Building a foresight team and culture at Mars Wrigley

One of our most anticipated virtual events, the MRMW Virtual Summit 2022 will be gathering researchers across Europe and Asia Pacific on July 6-7. Speakers from global brands will share the latest trends and developments with the market research community. In preparation for the event, we had the chance to interview Joanna Lepore, Global Foresight Lead Associate Director, Mars Wrigley on her upcoming presentation. Her core message covers the importance of foresight and viewing the business strategy in a futuristic lens.

Joanna Lepore, Mars Wrigley | foresight | research and insights | mrmw virtual summit

MRMW Summit: Firstly, what is the core message of your talk and what would you like our delegates to remember?

Joanna: A lot of people in the industry are talking about foresight. Companies are trying to either implement it in their business – as a dedicated resource or as a capability. Or they are trying to simply understand what it is and why everyone is buzzing about it. In my talk I’ll be sharing why that’s happening (it’s for good reason!). I’ll speak on our journey of building a foresight team and culture at Mars Wrigley. At the same time, share my perspective of how everyone can and should employ futures thinking, tools and skills to better prepare for the future.

MRMW Summit: As a Global Foresight Leader, how do you see the future of the research and insights industry?

Joanna: The pandemic has definitely put a spotlight on research and insight leaders to be able to answer critical business questions that really shift the dial. Not just in validating hypotheses, but in more deeply understanding macro environmental factors at play. The insights industry is now also moving faster on problems and getting sharper on business recommendations because of this. It is my hope that we start to build futures thinking in to compliment our need to look in areas we don’t normally look. As well as, think critically about what we see, with the ultimate goal of being more proactive.

MRMW Summit: How has your organization / industry managed to overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic and other crises?

Joanna: One thing to note is that we are not out of the woods yet and won’t be for a little while! Challenges arise daily for our industry and the only certainty is uncertainty. What our industry has done really well to get through this is in very quickly pivoting to be less focused on the survival mode of leaning in to ‘how we’ve always done things’ and focus on ‘what our customer needs right now’. The push to better understand the human beings we serve is coming to life right across our food industry and snacking categories. Both in meeting their shorter term needs and in thinking about how we can help them build to longer term aspirations.

The best thing I have seen from my company, Mars, during that time is in prioritizing our employees all around the world. As a family owned private company we think in generations not quarters. The support provided by both our Mars family and our leaders during the last few years has provided stability and reassurance. Where there may not have been much of that in our lives. We know from our foresight work this is precisely what’s needed right now in the world. People need to be put first and put themselves first. Whether we’re talking about how I manage tumultuous times through snacking, or what larger impact I want to have on the world through how I make my living.

MRMW Summit: Mars is now pioneering Foresights and Agile Innovation (two of the core focus areas at our summit), with dedicated and well-established teams. How much of a role has the company’s culture played in this?

Joanna: I love the idea that we are pioneering in this space! While Mars has had a focus on long term futures and innovation for a while now in our well established categories, it’s the first time we’ve resourced a team within Mars Wrigley to accelerate our journey towards being truly future-ready and adaptable for innovative growth. This came right at the time of our reinventing Consumer and Market Insights into Human Intelligence. With the structure and tools in play to support that transition. So that change is incredibly linked to the company culture.

Mars has 5 Principles foundational to how we do business. These are lived everyday in our decision making. The first principle – our commitment to Quality – is all about our impact on the consumer. The ability to better meet their needs, by more deeply understanding them not as a point of transaction but as a human being, is at the heart of resourcing these two teams that can help our broader business better meet their future needs, values and goals, and to make sure we’re always relevant in their lives.

MRMW Summit: What motivates you to join MRMW Virtual Summit and what are your expectations?

Joanna: One of the most exciting things about the Summit for me is that it’s truly global. Having been born in Poland, lived in Australia most of my life, and now moved to the United States, I understand the need to tailor insights to market cultures. There is richness in the nuance there. But I also think there is so much to learn from one another. The similarities between our markets, the need for global impetus on larger scale issues, and the ability to glean insights from our differences. The topics and speakers at the event allow us to do all of that . MRMW also provides a sophisticated lens over really meaty and pivotal topics for our industry.

MRMW Summit: Apart from having a busy role at Mars  in your foresight role, you are also a popular podcast host with your fantastic show ‘Future Imagined’. It brings the insights and foresight community together and educating fellow researchers through the talks. How do you find the time and what motivates you to do it?

Joanna: Thank you for the compliment! I certainly never planned to start a podcast, or two for that matter. I have actually just launched a second podcast exploring fresh ideas in business – Looking Outside. But it’s also not something I stumbled into. I wanted to find a way of doing two things really intentionally. Bringing some fresh thinking into our business and building collaboration within our industry. The podcast gives me that forum and so much more. My podcasts – along with any events I am part of – have energized people who think and feel the same way.

We have a lot of challenges ahead of us. While we won’t solve for all of them, we can start by learning from one another. We can also go a little deeper in how we look at the problem in the first place. I hope the people attending the Summit are curious enough to check them out and get in touch!


Do you want to hear about the latest innovations, trends, and techniques in market research? Join Joanna Lepore alongside speakers from GoogleTikTokReckitt, LEGOMicrosoftHPMondelez, DanoneHSBC, Linkedin, Allianz, Gojek and many more top-of-the-line companies at MRMW Virtual Summit 2022.

foresight | research and insights | mrmw virtual summit

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