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Connecting better with consumers – it’s all in the insight

By Zumi Njongwe, Consumer Communication and Marketing Excellence Director, at Nestlé East and Southern Africa Region (ESAR)
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Most great companies have a reason for their existence and ours is no exception. One of the reasons I chose to join Nestlé was the existence of a deep sense of purpose rooted in the power of food and its impact on all human life, today and in the future. It’s a universal truth, that. What makes great purpose really hit home is that it is anchored in time; always looking to the future while remaining custodians of the present. It’s good for the people whose lives we touch, and it’s good for business, too.

To continuously connect with people meaningfully requires of us, the business, agency partners, researchers, specialists, to meditate on purpose while doing the work of understanding market behaviour. For instance, our portfolio at Nestlé is an ecosystem best captured in the journey of food from farm to table, and we are obsessed with telling that story as it speaks to value, quality, sustainability, community partnership, and so on. To do that well – to communicate any purpose and how it comes to life - the secret sauce is in sharpening the insights that echo people’s mind and heart states. Having been doing this line of work for several decades, I’ve learnt some things worth sharing:

Hindsight is good, but foresight is a game changer

Brands need to spend more resources on foresight, versus hindsight. As data integration evolves how we synthesize data, brands can truly look ahead, beyond traditional forms of research and data mining for that foresight. This means spending more resources on foresight, tapping into bespoke data sources beyond the traditional, and using predictive analytics to understand consumers better. If hindsight was 20/20 for the last number of decades, then in the new decades, thanks to technology, foresight will be 20/20. We simply need to, and will be, investing more in this shift.

Integrate for better brand experiences, and sales!

We are learning everyday how to combine our understanding of trends, business, channel and experience ecosystems, to connect with consumers seamlessly from brand love, to usage, to advocacy. This has been fueled by strong analytics and furthered by the convergence of these analytics with agile, restless focus on great execution. In the backend, integration speaks to a stronger hand in reporting, with ease in standardisation across the board, for various units in the business. The magic of this is the clarity it provides insights teams, giving them more room to becoming closer business partners to brands, sharpening our curiosity to continue delivering better experiences and sales.

Business acumen at the core

Insights teams need to have ‘whole brain’ thinking to understand logic and creativity, quantitative and qualitative, feeling and logic. This means being open to different experiences, for a wider breadth of understanding of the full business. The result is an acuity that drives a fundamental understanding (and commitment) to an end-to-end value chain model, and along with it will be material concerns such as sourcing strategies, sustainability, etc. When insight teams have this level of business acumen, they can think through the macro-economic dynamics critical in driving the national agenda of our country where business must play a pivotal role in improving livelihoods.

Experimentation is key to evolving our core business

Evolving business models needs a point of view that sees possibilities as infinite, an approach centred on disruption in both thinking about and activating opportunities. To do this well, brands need to free up budgets for experimentation in resolving key business and society challenges. From an openness to experimentation, we can evolve our businesses beyond what we even imagined. Think about how banks are now going into telco, telcos are becoming bankers, retailers have courier services and taxis are now media channels. No one is staying in their lane. So similarly, in FMCG, we are evolving to create experiences beyond core brand building, hence personalization is a critical lever to pull.

Execute in real time

Being in a ‘post-COVID’ moment and coming out of a collective survival mind state, consumers are hungry to live and experience life now! They are impatient for this in-the-moment experience to be fulfilling. At the heart of this is faster, agile insights, as close as possible to real time, to help us make faster decisions about where, how and when to invest quickly. We will see more brands doing active testing in the moment and with the integration of data, this is very possible and beats waiting for six weeks to get results. We are getting closer to precision marketing, with clear KPIs to test, learn and iterate in real time – that there is the future of consumer insights – I will bet my bottom Rand on it.



Nestlé East and Southern African Region (ESAR)
Rosalie Ambrose  
Tel: +27 79 526 8518 
Email: [email protected]é.com

Issued by Weber Shandwick on behalf of Nestlé East and Southern Africa Region 
Matlhodi Mathabatha 
Tel: +27 73 357 8133 
Email: [email protected]

About Nestlé
Nestlé is the world’s largest food and beverage company. It is present in 187 countries around the world, and its 291,000 employees are committed to Nestlé’s purpose of unlocking the power of food to enhance quality for everyone, today and for generations to come. Nestlé offers a wide portfolio of products and services for people and their pets throughout their lives. Its more than 2,000 brands range from global icons like Nescafé or Nespresso to local favourites like Ricoffy. Company performance is driven by its Nutrition, Health, and Wellness strategy. Nestlé is based in the Swiss town of Vevey where it was founded more than 150 years ago.