Linda Bethea, of Danone, on marketing a “purpose-driven” brand and connecting media and creative teams

Linda Bethea is Head of Marketing at Danone, a global brand with a broad portfolio of consumer goods that’s also a “B Corp,” which means it’s one of a number of companies “verified to be meeting the highest standards of social and environmental criteria and using their business as a force for social good.”

I wanted to catch up with Linda to quiz her on her recent appearance on an Advertising Week panel entitled “Changemakers” in which digital transformation and COVID-induced changes in consumer behavior patterns were discussed. I also wanted to get her POV on how brands can build stronger connections with consumers, thus making their brands “stickier.” As Linda observes, “a lot of our brands go back to purpose, and what their role in consumers’ lives, and the broader community, is.”

I also wanted to get Linda’s take on how consumers might shift behaviors if and when a recession occurs in 2023 and how marketers should respond to these changes. “The most important thing to do is stay the course,” Linda said. “Research shows that marketers who continue to invest in their brands during times of recession actually fare better throughout and after that recession. It’s critically important to maintain that awareness and equity with consumers throughout.”

Linda and I discuss how Danone is driving digital transformation of its brand portfolio, and she gave me some great examples of how data is informing the company’s strategy. We also talk about how Danone’s brand purpose, rooted in the company’s unique corporate history, translates into a strong differentiator for consumers that can function as an important “tie-breaker.”

We converse about Danone’s marketing strategy for staying top-of-mind throughout the consumer journey, its holistic channel strategy, the role that influencers and celebrities can play in terms of “cutting through the clutter,” and the importance of social listening for identifying and leveraging authentic fans of the brand in a natural and organic way.

Our conversation then turned to Linda’s views on the importance of aligning creative and media buying groups. “I strongly believe in what I call connections planning, said Linda. “You have to take a holistic view and really partner your media and creative teams together in developing the campaign. And that’s exactly what we do here. We run an integrated agency team and our media agency and our internal media team is in partnership with our creative agency and internal team every step of the way.”