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As VP of Global Strategy for the Mars Wrigley Chocolate Portfolio—which includes iconic brands Snickers, Twix, Dove and more—Tiana Conley is the most excited about transforming traditional brands to purpose-driven ones. Having previously held a variety of marketing leadership roles in top CPG companies including Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, Beam-Suntory and the Kellogg Company, Tiana thrives at the intersection of brand building and business growth. Read on to see what aspect of the influencer space Tiana feels is just getting started, what she thinks people get wrong about purpose-driven brands and why storytelling is so critical to leaders today.

Every marketer should… “engage in anything that helps expand your understanding of people and perspectives beyond your personal worldview.”

What gives me energy outside of work… “walking outside, playing Pokémon Go, spending time with my kids Griffin and Ava—ideally, all at the same time!”

The Future of Marketing

Q: What’s one thing coming down the pike for marketing that you are most excited about?

The explosion of social commerce in China feels like a crystal ball glimpse into the future. The consumer journey has fundamentally shifted due to fully integrated mega apps like Douyin and WeChat, where you can socialize/scroll/purchase all in one platform, where previously discovery-consideration-browsing-buying were all discrete experiences. I’m intrigued by the rise of virtual influencers, who have built connections with millions of young people and openly invite them to sell products as brand ambassadors via live streaming for up to 8+ hours per day. 

Q: What’s a widely accepted “marketing truth” you wish marketers could do away with?

The notion that marketing can either be purpose-driven or business-building. I believe the opposite—that when work is rooted in purpose, it has the potential to drive the business even further. As people seek deeper meaning in the world and their choices within it, we will move to a place where brand purpose will become a cost of entry. This is already evident, particularly with younger consumers looking for brands and products that take a stand on issues and reflect the values they represent. Our responsibility as marketers in pursuing purpose marketing is to be accountable for driving genuine efforts with measurable positive impact so that we do not risk generating “purpose-washing” white noise just to check the box.

Marketing at Mars

Q: What’s something innovative or exciting you’re currently working on?  

I am very excited about the global repositioning of the Dove / Galaxy brand from traditional to purpose-driven. Dove / Galaxy chocolate has always been about pleasure, but now it will elevate its role to deliver pleasure with promise by helping one million women and their families thrive by 2030. We will achieve that by impacting women from seed to shelf and have already begun with examples, including partnering with NGOs to expand savings and loan programs to women in African cocoa-growing communities to enable financial empowerment and establishing a Dove All-Women Academy in China to support women in rural communities develop education and skills to increase income. 

Q: What’s the most pressing business challenge you’ve faced within the last year and how have you tried to solve it? 

With consumers facing continued economic pressure, it is critical to continuously demonstrate the value of your brand and product and why it is worth paying for. That means leveraging all touchpoints to double down and reinforce the distinctive product proposition. This was done brilliantly by Twix “Camping” communication, where bears and campers alike share their delight in “chewy, crunchy, and delicious” treats (of course, referring to the chocolate, caramel, and cookie of a Twix!). It is also important not to lose sight of opportunities to add value to consumers with innovation that can answer unmet needs. The launch of Snickers Hi Protein bars introduced a solution to the dilemma of wanting a high protein/low sugar snack (20g protein / 4g sugar) without sacrificing tasty deliciousness.   

Career and Leadership Advice

Q: What’s the most game-changing career advice you’ve ever received?

You can have everything, just not all at once. 

Q: What’s one new leadership muscle you see as the most important for marketers to exercise?

Marketers need the ability to be a storyteller. We must be able to effectively frame narratives for the business, successfully interpret data and trends, and convincingly communicate stories to and from consumers. However, in an increasingly data-rich, performance-driven marketing world, storytelling as a skillset can sometimes be de-emphasized or undervalued. When done best, storytelling is both an art and a science.

Marketers to Watch is a MTM’s recognition series spotlighting highly innovative and forward-thinking marketing leaders in the community. If you have someone you’d like to nominate for the series, click here.