This week, we shine a spotlight on Anthony Tripodo, commercial manager at Coles Media.
Describe a regular day for you at work.
I’m currently working as the commercial manager in the newly forming Coles Media Centre of Excellence Team. The team is being created to deliver stronger media campaigns for our supplier partners. Being a large cross-functional initiative, a regular workday for me is spent working collaboratively with my stakeholders to achieve the shared vision. The nature of my role requires me to think longer-term and therefore, some weeks I’ll be working on business cases to seek the CAPEX to deliver our long-term strategy, whilst in other weeks I’ll be working with media channel specialists to develop new commercial opportunities that drive growth for our supplier partners. This is a testament to why working at Coles is so great – the ability to work with some of the best people in the retail industry to find new and innovative ways to solve business problems.
If you could swap jobs with anyone in retail, who would it be and why?
To be honest, I wouldn’t swap jobs with someone at this moment in time and I’ll explain why. I’m only four years into my professional career since graduating from a Bachelor of Law (Honours) and Commerce (International Business) from Adelaide University.
I’m at critical point in my career where I’m developing the foundational soft and hard skills that will set me up for future success. The Coles graduate program provided me two great opportunities to accelerate my development by working directly with two of Australia’s leading Retailers – Thinus Keeve, chief of sustainability, property and exports officer and Lisa Ronson, chief marketing officer). This period demonstrated that a key driver of development is working for passionate leaders that are willing to teach and drive you to be the best you can be. It is the reason I sought out the opportunity to work alongside Kate Bailey, and now with some of Australia’s best media experts joining Coles to build a Retail Media business within Coles, I know my new team is going to place me in an environment that continues to challenge and develop me at an accelerated pace.
What’s your dream role? What would you like your ideal retail journey to look like?
I have a genuine passion for helping others succeed, mentoring and driving results, which is why my dream role would be in leadership. I see my journey involving both vertical and horizontal moves within different retail environments to ensure I’m exposing myself to different experiences. The types of roles I’ll be searching for are those with an X Factor – that is, those roles where you’re challenging the status quo and being exposed to situations not commonly found in BAU.
You started your career at Coles as a graduate. What have been some of the most interesting experiences that you’ve had since you joined the company?
The most interesting experience I’ve had at Coles is seeing firsthand how fast our team can deliver with pace and passion for a project that truly aligns with our Winning Together strategy.
The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation approached Coles with a new initiative known as Curing Homesickness. Curing homesickness brings children’s hospitals and paediatric services from across Australia together to raise funds and awareness. Money raised will help get kids home from hospital sooner by investing in vital funding needs such as innovative research, the latest equipment and amazing health professionals that provide care for sick kids.
To help bring this initiative alive, Coles was asked to develop and market a wholesome pasta sauce that embodied what children miss when they’re in hospital – a delicious home cooked meal. Typically, a new product launch from development to shelf can take between 12 to 18 months therefore, the challenge was to launch this new pasta sauce range in six months to align with the launch of Curing Homesickness. Teaming up with the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation, we developed what I consider to be a market-leader in the category – Mum’s Sause. Mum’s Sause is a Bolognese pasta sauce misspelt on purpose to reflect a young child’s spelling.
The six-month project required the support of nearly every team at Coles from community, merchandise, marketing, operations, own brand, range and space, supply chain, legal and technology. It was an incredible experience to lead the cross-functional team to find innovative ways to meet the project deadline.
Mum’s Sause in its launch month became the number one selling pasta sauce and continues to support the Curing Homesickness initiative with three more products added to the brand portfolio. For every Mum’s Sause product sold, Coles donates 50 cents to a children’s hospital or paediatric service in the state or territory where it was purchased, meaning money goes directly back to helping the local community. In FY21, Coles raised $2.5 million to support the initiative through the sale of Mum’s Sause products and fundraising appeals in Coles supermarkets where customers could purchase a $2 donation card.
What are some of the initiatives that you’ve led that you’re most proud of?
In such a fast-paced business, there are so many initiatives underway at any given point in time but two I’m most proud of is Digital Screens and Coles Media.
We know that our Coles supermarket store network reflects different customer segments with value meaning different things to different customers. The one-size-fits-all approach for all Australians through paper-based communications doesn’t enable our business to deliver personalised communication tailored to the different customer segments. As part of our marketing strategy to deliver more personalised communication to our customers, I led a cross-functional team to develop a strategy to enable near-real-time digital messaging in-store. The project deployed 65” digital screens at front-of-store, directly-facing the optimal flow of customer traffic. The screens are powered by a content management tool which over time will enable our business to customise rich and dynamic localised content that enriches our customers’ weekly shopping mission.
Coles has strong relationships with our supplier partners and a key part of that relationship is supporting their business growth plans through marketing campaigns. We’ve been working with our suppliers for many years in this space but given the removal of third-party cookies there is an opportunity for Coles to leverage its rich data to help add further value to our supplier partners media campaigns.
To achieve this, we’re establishing a Centre of Excellence in Coles to deliver the most seamless experience with their brands at Coles, enabling holistic campaign management across our strong media assets with the goal to deliver stronger results for supplier funded campaigns. I have been part of this project since its inception where it was just a thought bubble of how we deliver better experiences.
From here, I’ve worked alongside Kate Bailey (GM of Coles Group Media, sponsorships and events) to develop the business strategy and seen the project go through many stages. We are at an exciting point now where we’ve hired some notable external and internal talent and are building a team of Australia’s best media specialists to deliver a retail media business that drives growth for brands.
What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced during your career that you’ve overcome and what have you learnt from it?
To answer this, I need to take you back to the time when toilet paper was worth more than gold (figuratively). During this period, I learnt the importance of the short and long game of business from our chief marketing officer, Lisa Ronson. Lisa split our team up into two, those that were focused on the current situation (The Short Game) and those that were ensuring our business was ready to come out of the pandemic stronger than we entered it (The Long Game). I was focused on the long.
The challenge was to mobilise a team to focus on the future when we were surrounded with so much uncertainty with the present. The benefit we had was that our marketing team had laid the foundations of strong strategies pre-pandemic which didn’t mean they needed to go out the window, but rather reviewed based on the changing consumer behaviours we were witnessing. Working with our customer insights team, we deep dived into the changing behaviours to understand which ones would endure post-pandemic and pivot our existing plans to ensure our business was set up for success. This taught me that even during chaos and ambiguity in the global market, businesses cannot lose sight of their long-term vision and goals.
Why Anthony is one to watch in the retail industry
Lisa Ronson, Coles chief marketing officer: Anthony embodies everything we at Coles believe in about our graduate program – developing the future leaders of our business. One thing that is very obvious about Anthony is his genuine desire to get the best out of his teammates by working collaboratively to achieve a shared vision. He is a passionate, determined, and optimistic member of my team that is constantly finding new and innovative ways to solve problems. This is particularly evident in the successful delivery of the Curing Homesickness community partnership and the Coles Media strategy. I know Anthony has a bright future ahead of him and I look forward to seeing how he will further contribute to retail in Australia.