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General Mills Site Visit

by Jennifer Rooke Friday, November 16, 2012

The A.C. Nielsen Center and the Center for Brand and Product Management took a double-decker bus to Minneapolis to spend the day at the General Mills headquarters on Friday, November 9. We had a full day of events, starting with a presentation by Jeanine Bassett, VP of consumer insights, and Mark Addicks, CMO. We learned about the company's approach to uncovering consumer insights, and about its First Wednesdays marketing presentations to the global marketing team on new marketing innovations from different categories to spark creative ideas.

We then heard from the Nature Valley brand manager about her collaboration with her consumer insights counterpart, and how critical it is for them to work closely together to solve business dilemmas, get ideas sold in, and proactively initiate new ideas to help drive the business. She showed us a case study of a recent Nature Valley business challenge they faced together, and opened it up to the students for feedback on what we would have done.

We also got an extensive tour of the office, seeing the test kitchens, a range of artwork, and even meeting Lucky (the mascot from Lucky Charms!). Claudia Klug (2010 Nielsen alumna) then told us about the company's pro bono consulting for nonprofits, which leverages a cross-functional team from General Mills to help companies better understand their consumers and develop stronger marketing plans.

Lastly, the A.C. Nielsen Center students split off for a presentation on the company's mobile research initiatives, given by Andy Dybvig, manager of mobile research. Throughout the day, we had been participating in ad hoc mobile surveys via the application iPoll, taking photos of UPCs and submitting videos of ourselves answering questions. He shared with us the results of our surveys, his vision of what research sampling will entail in the near future, the broad uses of mobile (from ethnographies to point of purchase studies), and how important it is to build mobile research best practices. In addition, he shared his tips for conducting research on mobile, including the "rule of seven," which is not asking more than approximately seven questions in a mobile survey and not having more than seven answer choices in a closed-ended question.

Overall, it was a very worthwhile learning experience and the marketing research and brand students enjoyed the opportunity to hear about how these two teams collaborate in the real world.