“One of the biggest obstacles is getting out of your own way.” That was Alexa Langona’s advice Monday during the “Women in Meat Retail Networking Lunch: Meat Marketing, Where Women Rule,” part of the first session of the Annual Meat Conference in Dallas, Texas.
Langona, senior director of project management of Albertsons Co.’s Own Brands, was joined on stage by Charity Bradley, marketing manager at Meyer Natural Foods; Jennifer Dibbern, VP of marketing and corporate communications at American Foods Group; and Meredith Healan, director of brand strategy for FPL Food.
The four began the session by noting on their shared background in marketing. Bradley explained that understanding the customer and the product and bridging them is the most essential part of marketing in any industry.
“It’s connecting the right person with the right product or service,” she said. “I see marketing almost like a super power. You really have to have this ability to connect with – and to – people.”
Healan expounded on the point by comparing a marketer to a storyteller.
“Part of my job is to tell a story,” she said. “I think that is such a basis of what marketing is, no matter if you’re in the meat sector or if you’re in clothing, whatever. Storytelling is so important.”
FPL Food, she said, is a family-owned company whose sense of familiarity should be expressed through its marketing.
The conversation then moved to marketing within the meat industry. The moderator asked the panel why this sector in particular seems to be predominantly female.
“Marketing tends to be the position in this industry that is comfortable hiring from the outside,” Dibbern began. “Traditionally, with sales and things like that, you’re looking for people who have been at the farm, they’ve been at the manufacturing plant, they’ve been behind the butcher case. [Marketing] is the type of position where one can come without industry experience and build it up in a way that people may not be comfortable with yet in this industry for other roles.”
Bradley said marketing appeals to women for a variety of reasons, including healthy career decisions and role models. She started off sharing a statistic she saw that stated 60-70 percent of marketing-related roles are held by women.
“I think historically women made most of the purchasing decisions,” she said. “So there’s an appeal and a comfort with playing in that space…I think there’s a lot of great role models, there’s a lot of great leaders, there’s opportunities for women and it enables women to see a career path. And I think the other big reason is, just in general, women have tended to be socialized to have a lot of the skills that are core to what makes you a good marketer.”
The conversation then moved toward challenges the panelists have faced as women in the industry.
Langona said the struggle for her was first and foremost an internal one. She explained that when she started her first position with Albertsons, she already had a “great career within CPG.” She was surprised, however, by the aggressive learning curve she didn’t feel she would ever straighten out.
“I think one of the biggest obstacles is getting out of your own way, getting out of your head a little bit,” she said. “Lean on those around you…they don’t necessarily have to be women who are in the industry. They can be others within your career, within other functions. But there is a perception that if I never held a knife – if I was never behind the butcher case – that my recommendations, that my point of view, wasn’t as meaningful as the others that were sitting at the table.”
Bradley then explained some of the ways in which she has gotten herself a “seat at the table.” Self-confidence is key, according to Bradley, who said she first told herself that she “deserved a seat at the table.” And that’s something she recommended all women do.
For more information about the Annual Meat Conference, visit meatconference.com.
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