How Digital Acceleration Teams Are Influencing Nestlé’s 2,000 Brands

Nestlé takes its social media digital vitamins.

Pete Blackshaw joined Nestlé, the world’s largest consumer goods company, as its global head of digital marketing and social media in February 2011— though he joshes that those two and a half years equal 20 years in social media time. Nestlé’s 2,000 brands, including household names like KitKat and Nescafé, have 170 million followers online. The company’s corporate Facebook page has more than 850,000 likes, although as of September the company itself had a relatively modest 22,000 Twitter followers in its @nestle feed.

Blackshaw is well known in digital marketing circles — he’s been at it since the 1990s, when he co-led digital marketing at Procter & Gamble. He’s also piloted a startup, PlanetFeedback.com, a consumer review site that ultimately became part of Nielsen Co. Most recently he was chief marketing officer at NM Incite, a joint venture between Nielsen and McKinsey.

One of Blackshaw’s first moves as global digital media head at Nestlé was to create a Digital Acceleration Team, a combination digital leadership training program and skunkworks for digital marketing projects at Nestlé. The 12 members of each class also are available to work on short-term projects that Nestlé units apply for. Then they return to their units, bringing with them what Blackshaw calls “digital vitamins” — a supplemental expertise that can be used to assist digital transformation in the graduate’s home unit.

Blackshaw’s role at Nestlé is unusual in that he reports into two heads of operations — Tom Buday, Nestlé’s Vice President of Marketing and Consumer Communication, and Rudolf Ramsauer, who runs corporate communications.

Is it important that you report to two departments?

I do. I think the potential of digital is its ability to bridge functions, soften silos, [and] make informal connections that you typically don’t have through reporting lines.

How did the Digital Acceleration Team come about?

We were inspired by hackathon culture. One of the first things I did was take executives out to Google and Facebook and Salesforce.com, companies with rapid innovation cycles, solving problems really fast, and leveraging digital vitamins along the way. It was very inspirational to us.

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