People to Watch 2021: Olivia Zabrodsky


Olivia Zabrodsky

Company: Beiersdorf U.S.

Title: Category Development Manager

Age: 26

Education: Case Western Reserve University (bachelor’s, management, marketing major; bachelor’s, theatre)

a woman smiling for the camera
Olivia Zabrodsky

Olivia Zabrodsky has always had a passion for the art of storytelling and the way it can influence and inspire people. She studied marketing and theatre at Case Western Reserve University, a combination that she says offered complementary skill sets, both centered on compelling stories. “It taught me how to approach problems and stories through facts, evidence, detailed analytics and creativity to inspire an outcome,” she says. “It laid the groundwork for identifying insights that might serve as white space or ‘reason to believe’ in an unmet consumer need, which is imperative to the work we do in category management.”

Zabrodsky says the CPG industry excited her from an early age. She spent a lot of time reading about brands and looking at product marketing, and then interned at a lab where she focused on food science, specifically testing the viscosity of peanut butter cups. “I quickly realized that what excited me most was not the R&D side of CPG, but rather consumer trends and needs that influenced categories and brand marketing,” she says.

She began her career at Cadent Consulting Group, working in food, beverage and beauty/skin care and providing solutions on a variety of projects in category management, marketing and analytics. “The research, analytics and category leadership work I was doing in the beauty/skin care space quickly ignited a passion for shopper and category insights and demonstrated the intimacy these categories have with their consumers,” she says.

In January 2020, Zabrodsky joined Beiersdorf as category development manager. She focuses heavily on new categories, identifying the vision, strategy, trends and white space opportunities at play. She leads category research, creating consumer decision trees and path to purchase studies and doing a lot of analytical work including developing dashboards to help understand assortment, innovation, and brand and category performance. “A lot of my responsibilities are also centered on being an expert storyteller, infusing data, research, consumer insights and category trends into unbiased recommendations and strategy that will unlock category growth for both brands and retailers and deliver on unmet consumer needs,” she says.

One of her first projects after joining Beiersdorf was co-leading a new “distribution and assortment process” to define core assortment priorities by category and retailer across the company. Previously, Beiersdorf didn’t have many different sources of information the cross-functional teams consider when assessing the portfolio or a clear definition of assortment success that considered both brand performance and category benchmarks important to retailers.

“We wanted to not only streamline information sources but also create a tool that the organization could use as one source of truth infusing many types of data and metrics that would help us make relevant and insight-driven decisions,” Zabrodsky says. The tool was created with a unique weighted analytical methodology that incorporates many sources of information into a final ranking system.

“The analytical methodologies in this tool provide our cross-functional teams with a deep understanding of our categories, brand performance, and direction on decisions [before line] reviews that will result in beneficial outcomes for our brands, retailers and consumers,” she says. It also has helped the team quickly make data-driven decisions and understand the state of the company’s portfolio benchmarked against the competition, she explains.

While many believe the physical store is losing importance in the digital media era, Zabrodsky thinks it will still play a critical role in the future, especially in the beauty and skin care space. “Digital and omnichannel strategy can’t be ignored as we have seen the accelerated role online is playing, especially throughout COVID-19 for many categories,” she says. But consumers are still seeking elevated experiences when shopping for skin care and beauty and – now more than ever – they will seek to escape through meaningful in-store experiences, she predicts.