (SoC06/Kellogg11) and Justin Smith (WCAS11/IMC Certificate11) all got their start at Northwestern. Though they pursued different majors, all of them now work on the advertisement or marketing teams at PepsiCo Inc.

Smith and Pines began the presentation, sponsored by TalentQ, with an overview on how they helped design a campaign for a new portable breakfast option, Quaker Real Medleys Oatmeal.

“We wanted to show that this wasn’t your average oatmeal,” said Pines. Using the idea that “home is where the mom is,” gained from market research, the team launched Real Medleys in March 2012, with a campaign focus on busy mothers.

Print and digital campaigns were used to increase awareness of Real Medleys, a contemporary approach to the classic Quaker oatmeal brand. The marketing initiative was effective, as Real Medleys was awarded the 2013 Product of the Year seal in the breakfast category.

Following this success, Real Medleys expanded to breakfast bars in June 2013. The team also plans to launch more variations in January 2014 and beyond.

“The idea is that we can keep building on this,” Pines said. “The possibilities are endless.”

Smith, who graduated with a certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications in 2011, detailed his experience working with the Gatorade brand during the latter half of the presentation.

“We believe athletic performance is driven from the inside out,” Smith said. “Everything has to be grounded in that belief.”

By engaging consumers in a story of heritage and aspiration centered on Gatorade use, the company has managed to dominate the sports drink marketplace.

This August, Gatorade partnered with ESPN to produce “RGIII: The Will to Win,” a documentary about Robert Griffin III. The documentary detailed Griffin’s rookie season as quarterback for the Washington Redskins.

“Gatorade wants to be aspirational,” Smith said. “And that’s where entertainment marketing really comes in.”

Henry Huang, a first-quarter IMC graduate student, said he values the input from former Northwestern students at TalentQ events.

“[Smith] is working for the global department of Quaker, and they have a great global presence. To hear about how she worked on both sides, the ad and the marketing sides, was very helpful,” he said. “It’s a great event. It has a lot of takeaways.”