At Marketing Trends we are discovering what drives Australia’s top marketers. Last year, the major appliance replacement market and the small appliances' category experienced an explosion in their demand. Livia McRobert joins us in this episode to tell us how Smeg Australia experienced this growth, the revolutionary e-learning platform they've recently launched and some of the sources she uses as inspiration while working at a third-generation Italian family business.
Career & professional background
Livia, how did your career in marketing start?
While studying a Masters in Marketing at the University of Technology Sydney, I successfully applied for a sales rep position at Coca-Cola. Given Coca-Cola’s reputation for marketing excellence, I was hoping a foot in the door would provide opportunities to move into marketing.
The sideways step paid off and I secured a position in the trade marketing team. Not only is the combination of sales and trade marketing experience invaluable in any pure brand marketing role, strong marketing and sales interplay vital in any organisation.
If you hadn’t pursued a career in marketing, in which other industry do you think you might be?
I’ve always had an interest in psychology, especially as it relates to consumer behaviour. Had I chosen this path, I may have ended up in market research, interpreting data and sharing insights with marketers.
Could you tell us about your role as head of marketing at Smeg?
My role is varied, interesting and never quiet. I manage a team of 10 that encompasses brand, public relations, events, digital, product training and product specialists. And is heavily aligned with the sales teams.
The team plan and execute the business strategy in consultation with key stakeholders from the various business units including retail, commercial and food service.
Marketing & industry trends
What type of impact has COVID-19 had on your industry?
Last year in early COVID, we saw an increase in the major appliance replacement market – consumers were cooking more and wanted a better oven. Sales of small appliances, especially in the coffee and food preparation categories, grew too.
This year we are seeing many consumers undertaking a total kitchen renovation. Also, during the total COVID period our customer and technical service teams have been kept very busy responding to a myriad of requests such as: ‘what is the best oven function for slow cooking’ and ‘how do I clean my dishwasher filter’ as they expand their cooking repertoire and use their appliances more.
What is the most exciting trend or innovation happening in your field in terms of growth?
Smeg was the first appliance brand to introduce an innovative e-learning platform. The revolutionary platform, with mobile and table capability, features gamified training modules, a resource library and points history. The platform is beneficial for both retailers and account managers; it provides invaluable insights into the knowledge needs of salespeople and can assist with closing knowledge gaps in a timely and targeted way.
Smeg is currently rolling this out nationally and to date the results and feedback from both salespeople and retailers have been incredibly positive.
As a marketer, what do you believe is the biggest challenge facing your industry in the future?
It might not be the biggest challenge, but it is certainly an ongoing challenge: brand building at the expense of sales promotion. It can be difficult to communicate the benefits of your product while it is the subject of a sales promotion.
Tools, recommendations & sources of inspiration
What does a typical day look like for you?
Whether I’m in the office or working remotely, I have a full schedule of meetings with colleagues, suppliers and retailers. In my role I also need to be across product procurement as well as stock planning, to ensure the right decisions are being made and then implemented in a timely manner.
In terms of structuring, over the past 18 months, I’ve had to be very nimble, dealing with the challenge of constantly evolving marketing, selling and stock conditions.
What brands do you take inspiration from?
Working for a third generation Italian family business, I take a lot of inspiration from other Italian brands, especially the dynastic family businesses, which are so common in Northern Italy. Also, with my background in FMCG, I like to be across the latest trade marketing trends.
Software and tools recommendations: what is the one software you can’t work without and why?
Anyone who has worked remotely will be aware of the challenges around technology! We recently moved to Microsoft Teams and I’m really happy with the interface. As well as marketing team and external meetings, we are even using it as a project planning tool.
What are three resources you would recommend for anyone working in your field?
Not necessarily a resource, but I definitely recommend joining an industry body, such as SHOP!. It is a great way to network and stay up to date with industry trends. Following interior trends forecasting is also important in my role.
I subscribe to several popular interior publications and blogs and regularly scan their content to see what’s trending in the world of design. Knowledge and understanding of technology, especially smart technology, is also very important in my role and in order to ‘translate’ it for consumers, I regularly check in with the product technical team.