Women of Excellence, Business Excellence Winners

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2021 Women of Excellence, Business Excellence:

Natalie BenoitShopper Marketing Senior Manager, The Home Depot, GE Appliances

Natalie Benoit is responsible for growing the GE Appliances’ house of brands at The Home Depot, where the growth of its GE Profile brand is a shining example of her impact. Benoit has made it her mission to connect the Home Depot shopper with GE Profile appliances because of their innovative features that make consumers’ lives easier.

Benoit graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in journalism and mass communications. She started her career at customer activation agency Scoppechio, spending nine years in account services roles.

She joined GE Appliances in her current role in May 2019. Since then, Benoit and her sales team have grown GE Profile sales and attention for the GE Profile brand at The Home Depot. In 2019, the team brought the retailer’s innovative partnership with “Star Wars” to stores. For the first time ever, The Home Depot collaborated with the GE Profile and “Star Wars” teams to create custom branded in-store materials for its Black Friday racetrack suite, a coveted placement during this shopping holiday.

In addition, The Home Depot ran GE Profile/“Star Wars” digital creative to drive consistent messaging across the shopper journey. The initiative drove Black Friday online sales and orders up year-over-year and recorded a lift in profile-branded searches on HomeDepot.com.

In 2020, Benoit launched the GE Profile brand campaign, “This is Smarter Cooking,” within Home Depot channels, driving year-over-year growth and reinforcing significant increases in GE Profile floor commitments. This year, the retailer is partnering as a sponsor of the 2021 ESPN “College Gameday” built by The Home Depot.

It was an ideal opportunity to highlight GE Profile’s innovative in-oven air fry capabilities, and Benoit helped secure a media contract, has driven key branding and product recommendations during creative development, and will be executing the first-ever GE Profile influencer campaign with The Home Depot, while driving cross-functional support internally at GE Appliances.

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Joyce CressSenior Customer Marketing Manager, GE Appliances

As part of GE Appliances’ company objectives to offer products that serve customers in more meaningful ways, Joyce Cressdeveloped and executed an omnichannel marketing strategy for the company’s first-ever 100% kosher-certified ovens.

GE Appliances technology, certified by the Orthodox Union and the Hisachdus Harabanim, works in conjunction with a Shabbos Keeper (sold separately) and overrides the usual everyday electrical operation of the appliance, making it compliant with the rules of Jewish law during Shabbos and Yom Tov. It was an important program, as the company tries to get closer to consumer needs and wants with greater personalization.

Cress partnered with several cross-functional organizations at GE Appliances, including product development, engineering, merchandising, training, marketing and sales, as well as the Orthodox Union to execute the marketing plan. Her hyper-local field marketing campaign, which launched just prior to Passover 2021, targeted several heavily concentrated New York and New Jersey Jewish Orthodox communities and consisted of digital and print advertising, social, PR and P-O-P. The campaign helped to drive growth in this new segment of GE Appliances’ cooking business and gain additional appliances market share.

Cress, who holds a degree in advertising and marketing from the University of Miami, began her career in marketing. She’s worked for companies such as Jarden Consumer Solutions (now Newell Brands), HP in both national and global shopper marketing/campaign marketing, and Office Depot in category marketing, digital and merchandising. She joined GE Appliances in February 2020 as the senior customer marketing manager for Lowe’s, the position she holds today.

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Jennifer HaleVice President of Marketing, Coca-Cola Co.

Jennifer Hale has an enterprise mindset with creative problem-solving and best-in-class leadership capabilities, consistently resulting in mutual growth for the Coca-Cola system and its customers. She and her team have driven revenue and share growth for three consecutive years with a portfolio of notable convenience store customers.

Hale graduated from Belmont Abbey College with a degree in business management. She started her career at Career Sports & Entertainment (CSE), working her way up to vice president of event marketing and creative services. She became an entrepreneur for five years, freelancing for CSE and establishing a general manager mindset and appreciation for teamwork and ROI. In 2010, she joined Coca-Cola and held several shopper marketing positions before being named vice president of marketing earlier this year.

Utilizing macro trends and category insights, she partners with customers to meet their consumers’ rapidly changing needs while driving growth. In 2020, she created and implemented a one-day sampling event for a brand relaunch, resulting in more than 250,000 samplings in one day, driving 320,000 store visits within seven days of the promotion and a 6.91% store conversion rate.

She tied the event to the kickoff of daylight saving time and launched an innovative campaign with wayfinding app Waze, making Coca-Cola the first CPG brand to engage the app. The campaign’s one-day digital billboards and posters garnered more than 35.8 million impressions across 16 markets.

Hale adapts online and offline shopping experiences, inspiring shoppers to purchase Coca-Cola brands and drive customer revenue. In 2021, she designed the first cross-channel digital sampling event for a new brand promotion and with it launched a multi-week sampling opportunity for any retailer in any channel. Her team provided creative for in-store signage and digital and social channels. The program launched with more than 30 retail partners on Sept. 1.

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Meghan HeltneVice President, Customer Development, The Mars Agency

Meghan Heltne’s passion is helping her clients transform their business and partnerships at Target. She leads the agency’s Target team across all of its clients, consistently measured as best-in-class by peers, clients and within Target.

Credited with leading the development and expansion of thought-leadership pieces to keep the agency engaged in the strategic priorities and opportunities within the Target ecosystem, she partners seamlessly across internal and external teams to develop business-building and problem-solving ideas, creative and programs.

Heltne graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a bachelor’s degree in communications. She started her career at Fallon as a project manager, moving to The Mars Agency as an assistant account executive after two years. In 2011, she joined Coca-Cola, as the bottler’s shopper marketing manager supporting the Target business and five years later, she returned to the agency as director of customer development. She was promoted to her current position in April 2019.

Since assuming this role, she has grown her team from seven to 13 people, including commerce media specialists who focus on the growing Roundel retail media platform. Heltne is an expert in connected commerce and finding opportunities for brands at Target, leading clients to double the level of engagement and services the agency provides them and, in turn, improving their business results.

Heltne also pushes her teams and cross-functional partners to build plans and programs that go beyond joint business planning commitments and are based on clearly identified opportunities for partnership and growth. She works in collaboration with Roundel to evolve, challenge and improve the platform and find new opportunities to align with Target’s merchant team to secure in-store support for these media programs.

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Dianne LeAssociate Director, Shopper Marketing & Partnerships, Avocados From Mexico

When Dianne Le joined Avocados From Mexico (AFM) six years ago, she was charged with developing its shopper marketing discipline and building shopper insights from the ground up. Today, she is at the helm of the team that develops and executes omnichannel shopper campaigns in everything from digital and social media activations to in-store strategies and path-to-purchase research.

Le graduated from the University of Kansas with a journalism degree and later from the University of North Texas with her master’s in journalism with a minor in business administration. She has also attended executive education courses at NYU Stern School of Business and Yale School of Management.

She started her career at a small software company as a marketing manager before landing at Keurig Dr Pepper in 2005, where she stayed for 10 years, holding positions in customer marketing, business development, brand and shopper marketing and, finally, consumer and shopper insights.

Since joining AFM in 2015, Le has helped grow new business and increase the brand’s market share by leading a variety of omnichannel projects. She is currently the associate director, shopper marketing & partnerships.

A hallmark project was the development of AFM’s 2021 Shopper A&U study. Responsible for extracting key insights from the study’s results to illustrate the shopper’s path to purchase and how it has evolved — over time and through the pandemic — Le shared the shopper-specific data with AFM’s research partners and built a framework to validate and summarize the findings, ultimately building strategic playbooks.

Le is also the project lead for Avo University Online, the avocado industry’s first digital B2B education platform for retailers and foodservice. Avo University Online helps to dismantle the top avocado barriers by sharing knowledge with retailers and foodservice operators in an online format which, in turn, leads to market share growth.

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Bethany StephensPresident & Chief Enthusiast, Soapbox Influence

Bethany Stephens spent her early childhood in Kingston, Jamaica, then moved to the state of Washington when she was 12 years old. From a very young age, she loved good marketing and storytelling. She earned a degree in French from the University of Arkansas, and after early career roles that spanned non-profit, tourism, economic development and consulting — including her own Magpie Marketing — she joined Kendal King Group as its director of strategic marketing.

Less than two years later, she created Soapbox Influence. A division of Kendal King Group, Soapbox Influence exists to build brands through authentic conversations, helping companies leverage the power of emerging voices to tell their brand stories, and delivering actionable insights to help CPGs and retailers stay on pace with shopper trends.

The company brings a unique brand of influencer marketing, social strategy and social intelligence to the retail and consumer goods marketplace, leveraging enthusiastic influencers, content creators and early adopters to drive awareness and activation for brands through grassroots word-of-mouth marketing.

In the past five years, Stephens has transformed Soapbox into a multimillion-dollar company focused on being a modern workplace with values placed around taking the high road, assuming diversity, being continuous learners, making your own stack of work, and always giving praise and assuming the best in others. Soapbox Influence was awarded an Ad Age“Best Places to Work” in 2021.

Soapbox has a community of more than 10,000 influencers who represent major household brands. Stephens likes to say that she built a company she would have wanted to work for when she was in her 20s. She has done just that with her female entrepreneurial spirit, along the way winning several regional and national awards for her work inside the company and throughout the industry.

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Mary TarczynskiPrincipal, Client Solutions Lead, Parabolic

Mary Tarczynski became a partner at Parabolic nearly six years ago and has completely transformed the company ever since with her deep understanding of shopper marketing, her strategic problem-solving, and growth of the business and team through her mentorship. She has cultivated both large and small new clients, leading to double-digit agency growth every year.

She’s a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in public relations who also holds a master’s degree in marketing research from the University of Georgia. Tarczynski has more than 25 years of experience leading cross-functional teams to build equity and drive sales for CPG brands at retail. She spent the first part of her career in category management, shopper marketing and consumer promotion roles at Coca-Cola, Kraft, Clorox and Kern’s Beverages. She then joined The Mars Agency and built a West Coast team for clients such as Campbell’s, Clorox, Coca-Cola and Diamond Foods.

She left corporate marketing and immersed herself for four years in emerging ad tech with leadership roles at Collective Bias and Ditto and, in 2016, co-founded Parabolic, a shopper marketing agency offering “ideas with trajectory” — integrated strategies, concepts and activations to help established and emerging natural brands sell in and sell through at retail.

Tarczynski has opened new categories for the company, landing its first cannabis and CBD clients and launching shopper marketing programs for some of the largest players in those spaces. She is a true partner to all of her clients who are generating positive ROI on insights-driven, integrated omnichannel programs. Her leadership has led to a 56% increase in Parabolic average monthly net revenue since the beginning of the pandemic.