The first 10 years of Maureen Sticco’s career were spent on the agency side working on iconic brands like Maxwell House coffee, Lever 2000 soap and Jell-O. She took the leap to the client side as the Best Foods Baking Co. consumer promotion manager, working across a portfolio of brands such as Entenmann’s and Thomas’ breakfast brands. Sticco worked her way up to director of marketing on the Entenmann’s business, spending 19 years as part of a team that helped build it into the $1 billion entity it is today. (Entenmann’s has been owned by Bimbo Bakeries since 2002.)
Then in 2018, Sticco shifted to sales and became the director of direct-store delivery excellence with a focus on merchandising best practices. In this role, she traveled the U.S. 80% of the time, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the company’s frontline employees, coaching them on practices that were identified and designed to develop its staff and in turn grow the business. This led to her current position in the marketing center of excellence (COE).
What are your job responsibilities?
STICCO: I lead the packaging graphics, merchandising, shopper marketing, product strategy, research and direct-store delivery excellence customer alignment teams. Our goal is to find new and innovative strategies to drive toward stronger execution and increased effectiveness – with the goal of amplifying our brands in the marketplace.
Describe the structure of your organization as it relates to merchandising.
STICCO: This is where a COE is critically important to fostering a unified approach. Merchandising is centralized and positioned as a world-class branding site. This team is responsible for purchasing and shipping of displays, but its members also are classically trained to ensure we develop and execute world-class creative and fixtures. Since the team resides in the COE, there is a very close relationship with other functions located there, as well as the brand and sales teams.
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What are the important characteristics of a mutually beneficial merchandising collaboration between manufacturer and retailer?
STICCO: Ensuring everyone’s goals are aligned from the very beginning of a project is extremely important to ensure waste is minimized. That includes wasting time as well as developing something that ends up being difficult to execute in the field. We use the acronym “FREE” when we are developing merchandising, and no I don’t mean the cost. FREE stands for “Friendly to Route, Easy to Execute.” If a merchandising piece does not meet this standard, we quickly know we are off course.
Describe one of your more recent merchandising successes.
STICCO: Our back-to-school program is executed across our strong portfolio of brands. This program is designed for flexibility in the field with modular displays that can be built for large volume stores like Walmart or smaller footprint stores. It does not require a lot of explanation to stand up, it is an eye-catching yellow display and our frontline really rallies behind execution. Shopper marketing is a huge piece of this program where we amplify our portfolio with customized tactics by retailer. Then the COE functions of shopper marketing and merchandising work closely to ensure use of top-line materials, communication and implementation.
STICCO: Of all the brands I have worked on, I have to say the Little Bites merchandising has been my most successful work. I have been part of an amazing team since the launch of the Little Bites line in 1999 to grow it to the powerhouse brand it is today. Merchandising played a critical role in ensuring the brand was positioned in the market to capture the impulse purchases of moms and kids. I worked on the positioning, packaging, merchandising, social media, TV, radio and all aspects of marketing this line. The reason Little Bites is so successful is because we have a continuous improvement mindset. We always challenge ourselves on “What’s next? How can we do it differently? How do we make it easier?” Most importantly, we listen to and act on what our consumers and our frontline tell us needs to change.