kate narborough, nomad foods; russell parsons, marketing week; kay etherington, lego; sophia angelis, brown-forman; paul davies, econsultancy
Left to right: Kate Narbrough, Nomad Foods; Russell Parsons, Marketing Week; Kay Etherington, Lego; Sophia Angelis, Brown-Forman; Paul Davies, Econsultancy.

At Econsultancy’s Marketing Capability Leaders Forum last week, Managing Partner Paul Davies quizzed senior marketers on how they are using generative AI within their organisations.

Speakers revealed the efficiencies they are making across a variety of tasks (in creative, media, insights and concepting) but cautioned against the industry seeing the technology as more than a tool.

“I think it’s fair to say that Marketing in conjunction with Supply Chain is probably leading the charge in the business [with generative AI],” said Kate Narbrough, Global Brand Director at Nomad Foods – Europe’s largest frozen food company and owner of brands including Birds Eye, Aunt Bessie’s and Goodfella’s.

There’s a “responsibility that comes with that to encourage everybody else,” added Narbrough. “[It’s] almost [that] Marketing is upskilling everybody else or evidencing, quite quickly, ways in which AI can be used.”

The brand director warned that this responsibility can be “a bit of a double-edged sword”, given the potential for missteps with generative AI. Indeed, Narbrough said that the legal department is heavily involved and leads Nomad Foods’ ‘multi-disciplinary’ AI council, which also includes representatives from the company’s tech and people teams.

How marketing teams are using generative AI for creative, media and insights

Narbrough revealed that Nomad Foods is using a variety of tools, including creative testing platform Dragonfly AI “for reviewing and making our content more effective,” as well as Midjourney, in partnership with a production company, for “small format food image creation” such as recipe content.

The frozen food company is also testing AI across its media activity, according to Narbrough – with partners such as Adlook (a cookie-less DSP), DoubleVerify (a specialist in ad quality and measurement), and Reticle (a contextual data provider that finds the right placements for ads).

Just like any other technology – What’s the cost and what’s the benefit?

Sophia Angelis, SVP, Global Marketing Excellence Director at wine and spirits producer Brown-Forman (owner of Jack Daniel’s), said the company had also seen “really good results” from Dragonfly AI, adding that these tools offer “productivity and the ability to cut cost,” but only once “you have a really strong core creative idea.”

“That’s never going to be replaced,” added Angelis. “What can be replaced is all the reformatting, reshaping, optimization.”

“Never done in isolation from humans”

Both Narbrough and Angelis said they are utilising generative AI in their insights and innovation work. Narbrough, at Nomad Foods, is using Tastewise, an AI platform for food and beverage brands, and Angelis, at Brown-Forman, said the company is looking at “flavour trends”, for example, for help with producing concepts.

“Again, that’s never going to be done in isolation from humans [or], very importantly, from critical thinking,” said Angelis, adding that the marketing team has to decide “what is the right thing for the brand and the business and ultimately the consumer.”

Narbrough summed up the cautious optimism in the industry, telling Econsultancy’s Davies that the “opportunity we perceive, [though] it’s yet to be properly evidenced, is that we can go from the middle of the pack to best in class in certain areas, at pace, if we do it right.”

However, when asked by Davies whether AI is more than “just a tool”, Narbrough was clear that she doesn’t believe this technology changes the fundamentals. “The ‘what’ we’re doing isn’t changing, right? The commercial ‘STRAP’ plan isn’t changing. It’s how we’re doing it that’s changing.”

Generative AI has brought into focus what makes a great marketer

The ‘what’ isn’t changing, only the ‘how’

“When a new technology comes about… everyone’s keen to use the shiny new toy irrespective of the objective,” said Narbrough, likening it to “running around the house with a hammer looking for a nail to bang in.”

“I think that what we’re trying to get back to now [at Nomad Foods] is a real discipline [to ask], ‘What’s the business objective? What’s the task at hand? What’s the platform you think is going to help and why? Is there something else we’ve already got in our tech armoury that can do that, potentially?’” she added.

“Just like any other technology – What’s the cost and what’s the benefit? …That discipline is helping people to get back to seeing it as a tool, rather than [something] we’ve got to be doing…”

“The point of marketing is a great campaign should be different”

Kay Etherington, Marketing Academy Director at Lego, was positive about the potential of generative AI (currently being used within strict guidelines at the toy brand) but went to the nub of the debate telling Davies that for all the growing power of the technology, “creativity should be the core and the spark of any marketer, and AI can’t take that away.”

“The point of marketing is a great campaign should be different. It should be taking in new ideas and you can’t get that from AI, you only get a mediocre [version] of whatever else is in there… You can get ideas from the data, but your strategy should be something that’s unique to your brand, to your company, to [your] purpose…”

Brown-Forman’s Sophia Angelis added to this sentiment, saying that it’s vital for marketers to be curious about the business, how it operates, and “most importantly the consumer, their motivations, how the brand interacts and engages with [them] and therefore how to best place your brand in the service of the consumer.”

Econsultancy runs an AI for Marketing short course, as well as tailored learning academies for large marketing and ecommerce teams.

Read our case study on The Sky Academy of Marketing.