GSK’s long-awaited de-merger is set for early next month, when it will officially spin off its consumer health unit into a separate company, Haleon. MM+M spoke with Katie Williams, chief marketing officer of GSK Consumer Health, about the company’s plans for the launch as well as the future of consumer self-care. This interview has been edited lightly for length and clarity.
MM+M: Haleon says it plans to focus on social impact. What exactly does that mean?
WILLIAMS: The driving force for Haleon is rooted in our purpose, which is to deliver better everyday health with humanity. One of the things that was important for us was not that it’s just something we say, but that it’s also rooted in what we do and how we grow our business.
Our focus is on three key areas that we think are critically important for everyday health. One is to deliver better everyday health that’s more inclusive. What we learned during the pandemic is that there were significant disparities between people’s overall health. We want to make sure we’re taking recognition of that and bringing as many people along on the journey to everyday health as possible.
The second area of focus is making everyday health more achievable. Sometimes it’s not as easy as we’d like to achieve the health objectives and goals that we have. We definitely experienced that during the last couple of years. How can we build brands and businesses and products that help our consumers get to better everyday health with more ease? Not just products, but services that can deliver on that.
Finally, it’s about making everyday health more sustainable. There’s a clear link between the health of our planet and the health of people. We believe we have a responsibility to ensure that we’re caring for both in all the things that we’re doing. Yes, we have a very ambitious purpose and a reason for being – but there’s a practical approach to how we’ll do that, and it will lie with those three focus areas.
Can you provide some tangible examples of how some of these products or services will help people’s everyday health?
One great example is that we recently created and embedded a new end-to-end supply chain approach to how we are communicating and developing creative for our brands. Our agency partners and marketers need to represent the consumers we’re trying to serve. We’re ensuring that we’ve got inclusive practices and goals in place for having a representative team to build our brands.
We also looked at increasing our spend with diverse-owned and -operated media suppliers. This year alone in the U.S., we’ve increased our spend with those suppliers by more than 300% and expect to do that even more in the future.
Then we have goals in place to ensure that, behind the camera, we’re increasing representation of directors, producers and content developers so that the stories we’re telling are not only representative of a broader base of consumers, but they’re told with a level of understanding and empathy by having diverse creators involved in that process.
How about partnerships?
Recently with Theraflu, where we introduced the Rest and Recovery program, which was a micro-grant program developed in partnership with the Good+Foundation to help bridge the gap between Americans. Theraflu focuses on delivering a flu-safe world, but there was a recognition that not everybody has the opportunity to rest and recover. Twenty-five percent of Americans don’t have access to paid sick leave.
There’s been a shift of people moving toward self-care or at-home care, and monitoring their health at home, in tandem with a focus on preventive health. How does Haleon play into that?
Self-care has been growing for quite some time and we’re seeing that even post-peak of the pandemic. Those behaviors are continuing; people are more and more engaged in their own personal health.
We play into that by having a diverse portfolio across five different categories. We compete in upper respiratory, which is traditionally known as cold, cough, flu and allergy. We also have vitamins, minerals and supplements for our wellness category, which includes immunity with brands like Emergen-C or multivitamins like Centrum. We have oral health, which in our case is therapeutic oral health, where people are proactively managing either sensitive teeth or bleeding gums with brands like Parodontax and Sensodyne.
There’s also a significant intersection happening between not just products, but technology as an enabler to improving health. Some of the things we’re looking at is how we can serve this increased desire and need for self-care and this proactive care, but also how services can help people navigate that new world they’re trying to figure out.
A great example is Nicorette. We launched a platform called Quit.com where you can directly buy the Nicorette products to help you on your journey to quit smoking. But quitting smoking is incredibly hard. It takes the average person about seven times before they can actually permanently quit.
So we’re also providing services where people can sign up to support their quitting needs. We’re looking at building with a technology partner and developing behavioral science techniques that help them identify when cravings might be coming on.
What are some of the trends you’re monitoring for the rest of 2022 and beyond?
So much is evolving and, after the pandemic, some of the things that were emerging have just exploded. One example is the desire for seamless healthcare, which is fueled by a combination of technology and product. We’re paying a lot of attention to that and how we can not only think about the product needs of our consumers, but technology as an enabler to deliver a full, fully-immersive solution for consumers.
The other is personalized health. People recognize their bodies are different. For example, women at different stages of their life have different needs. We want to make sure we’re customizing products that represent that full spectrum of needs – leveraging data to help us connect with consumers with content and information that’s the most relevant to them.
Then there’s the next generation of consumers who are managing their own personal health as they go into adulthood, because younger and more diverse consumers are a critical part of anyone’s growth in any industry right now. We have to make sure we’re as inclusive as possible in the solutions and the innovation and the communication that we bring.
When Haleon formally launches next month, what should we look for?
I had the pleasure of being part of one of these separations before. I spent 20 years with the food company that ultimately separated out Kraft from Mondelez. It was an exciting day when we made that separation.
I’m looking forward to being able to do that again and I’m looking forward to being able to step into that new collective, purpose-driven agenda that we have to drive the business. It’s going to be a day where we are truly for the first time on our own. If you’re someone who is inspired by ownership and accountability, that’s going to be a great day to be able to have that full control of the wheel and deliver on our ambition of better everyday health.