2 Minutes With ... Katie Williams, U.S. CMO at Haleon
Katie Williams is the U.S. CMO at Haleon (Formerly GSK Consumer Health). In this role, she works to shape the future of consumer experiences with brands like Advil, Sensodyne, Tums and EmergenC. She is a leader in CPG marketing with extensive experience and proven success in delivering growth, creative courage, digital transformation and employee development.
Katie joined Haleon in 2020 after 22 years with companies like Procter & Gamble (where she started her career in R&D), Kraft Foods and most recently, Mondelez, where she modernized consumer engagement across its North America portfolio as vice president of marketing transformation.
Katie earned a B.A. from Purdue University and an MBA from the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. She lives in Montclair, N.J., with her two sons—C.J. (12) and Chase (9)—and her husband Cameron, her husband of 19 years.
We spent two minutes with Katie to learn more about her background, creative inspirations and some recent work she's admired.
Katie, tell us...
Where you grew up and where you live now?
I was born in Milwaukee, went to Big 10 universities for undergraduate (Purdue University) and graduate school (University of Michigan Ross School of Business), and spent most of my adult life in Chicago. Ten years ago, we moved to Montclair, N.J.
How you first got interested in health?
Health is something I've always considered important, but like a lot of people really reflected on the meaningfulness of health during the pandemic. I was also at a point in my career where I wanted to have an impact on business and society. After spending 20+ years in food CPG, I got the call asking to be a part of the Haleon team. I couldn't pass it up and boy am I glad I didn't.
One of your favorite projects you've ever worked on, and why?
One that stands out for me is the Theraflu's "Rest and Recover" program. It was launched during a time when everyone was struggling to stay healthy and increasingly understood the importance of staying home to rest and recover if they came down with a cold or flu. Unfortunately, far too many Americans don't have access to paid sick leave ,and staying home is not an option for them. "Rest and Recover" was launched to drive awareness of this barrier, and we partnered with a nonprofit to provide micro grants to bridge the gap created by lack of sick leave. To date, we have given $350,000 in grants to families to ensure paid sick leave is a right, not a privilege.
One thing about how health is evolving that you're excited about?
As a result of the pandemic, we've seen a massive cultural shift toward people prioritizing proactive, preventative health and wellness measures and not just reactive symptom management. With such broad interest in self-care, we are seeing an explosion of self-care solutions. Products, technologies and social platforms are all serving consumers' needs to be more empowered with their personal health journey.
Someone else's work, in health or beyond, that you admired lately?
I love the Uber Eats OOH campaign launched during Ramadan this year in the U.K. It was such a smart mix of data, technology, inclusive insight driven creativity—and a brilliant use of a relevant channel. They created digital billboards that showcased culturally relevant recipes with dynamic copy that counted down in real time to the end of the daily fast. In today's marketing landscape it is so critical to break through with relevant and seamless solutions that create a meaningful and frictionless connection. Uber Eats nailed it.
A book, movie, TV show, or podcast you recently found inspiring?
I recently finished Viola Davis' memoir Finding Me. The raw honesty, vulnerability and personal triumph that poured out into every single page was incredible. She is someone who wasn't supposed to win, according to all traditional odds, but her light could not be extinguished, and she has made a life of breaking barriers. I really connect with that.
A visual artist or band/musician you admire?
Those who know me well know I am a huge Prince fan. His amazing talent, creativity, uncompromising bravery and uniqueness is what makes him an icon. What is there not to love?
Your favorite fictional character?
I love Shuri from the Black Panther. She is the younger sister of the Black Panther and is a brilliant scientist; I just love her energy and passion. I actually started my career as a scientist at Procter & Gamble, and although I have since moved on, I am still a big fan of women in STEM who are just killing it in their field.
Someone worth following on social media?
Sleep is one of my favorite things and I'm always trying to get more of it. We recently worked with Dr. Shelby Harris, a board certified sleep doctor, since we have a few different brands launching sleep-focused products, and I started following her on social media (@sleepdocshelby)—she is constantly sharing great tips and advice for how to get a better night's sleep.
Your main strength as a marketer/creative?
My main strength is that I am very comfortable leading with empathy. I come from a very diverse family, and as a result grew up understanding the power of inclusion. I have always been a curious person who is on a quest to understand what motivates people, what they care about, and how I can connect with them in a real and meaningful way. I like to shed light on those that may not always be seen, and marketing gives me a platform to do that.
Your biggest weakness?
Apocalyptic-themed movies or scripted series … once I start watching I just can't turn away. I have lost countless hours of precious sleep on a good apocalypse binge.
One thing that always makes you happy?
I love to spend time with my family. I have two boys that are 9 and 13 years old, and my husband of 19 years. We are a tight crew and really enjoy each other's company.
One thing that always makes you sad?
I dare anyone to watch an episode of This is Us without shedding buckets of tears … they had it down to a science.
Something people would find surprising about you?
Most people don't know that I was a scientist for a few years after completing my undergraduate degree at Purdue in biological sciences. I joined P&G as a products research scientist which is where I first became interested in consumer marketing.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in health?
I think I would find myself in the interior design world. It's a hobby of mine that I truly find joy in. There are a lot of synergies between marketing and interior design that you might not think of at first. For example, they both focus on the themes of curation and creation that deliver an output intended to make people think, feel and or act in a certain way.