Ben Gleeson – Brand Manager @ Kimberly-Clark

1. Before we dive into your role at Kimberly-Clark, what has your career journey in marketing looked like so far?

I’ve worked in FMCG marketing for the past 6 years, working on brands such as Tip Top Bread, SunRice, Kleenex toilet paper and VIVA Paper Towels at companies like George Weston Foods, SunRice and Kimberly-Clark.

In my time, I’ve also hired numerous rounds of interns and graduates for marketing & brand management positions. I’m really excited to speak on those experiences and give some advice for students looking at applying for entry level roles in the FMCG industry.

For those who aren’t sure what FMCG stands for, this means fast moving consumer goods – businesses that offer everyday products which are sold quickly, often found in grocery supermarkets. Think brands like Pepsi, Dove & Shapes.

2. Transitioning into work, what the heck does a Brand Manager @ Kimberly-Clark do?

What is Kimberly-Clark?

Kimberly-Clark is an organisation that offers essential goods for a better life, comprising a portfolio of iconic brands like Kleenex, Huggies & U by Kotex. There are Brand Managers for each specific product range and I’m currently responsible for the “VIVA Paper Towel” product line.

In these companies, Brand Managers are like “mini business owners” over a specific brand in the company. They take complete ownership over a specific brand – it’s marketing, financials, data analysis and product development all in one. 

What does my role entail?

To best illustrate the breadth of my role I’ve split my time up into a pie chart which contains 100% of my time:

  • 20% of my time = Brand creative & communications. This requires working closely with external agencies to help bring to life campaigns, content, or packaging.
  • 20% of my time: Owning the innovation pipeline for my brand. Then executing the new product development as well as project management to ensure it launches on time. 
  • 15% of my time = Market research & data analysis to ensure I’m always in tune with consumers (e.g: reviewing sales data, attending consumer research focus groups).
  • 15% of my time = Strategic brand planning to drive the business in the future. This requires identification of key growth pillars that will deliver growth and would encompass work areas mentioned above.
  • 15% of my time = Presentations & general reporting, both to internal and external stakeholders.
  • 10% of my time = Interpreting financial statements to identify improvements that can be made in future. 
  • 5% of my time = General supply chain enquiries and other enquiries.

3. What’s an example of a campaign that you’ve worked on and what was your role in bringing it to life?

Product Name: “Viva Eco Paper Towel”

What was it?

I was recently responsible for the launch of our “Viva Eco Paper Towel” product – a game changer for the category in terms of sustainability. It took 18 months from start to finish to develop and it’s the perfect example of why I love being a Brand Manager.

What was your role?

  • Market research: From the get go, speaking to consumers to understand their needs and what problem this product is solving. It’s a consistent part of the complete product development process and something that Brand Managers must love doing.
  • Product development: Working with in-house product developers to decide on the technical aspects of the product (e.g: what material is best). Along with manufacturing teams to get tangible prototypes and the final product created.
  • Distribution: Working with our Supply Chain team to organise the logistics behind stock & shipping the product. Ensuring we get consistency and prevent stock outages.
  • Marketing communication & campaign planning: What people would normally associate with “marketing”. Working with your internal team and agency partners to determine all the marketing touchpoints of the product including the packaging to what digital & traditional marketing assets we want to use for promotion.
  • Financials & budgeting: This is about how we make the product commercially viable. Understanding the drivers of cost and what the consumer is willing to pay is  critical for a Brand Manager to understand in order to successfully innovate. 
  • Selling: Influencing internal stakeholders which would include regular check-ins, reporting and presentations to the senior leadership team. Additionally, selling the proposition to grocery retailers is required. 

4. For students who are curious about a career as an FMCG Brand Manager, what do the entry level pathways look like?

There are a number of pathways you can explore to enter an FMCG brand marketing role. 

  1. Many FMCG organisations offer internship/graduate roles and this would be your typical way of entering directly into a marketing role straight from uni. 
  2. Some FMCG companies offer Marketing Assistant or Assistant Brand Manager roles so check these titles when doing your job search (note: these roles may require marketing experience but this doesn’t necessarily have to be in FMCG).
  3. Many marketing & creative agencies work with FMCG organisations so you could start a role on the agency side and then move eventually onto the ‘client’ side (i.e. an FMCG brand is a client).
  4. If there aren’t marketing roles, consider other function roles like entry level sales roles in FMCG companies. 

There are a limited number of direct entry level roles but don’t give up if you don’t get the internship/graduate role directly. If you’re really passionate about joining the industry, going via the other mentioned pathways can help you get to a brand marketing FMCG role!

5. What are three actionable steps that aspiring FMCG Brand Managers can take right now?

Step 1 – “Network, network, network”. Knowing how to network comes with practice and it can feel weird at first. Take initiative to build your connections with fellow students, lecturers, tutors while at university and remember to be authentic and genuine. 

Step 2 – “Collect experiences”. Put your hand up for as many opportunities as possible to acquire a variety of experiences. It’s not just internships at major companies that will get you a job. Try building your own things, volunteering, playing a key role in societies or getting work experience through a connection.

Step 3 – “Take time with your job applications”. Similar to networking, doing well in the application process takes practice – the more you’ll do, the better you’ll get. Start attending mockup CV reviews, Assessment Centres and Final Interviews to sharpen these skills. Also be ok with rejection – you’re not going to get every role you apply for. 

BONUS Tip – “Only apply for roles you care about”. You’re more likely to research, practice and prepare better for roles at companies that actually interest you. Find companies and roles that align with your personal values and interests – you don’t want to work at a job that doesn’t excite you right?

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Join 153 young people getting 3 new interviews every Monday

"Love it guys! Super exciting and easy reads"
William Tu
UNSW Student
"Awesome insight! Keen for the next scoop!"
Sophia Cantora
Junior Marketer