Profile: Laura Dickey, Senior Shopper Marketing Manager, LALA U.S.
Little did Laura Dickey know that a sixth-grade science fair project would foreshadow her work in shopper marketing. She had to track prices and other data for the same SKUs across a variety of retailers, and ultimately found prize-winning success in determining the best place to buy those items.
While her first job out of college was in real estate at a law office, her handling of business development stretch assignments motivated her to expand her career scope. In 2008 she joined Crossmark on the Cadbury team and spent the next seven years in retail operations. She started out as a supervisor in stores but was promoted internally and eventually earned an opportunity to manage her own team of more than 200 employees.
After earning her masters in marketing in 2015, she took a headquarters sales role to gain experience calling on customers, and then joined LALA U.S. in February 2017 as a senior shopper marketing manager, the position she holds today. Dickey is one of three Women of Excellence honorees in the “Collaboration” category.
What are your current responsibilities?
Dickey: I’m responsible for customer-specific activation of the LALA and Promised Land brands. As the liaison between our brand and sales teams, I ensure all objectives are met while benefitting the customer – taking the brands’ campaigns to the store level and driving shoppers to stores to purchase our products. I’m the retailer specialist working with our sales team, so I need to understand what works and what doesn’t at each retailer, each customer’s pain points and sales objectives, and the capabilities each particular retailer offers, as well as what technology they have available for us to partner together.
How has collaboration with other teams within the company helped you push your work forward?
Dickey: The shopper marketing team was created here in 2015 by our director of marketing at the time. Initially, the majority of the shopper marketing activity was in-store POS and sampling driven. With increasing household penetration as a goal for our two biggest brands, trial became the primary focus, and we needed to move fast. I began to research digital demo tactics offered by each retailer, partnered with our sales teams to identify the specific business opportunity, and started working directly with retailers on a plan. After just one year of focusing on driving trial by leveraging these new tactics, household penetration increased 31% for LALA and 57% for Promised Land. It was a great team effort.
What results have you seen using new shopper marketing tactics?
Dickey: The first digital demo we executed performed way better than expected but had its pros and cons. We were successfully able to get our product into more than 104,000 hands to support our trial efforts, and units per store per week during the promotion at this account went up 45.3%. These digital demos created such unexpected demand that out of stocks became a frequent occurrence for our brands, which led to disappointed shoppers and unhappy customers and negatively impacted program results. This eventually led us to a more formal integrated business planning (IBP) process.
Can you explain more about the IBP process?
Dickey: As a coordinator, I represent all of marketing, working cross-functionally to help the company optimize the use of resources, guarantee service level and support the growth of the business. The IBP process provides a formal platform that allows the brand teams, shopper marketing, sales, supply chain and finance to collaboratively plan and make important business decisions together with the executive leadership team.
What in your work are you most proud of?
Dickey: The Promised Land brand team has a partnership with [pro football player] Jason Witten that we activated in-store at key retailers. We leveraged assets provided by [Witten’s] team (photography, a sweepstakes promotion opportunity for a VIP experience with Witten, taglines, etc.) to develop a full 360-degree execution.
What motivates you most in terms of the shopping experience?
Dickey: The list of opportunities to reach shoppers during the path to purchase is growing. It provides a platform to test multiple tactics tailored to the specific objective and partner with new vendors. Shopper marketing is all about testing and learning, and we’ll continue to try to be more strategic with our approach going forward. Deciding if we want to encourage trial, increase frequency, educate, explore new usage occasions, grow basket size, or promote retention will affect the tactics we employ. And we need to ensure we’re always reaching the intended target.