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How Danone Is Putting Humanity Back Into Marketing

“It is not business-to-consumers, but human-to-human. The future is bright for marketing.” — Valérie Hernando-Presse

When Danone CMO Valérie Hernando-Presse took the plenary stage on Thursday at SB’19 Detroit, she did not espouse the health benefits of yogurt (for which there are many). Instead, she shared current changing consumer preferences — in particular, to connect to the food they eat and partake in a better food system. Hernando-Presse asserted that each consumption act is a political act of voting for the agriculture and nutrition consumers want in their lives.

Embracing this food revolution, Danone is on a journey to bring its “One Planet. One Health” vision to life. This strategic agenda reflects Danone’s commitment to help people eat better as well as an internal action call for employees to change business systems. Becoming a B Corporation is testament to this vision; Dannon US is currently the world’s largest B Corp.

As the dynamic landscape shifts from powerful people to people of power, the role of consumers is moving from passive onlooker to actor and activist citizen. Hernando-Presse proclaimed, “In this people-powered world, the way we’ve done marketing — selling more stuff to more people — is over.”

As a woman of color living in France, Hernando-Presse admitted that she does not fit the usual mold. However, she has used that personal perspective to rethink marketing at Danone. She shared that she is reimagining marketing with a new vision that encompasses people-powered brands, content and innovation — and new ways to connect with local communities.

“We want all our brands to put Purpose at the center and commit to this food revolution,” she said. “Some brands are moving from ‘storytelling’ to ‘story showing.’”

To illustrate, Hernando-Presse shared a few examples within Danone’s global portfolio of bottled water, specialized nutrition and dairy and plant-based products, including:

  • Bonafort — this Mexican water brand fights for gender equality, supporting women’s empowerment for 20 years

  • Happy Family Organics — this US brand is on a mission to give babies their healthiest start by offering organic, thoughtfully made food

  • SGM Eksplor — a well-established infant formula brand in Indonesia that relentlessly tackles stunting

Hernando-Presse revealed that ‘making it personal’ is the most complex part of the company’s marketing transformation. Her role as CMO is to carve out space for brand teams around the globe to be entrepreneurial and purpose-minded marketers. She invites these teams to bring their convictions, soul and personal authenticity to the workplace in order to build trustworthy connections with their tribes.

“It is not business-to-consumers, but humans-to-humans. The future is bright for marketing.” — Valérie Hernando-Presse


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