Life Is Short; Make a Difference


Citing Darden alumni as a “critical component of our company’s growth,” General Mills’ senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Mark Addicks, told Darden School of Business students to “be the change you want to see.” Addicks’ presentation was part of Darden’s Leadership Speaker Series.

“You’re entering an exciting world, and the defining characteristic we’re looking for is the ability to lead change,” said Addicks. “We look for people who are the most agile and who can lead change in a positive and inspirational way.”

Addicks began his career at General Mills in 1988 and was promoted to his current position in 2007. He says six life lessons have guided his work:

  • Start with the end in mind – “Define a relevant consumer benefit that your brand can uniquely own.”
  • Be different – “We launched ads in social media and blogs.”
  • Be authentic – “Co-create with your customers by allowing them to give feedback through testing of new products; identify brand champions around whom you can focus a marketing campaign (e.g., Josh for the snack food Fruit by the Foot and Charlie for the Lucky Charms cereal).
  • Be empathetic - “Understand your customers, know your brand champions and build empathy around who the champion is.”
  • Be provocative – “Inspire, dream.”
  • Be there – “Have passion for your work; be ‘on.’

General Mills, the world’s 6th largest food company, is marketed in more than 100 countries and has over 30,000 employees. Addicks noted the various ways in which the company has enhanced its brand identity through its charitable work, such as the Boxtops for Education program that has raised more than $300,000 for 96,000 enrolled K-8 schools since it began in 1996. Since 2001, its Yoplait yogurt has been the national presenting sponsor of the Susan G. Komen “Race for the Cure” series worldwide road races and has contributed over $14 million to help fight breast cancer.
The stated mission of General Mills is nourishing lives, communities and the future, and Addicks says he chose to work there because the brands make a difference; the brands differentiate and connect; and the company allows him to be himself 24/7.

Founded in 1955, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business improves society by developing principled leaders in the world of practical affairs.

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