‘Something Special Inside. ’ Whether you’re trying to get hired, walking into headquarters, or looking at any piece of informational material, this slogan will always be seen. Yet what it means is very mysterious. It doesn’t tell you the market or product, you don’t know what is actually special, and it could really be used for a multitude of companies. Nonetheless, every single employee knows it by heart and comes across it every day. Welcome to Dannon. The world leader in fresh dairy products, Danone is the French parent company of the brand named Dannon in the United States.
While mostly known to Americans for its extensive yogurt line, some more familiar with the company also recognize it for its line of waters, such as Evian and Volvic. There exist several main dairy companies, specifically dealing with yogurt, but only this one has a mission statement of bringing health to the greatest number of people across America. As a past summer marketing intern for the company, I believe it is this statement that differentiates the company from any others, and is what truly makes employees yearn to be the best.
When there is a sense of health and doing good, employees naturally enjoy working for the company more; they feel a sense of well-being that one cannot get from working for any other establishment where the key role is marketing or selling as much product to a consumer as possible. Being happy while doing this work directly leads to its great sense of culture, which is crucial in helping to achieve the alliance with its vision for a healthier society. Having become a massive player in the yogurt arena with a full lineup of yogurts for every target and functional need and occasion, Dannon stands tall and strong as a leader.
However, its biggest threat still remains among existing competitors as well as new key entrants. To clearly identify this, let’s look at a fairly recent example of the emergence of Greek yogurt. Essentially several years back, Greek yogurt was nothing and hardly anyone knew about it. But then in 2005 with the introduction of newly founded Chobani and it being first to market with the trend, Greek yogurt took off. Dannon had not entered the market, thinking at the time that this was a new company that had a much smaller insights & analysis team; no way was Greek yogurt going to become the next big thing.
But unfortunately for Dannon and its research, Greek yogurt did quite literally revolutionize the industry, forcing Dannon to enter the market late. While getting into the dairy industry is extremely difficult and requires a lot of capital, resource, and knowledge, as shown by this example, Chobani did it, and they did it quite well. That is why looking at current times, Dannon is much more aware of PepsiCo’s entrance into the US yogurt sector this year with German yogurt brand Muller, no matter how strong Dannon thinks it may already be in the United States.
Overall, Dannon is a fantastic place to work. Down the road, I can definitely see myself working in its marketing department in the brand management field. But the reason it stands out in my mind is not because I love yogurt or am a natural fan of the company, but is because of the way the organization is run and how the culture is portrayed and actually enacted. With several larger and potentially ‘better’ US consumer packaged goods companies to work for like Unilever, L’Oreal, or Proctor & Gamble, Dannon stands as the smaller and less looked upon company.
But where it loses in industry size or value of sales revenue, it makes up for in its structure and how things get done. The company’s organizational chart looks like any other normal consumer package goods company’s org chart. Focusing on the marketing department, at the very top is the CEO of the company leading to the SVP of marketing, and then the Directors. Below the Director of each team are a few people: the Senior Brand Manager, the Brand Manager, and an Assistant Brand Manager. So while this is a fairly basic vertical structure, compared to the bigger firms, this setup is not as intensive and requires less political bureaucracy.
By utilizing an open office layout and encouraging interaction between all, employees feel fully comfortable walking over to whomever they need to reach, even if they are on a different tier of the management level. Being the youngest member of the team as just a summer intern and coming in at only twenty years old, I too interacted with the SVP of marketing on a daily basis. He would pass by my desk all the time and we would go out to lunch – with him getting into my car and me driving.
What truly sets the stage as to how friendly upper management is, is the story of how I met this head of marketing, which was actually in the bathroom while washing our hands next to each other. He introduced himself to me and welcomed me as an intern. I personally do not know many other heads of a company who would do the same, which ultimately successfully reflects the nature of such a company strategy. On top of all of this, Dannon also has a very structured way of making sure this organization and culture persists. Before beginning work, every single employee has to go through a special CODE and HOPE training.
But this isn’t any routine or boring training. Dannon employees hold this near and dear to their hearts. After only a summer, I feel like I will remember these methods for the remainder of my life. So what exactly do these words stand for? The culture and leadership based strategy, or CODE, stands for committed, open, doer, and empowered. One should be committed to inspire and be the “vision,” open to listen with empathy and talk straight, take responsibility and show the way forward as a doer, and be empowered to engage and align teams.
The values based strategy, or HOPE, stands for humanism, openness, proximity, and enthusiasm. While my short form explanation does display these strategies, I cannot even begin to emphasize how significant they are to the employees in keeping themselves in appropriate behavior and the rest of the company in top notch. You have to enter within the walls of the company to clearly see it, but once you do, you experience it like no other and begin to truly understand: Dannon’s mission, strategy, structure, culture, and employees, all of which encompass the company, are what really make up the ‘something special inside. ’