How can one grow in marketing and category management? The passion for genuine consumer insights, the drive to always do things better, a test and learn attitude and the eyes wide open to everyhting new, is the career path growth for Mădălina Voina Aldea, Marketing Category Manager at Intersnack Romania. Her competitive advantage as marketing professional, lies, in her own description in enthusiasm, curiosity and proactivity. And her drive pushes her for more achievements, results and joy as an accomplished but active mother of two, as a reliable and also as creative support for the the family business managed by her husband.
What are your responsibilities as a Category Manager?
I was in charge of the regional (CEE) chips category in terms of brand strategy, positioning, equity and communication campaigns, innovation plans for 3 to 5 years, brand portfolio communication architecture and portfolio audit. Last but not least new product development and launch. The Category Manager is the guardian of the brands in the category. She or He makes sure that all those brands have their own voice, their own space, visibile and recongnizable, talk to the specific target audience they have set upon and they are approachable, as empatic as possible and on the asceending trend in terms of profits.
What’s category management and how does a day in the life of a category manager looks like?
I can not talk for other companies because category management can be different from what brand driven category management or marketing category management I experienced, but in my experience category management is a great job, especially if the role is international as I had the chance to work in an international role.
Some key words would be: people, passion, a little chaos and consumer insights according to culture/country, challenges and opportunities and, yeah, some meetings that can become shorter, market trends, analysis and building brand equity assets. This is in a nutsshell the role.
A day in the life? Depends what day – Monday comes with a status meeting of the commercial team, status meeting led by the marketing people, then a well deserved coffee because people in my company are very passionate and wanting to grow the business as much as possible. Then operational stuff – those aspects that are not sexy, but whitout it the big projects that matter are not met as they should be, in order to grow. Sometimes a meeting with the interdisciplinary project team and some analysis of the new market Nielsen raports we received. Briefing the agency, feedback on specific on going projects, status with my juniors, coffee again. Talks with the factory – phone status, video etc.
What about the challenges and how do you overcome them?
The challenges arrise as in most positions but what I do is to understand who can help, or what can I do next in order to transform the challenge in an opportunity or at least not to become a risk. The delays can occur especially when lots of approvals are involved. The mindset should be always to overcome, grow and even when you are feeling down to have collegues that can say a good word, a smile. This alwasy helps me.
Has the pademic changed the way you work, the consumer behavior in the categories you manage and the way you manage the marketing mix for your brands?
The pandemic changed the way we interact in the team. I have worked in the pandemic only for two months and I feel lucky of course, because I gave birth to my second son, Tudor, in this times. However what I could notice is that it depends a lot on the way you are as a personality. For extroverts I think it was the worse. For introverts I think it was a posibility of growing. I have collegues that grew positively during this pandemic stage. The shift in terms of communication was clearly driven by digital assets and the chips category being one that its most usual consumption moments are in a group, this at the beging felt risky in terms of consumption patterns but fortunately it was not as bad as it could have been. So the consumers adapted to the new ways of interacting but still they need to be autentic, getting out of the rutine, they want to feel comfortable and eating a great chips, they have more indulgence moments, maybe because they did not have as many options of entertaiment.
How marketing innovation looks like in your organization? New products, packaging, flavors, new distribution channels or innovative ways to get to customers? Another way to tell a story?
We are very focused on innovation
We are very focused on innovation, we do workshops within the group at Dusseldorf, we do internal interdepartmental brainstorming, we participate in agency innovation workshops and we are very focused on consumer insights, on which routes innovation is born.
We are very focused on consumer insights, on which routes innovation is born
Your top three marketing campaigns you’ve been recently exposed to and why?
„Heroes of Imaginary World” – from Kinder – in maternity I wrote monthly articles for a parents community and as for me and maybe for you this topic kept arrising – not as before – how do we take out screen time as much as possible, but now because of the pandemy it has become how do we give good quality content to our kids? And Kinder had this idea, an interactive book writen by Iulian Tanase, that has a gift for kids stories.
Carrefour Campaign – House rules – my first client side job was in Carrefour is like a first love for me, that is why I always watch what they come up with.
Tazz delivers – this is for the fresh approach and also because at the ex. Jazz communication there are some very talented creatives.
Top three marketing knowledge sources or favourite marketing books?
I like the marketing millenials podcast, „Blue Ocean Strategy” and nowadays I am interested also in other subjects such as Imago Therapy and Black and White Thinking (Kevin Dutton)
Mistakes we do make us better professionals and somehow better humans overall
You’ve recently said that the mistakes we do make us better professionals and somehow better humans overall. Could you tell more about the context and other examples, perhaps? Our colleagues at Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) have been bringing about recently the issue of „job sharing” and its potential to bridge marketing’s gender pay gap.
You know there is a saying in Romania – „E rușine, mamă.” This shaming, your own shaming, this pressure that we put so much on ourselves in terms of not going the extra mile because we may do a mistake, this is the real mistake. In my teen years I have started to volunteer in Scouts, than working with kids from 6 to 10 years old and in this time I learned that is very good to study but at the same time we learn the best by dooing. By playing and doing. So playfulness and trying although you dont know as much as you would like this is what I mean, because you only need one person from which to learn, or one situation that will put you out of your confort zone and you may always remember that.
For mothers oriented to both family and carrer, being in maternity this concept of job sharing would be most beneficial. I can tell you from my experience with Pavel four years ago – that I worked to apply for funding for a project related to education, then with Tudor I started teaching english on a volunteer basis for Ana si Copii ONG and at the same time doing my postgrad. course in Psychopedagogy, that allows me to teach, I am helping my husband with his small agency boutique, creating content in social media and all of this part time, work from home, difficult but I would not change. It is important to stay connected, focused, not isolated and to grow.
How would you describe your experience at the Mastering Metrics training? I remember you’ve attended one of our intensive weekends with Joe Shami? What did you take valuable form that experience? How would an ideal marketing training look like?
Yes it was a real pleasure to be there, with all of you. It was really helpful, interactive, lots of people from different industries that I got to share experiences with hand Joe Shami he is very good at what he does, a great teacher and really appreciates input from the students – and this is important. I will always remember and already applied the fact that the 3 P s are at the center of any business.
I do not really believe in ideal, because as it is in events you can not have 100% stars to say like this, but I think that what you do is close enough. Is a good balance between the practical and theoretical aspects.
How has the British education and the master degree helped you as a professional? And your direct marketing degree? Marian Seitan has recently argued that marketing automation is direct marketing translated into technology platforms. How are the direct marketing skills and competences helping you now as a professional?
In terms of education I learned to always think about the theoretical aspects in relationship with how they can be applied into practical aspects. There the education is centered on case studies, from which we expand on theory – so a different perspective vs how I was thought in school. My direct marketing degree was very helpful in terms of how to look at consumers overall, for the loyalty ladder is extremely important for any brand marketing manager, and this diploma helped me to always look at a brand and build the loyalty ladder for its segmented target. This is quite important for me, in my job and it helps.