Kellogg’s recently promoted corporate communications director is clearly committed to the ‘eat sensibly and exercise’ mantra he has been eulogising since he joined Kellogg’s in 2004. He also has places to go and people to meet – and little time in between.
Wermann is friendly, relaxed, and because of the relatively balmy nature of the morning, suggests we conduct the interview outside. It adds to the impression that he is content with his lot.
He talks in a very businesslike manner, which is fitting, given he now has a place on the Kellogg’s UK board. But he has been somewhat taken aback by the amount of baiting the company has received from the healthy-eating lobby, but defends the brand vociferously.
‘Kellogg’s has been serving the UK since the 30s,’ he says. ‘The only changes it has made have been to improve the healthiness of its cereal.’
His board-level status, which he says was given to him because the company realised the importance of messaging in all of its business decisions, has allowed Wermann to completely reinvigorate Kellogg’s comms output. ‘The board supported me changing the way we did things, they realised the landscape had changed,’ he reveals.
Much like technology giant Apple, Kellogg’s had, until recently, been renowned for putting up the shutters and refusing to deal with the press. Now, it could not be more accommodating.
But the press office is not the only way Wermann reaches his customers. ‘People read cereal boxes more than any other form of packaging,’ he says. ‘We dedicate a third of the back of our boxes to messages about eating sensibly and active lifestyles. That means I’ve got a huge space with which to communicate with every single customer that buys our cereal.’
It is a unique position. And although not reflected in Kellogg’s snack business, where the packaging is clearly not pored over to the same extent it is with cereals, it gives Wermann scope to talk about the firm’s CSR campaigns, such as its long association with British swimming.
Wermann’s peers have only kind things to say about him and he comes across as a multi-faceted character – something that is reflected in his CV. The reason he has comms experience in various disciplines, he says, is due to a highly structured career path. ‘My first boss told me that I had to learn all the disciplines of PR if I wanted to be good. So that’s what I did.’
He applies this structured approach to the business as well. Realising the impact negative stories concerning healthy eating could have on Kellogg’s, Wermann is active within the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which, he claims, has responded positively to the health lobby.
‘It’s important Kellogg’s has a strong voice,’ he says. ‘We’re not there [active within the FDF] to chat, we have something to say and constructive ideas to bring to the table.’
One of the ideas Wermann is bringing to the table concerns his own company and the sensible-eating message that he is keen to promote.
‘We were the first company to put Guideline Daily Allowances (GDAs) on our packs,’ he says.
Kellogg’s is soon to implement a ‘portion awareness’ campaign, which will aim to give customers a clear idea of how much they should be eating, without them having to refer to potentially confusing statistics and tables. It is an example of the comms team taking heed of customer needs.
At which point he sneaks a glance at his watch, but he is gracious enough to continue talking until he has to run off – quite literally.
There is sound reasoning behind Wermann’s decision to pack so much in to the day. The 42-year-old likes to keep the weekends free to lark around on his boat in Henley-on-Thames with his wife and his three young children.
‘I actually met my wife at the PRWeek awards,’ he reveals. ‘So all of this is your fault.’
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