FIVE MINUTES with Katharine Newby Grant, Vice President, Beauty Care, Northern Europe, P&G

Katharine has almost two decades of leadership experience at P&G and is passionate about building brands that last. She will be speaking on why doing right by your consumer is going to become really important in the years and months ahead at Retail Connected. Here though, we dig a little deeper to get to know the real Katharine…

So how was 2020 for you?

A: 2020 was undoubtedly a year of huge challenge and huge change. For me, there were a lot of positives – I spent more time with my children and was able to become more involved in their school work; I saw much more of my husband, who is usually away on business for long periods of time; I was more easily able to fit in things like exercise, which I’m hugely passionate about, around my day job. In essence, I think 2020 was the year that time slowed down because we weren’t racing around from activity to activity. We did fewer things and were more in the moment.

That said, I desperately missed seeing my colleagues, family and friends. I found the winter months particularly challenging and was struck down by a bad bout of COVID-19 at the end of the year. I was immensely saddened to see and hear about the numerous difficulties that came as a result of the pandemic – from loneliness as a result of being unable to see loved ones, to businesses being forced to close and employees losing their jobs, to our fantastic health service being placed under increasing pressure. 

I am naturally an optimistic person, and I believe that better times are ahead, but that the challenges of the pandemic have fundamentally changed us all.

What do you love the most about working in FMCG?

I am incredibly fortunate to work with a truly fabulous group of people, many of whom want to be in the FMCG business for its combination of offering up a dynamic, competitive and thrilling working environment with the ability to enact positive change within society. I love the fast pace, the rapid change, the innovation, the influence of emerging trends – and then taking this all together in order to create products that touch, and improve, people’s lives.

Can you tell us about a particularly pivotal moment in your career? A time you can look back on now and think ‘yes, that was the instant everything changed for me’?

Gosh, that is a big question! But I think there are three key moments that stand out to me. The first was when I moved to our regional headquarters in Geneva to work on Head & Shoulders. I look back on that time now and recognise that it’s where I truly learned my craft by having the opportunity to work on a brand that had been hugely successful for decades. Working on Head & Shoulders was the epitome of the ‘marketing schoolbook’.

The second was when I accepted a new role as Media Director in our Northern Europe business. At the time, media was fully disrupting itself and in the midst of a digital overhaul. I had the opportunity to run P&G’s first media pitch in 25 years. That experience was truly eye-opening, and an amazing example of being thrust into a totally new, rapidly evolving area of our business and learning on-the-job.

Finally, I wanted to mention the moment when I took on my current role. Today, I am both Vice President of Marketing in Northern Europe and lead our Beauty business. Part of my role involves heading up our Northern Europe Brand Function, which is both an honour and a privilege. I’ve come to realise that my work is no longer about me – it is about the legacy of the organisation I can nurture and grow for the future.

Looking back, if you could ask your younger self to give your current self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Be brave. When I was younger, I had this overriding belief that people were invincible, that anything is possible, and that you will only ever come to regret the things you don’t do. So, I’d ask my younger self to remind my current self never to let go of that. To take risks, to jump into the unknown and see where it takes you. To bravely step forwards without fear of failure.

Looking forward, what do you predict the high street will look like in 10 years’ time?

My hope is that the high street returns to being a thriving and bustling area of commerce. I think retailers will need to focus squarely on providing an experience for their customers, and I hope we see the world of online and offline merge as we move into an omnichannel world. If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it’s that real-life, human experiences are something that we all need. Perhaps it has even restated the importance of the high street within British society.

Finally, can you tell us what will make your talk at Retail Connected unmissable?

My talk at Retail Connected is about doing right by your consumer, which is something that all of us need to deliver on. We’re living in a world that is changing at rapid pace for our consumers, and we need to change with them. 

At P&G, we believe that there are three critical steps involved in doing right by your consumer – doing your research, establishing an intuitive link between a brand and a cause, and then bringing this to life throughout your business. Doing so will not only benefit your business or brands, but society at large.

You can watch Katharine’s talk at 3.30pm on 29th of April as part of Retail Connected.