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Has the fun gone out of FMCG marketing in Australia?

Ok this might be a little self-indulgent rather than informative (I’m not going to apologise for it). But... is there an elephant in the FMCG marketing room?


I rarely see happy FMCG marketers anymore. Most, when you get to see or talk to them at all, now seem permanently stressed and more than a little miserable.






Once upon a time, not that long ago, FMCG marketing involved managing both the short-term AND LONG-TERM  success and health of brands. Marketers generally enjoyed the intellectual, strategic and creative challenges of fighting long term brand wars.


That used to involve lots of insights driven planning and activity. New product development was guided by identified opportunities that fit the strategic goals of brands and businesses. Strategy addressed both ongoing and immediate success. Marketing days were spent working hard controlling and directing the destiny of brands.



'FMCG marketing was once proactive and stimulating.'



So what’s changed?


The FMCG retail landscape in Australia has changed dramatically. The incredible demands placed on brand owners by retailers as they fight their own war for profitability, have resulted in a paradigm shift in FMCG marketing culture.



'FMCG marketing has become largely reactive.'



The marketers I deal with daily are now more often than not overwhelmed by the demands of working from category review to review. Emphasis has shifted towards trading activity. Timelines have shrunk. It’s now common for briefs we receive to start with ‘The retailers have asked for… ‘, instead of ‘An opportunity exists to…’.


Long-term planning has become a rarely possible luxury. Crisis management feels like it’s the norm.



So is enjoying FMCG marketing important?


Obviously it is from a self-indulgent perspective. But looked at more objectively it’s also a real issue for business.


Large numbers of talented and experienced FMCG marketers are leaving the industry. What started as a trickle has become a stream of marketers heading into non-FMCG roles. I’ve seen them moving in numbers into the corporate arena, consumer durables, pharmaceuticals, agency-side businesses and anywhere they can rediscover the satisfaction they once enjoyed.


This brain drain must have a long-term effect on FMCG companies. Small, entrepreneurial businesses and industries outside FMCG are benefiting as they have access to talent once drawn to ‘bigger’ career opportunities.


Businesses will almost inevitably realise they need to respond to the new Australian FMCG retail environment simultaneously with (and not instead of) managing the long-term health of their brands.


For that they will need talent that is steadily heading for the door.





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