From being a Shopper Marketer at top CPG companies, to sales leader at a rapidly growing digital media company and also becoming a startup entrepreneur... Josh Bruns has been on an unorthodox but exciting journey.
When we last spoke, you were leading the Walmart Shopper team at Kraft Heinz. You have since moved to the VEndor Side. what led you to make The Move?
It sounds pretty strange when you say it back, but honestly, it has to do with my attempt to be on the front end of driving shopper marketing growth. Some helpful context...When I made the move to Kraft Heinz almost 4 years ago, it was because I wanted to be even closer to the business side of the CPG world. I was very excited about Kraft Heinz's measured approach to everything they did, because it lined up with my passion to understand how shopper marketing tactics directly influence the business (whether sales to the end consumer, or distribution gains). At Kraft Heinz, I was able to help shape how shopper marketing would evaluate and measure incremental sales lift based on campaigns we would run.
So you asked them for a job? That's not normal.
What about this entrepreneurial thing you have going on?
At a similar time of making this transition, I had been working with a few business partners to solve a different kind of business problem for Suppliers working with Walmart. We saw a need for actionable intelligence via data analytics for smaller suppliers selling to Walmart. Based on that need, we created AWAS Solutions.
AWAS Solutions provides the same type of data analytics intelligence used by top CPG suppliers, but at a fraction of the cost or man power. Through our interactive dashboards, a supplier can surface and solve their key business opportunities in a few clicks and a few seconds. For instance, we not only show the weekly inventory position, but also the lost dollar opportunity. Users are able to drill down into that lost opportunity by specific item and location, and pull a report that can be sent quickly to their buyers at Walmart for business growth actions.
What has been amazing about this, is that I have been able to learn from each business venture to make me better in the other!
What has surprised you most about being on the Vendor side?
Specifically for GENESIS, it was interesting to learn just how commoditized media really is. When I started, I had an idea, but definitely not to the extent I do now. Companies are pulling from the same inventory, using the same targeting capabilities, and simply repackaging them with buzzwords and 'secret sauces'. While there are some who do that better than others, and some have a little bit of uniqueness with their first-party data, for the most part, it is commoditized.
At a year and a half in, that is what still excites me about the business model of GENESIS. We hyper-target shoppers using that same data, BUT our business model qualifies those shoppers by GUARANTEEING engagement with the story you want to tell in an interactive way. This means a client only pays when a real person engages with their story. Our pay-for-performance model gets higher quality shoppers, engaging with your story, and clicking through at a better rate...that was the value that sold me originally as a client, got me to ask for a job with them, and keeps me excited to tell others!
How has your past CPG & Agency experience helped you in this new role?
The simple answer is...in every way! Seeing the business from a CPG supplier and from an agency lens has helped me understand the needs and desires of each and the strategic intent behind clients' inquiries.
For instance, often times our digital media solution is a piece of a larger marketing plan that includes merchandising, incentives, etc. I approach every interaction with my clients as 'what is the business problem you are trying to solve and where are you trying to take the shopper FROM and TO?' Then 'what are the right tools to solve it, and (if it makes sense) how do we fit in?'
Additionally, based on my own experiences and business problems I faced on the client and agency side, I have been able to provide input into GENESIS'S product development roadmap to create product innovation I WISH I had. For instance, we needed a solution for driving immediate purchase of high household penetration, front-end, or new items at the store. I was able to help in the development of a new services that we now call IMPULSE. It hyper targets shoppers using GPS location at the store area to give an influencer-led message and quick call-to-action to drive immediate purchase.
What advice would you give to CPG marketers today?
- Serve others first (consumers, clients, retailers, friends, community). You always lay your head down at night with peace, and it has always benefited me more in the end.
- Start with the business problem to solve and the FROM / TO shopper behavior change you are trying to influence.
- A great campaign is only as good as the results. That comes with very intentional, organized planning to have the right inputs for reliable measurement outputs.
- When evaluating vendors, you have to really dig down into the TRUE comparable metrics.
- You know your business best...bend the tactic to your need, not your need to the tactic - and find partners that will help with that.
- Test and Learn, then test and learn more!
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