Creating Future Brands at Sainsbury’s

New Digital Age has proudly partnered with the AAR for the launch of its Fightback podcast.

Robin Charney is director of digital and innovation at AAR, and host of the Fightback podcast.

If you’re starting a job in innovation where you have to create your role from scratch, Sainsbury’s Head of Future Brands Rachel Eyre has three pieces of advice.

The first is dive in and do stuff – you’ll learn far more than if you sit around talking. The second is be paranoid about performance – make sure you know the effectiveness of what you’re doing and its commercial impact. There may be no-one asking for all that now, but they inevitably will. And finally, be kind to yourself. 

Rachel is my guest for this episode of Fightback, a podcast about the old Goliaths taking on the new Goliaths. Rachel and her team’s job is to attract new shoppers, and in particular that all-important millennial audience, with new brands built on authenticity, heritage and purpose. And those brands could come from tiny start-ups – like Eat Grub’s Smoky BBQ Crunchy Roasted Crickets – or giants like Pepsico, which owns Off The Eaten Path snacks. 

Rachel’s story is unusual for Fightback, in that she doesn’t think she’s in innovation. Instead, Rachel sees her job as all about leading change, about seeing what Sainsbury’s needed to change in order to work with these new brands, and doing it at pace, within the corporate framework. 

That corporate aspect is a key part of Rachel’s thinking. On one hand she’s embracing the scale that makes Sainsbury’s a great company to partner with – it can give new brands access to 27m customers a week.

On the other she’s navigating the complexities of the organisation and dealing with stakeholder management. Her top tip? When you’re recruiting your team, look for people who can engage the business with what you’re doing. Because if you can’t do that, there’s no point worrying about what the customers will think. 

This is the last in this series of Fightback. We’re working on the next one, so if you’re leading the Fightback against disruption in a heritage brand, or you know someone who is, I’d love to hear from you.

Listen here:


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