Pilar Hermida (Madrid, 1980) took over as head of communications at Grupo Dia last March, after seven years as dircom of HEINEKEN Spain, to help improve the brand of a group that is breathing new life into itself after undergoing a long and thorough operational and reputational overhaul.
The chief communication officer of Grupo Dia leads a department with presence in the Management Committee, which coordinates communication in its four business units (Spain, Argentina, Brazil and Portugal). In Spain, where 60% of the business is concentrated, she is responsible for a team of four professionals: an external communications manager (Raquel González), a corporate communications manager (Ainhoa Murga), an internal communications manager (Paloma Lorenzo) and an internal communications specialist (Isabel María Usero).
Ogilvy España is the agency that supports Dia in corporate communications and has collaborated with Kreab on a regular basis. Hermida is available for DIRCOMFIDENCIAL at the Group’s office in Las Rozas (Madrid).
What is your assessment of these first months at the helm of Dia Group’s communications?
Very positive. After a convulsive moment we had in 2019, in which the company’s business is being rethought, we are working on a new operational and strategic approach to the organization. We have focused on working on what makes us unique, which is proximity, being the neighborhood store and offering an accessible shopping proposal.
In these two and a half years, Dia has done its homework, first through a solid storydoing, to now move on to a storytelling phase. It has been in these months, with my arrival, where we have seen tangible evidence, such as the renovation of our stores, the new brand proposal, the reorganized logistics of arrival at the point of sale, the transformation of the franchise model and local purchases or e-commerce, that it is time to tell the story. This is where the Communication Department comes into play.
It is a valuable moment for someone who is in communication, because you are not talking about promises, but about tangible evidence, such as the fact that 68% of our stores have been renovated, or the launch of 2,700 new products in these two and a half years, at a rate of 7 new Dia brand products every week. We have done an enormous amount of work to renew the brand, which has a more informal and casual tone, with a focus on quality. We are no longer the one offering the lowest price; we position ourselves as a supermarket with affordable prices, enormous quality and in your neighborhood store that facilitates easy and quick shopping.
“Dia is not a Russian company.”
On that road to restructuring, Dia collides with an unprecedentedly turbulent context, with the pandemic, inflation or the war in Ukraine with a significant Russian stamp on its shareholding. How do you manage all these reputational challenges?
Uncertainty is the new certainty. Throughout my twenty years working in Communications, I believe I have never had moments without challenges. It is true that now they are complex challenges, some of them new, such as the pandemic I managed in the past, or now inflation or war. Fortunately, we are the retail chain with the largest number of stores in Spain offering a complete assortment and we have seen that the customer has been supporting us, which is the best indicator of whether a certain complex situation or link to a Russian shareholder has had any impact. During this time, we have not seen any impact on sales; people continue to go to their local Dia store.
We are a Spanish company, headquartered in Madrid and listed on the Spanish stock exchange. With a team of 23,000 people in Spain of 79 nationalities, a Management Committee of which I am a member and none of which is Russian; with a CEO who is Argentinean, Martin Tolcachir, and a non-executive chairman, Stephan DuCharme, who is American and German. When you go to your local Dia store, you are served by the usual butcher or cashier and they are not Russian. That said, the company is 77% owned by an investment fund, LetterOne. Of that capital, 33% belongs to a sanctioned Russian investor who has all his dividends frozen and we do not have any kind of dialogue with him. That person was the one who had bet on the company at the time.
We have recently seen some supermarket chains that – more or less tactfully – seek to support or stage customer support in the face of inflation. What does Dia want to communicate in this regard?
We are always on the side of the customer, who right now is living in a very complex situation. We empathize and are making every effort to ensure that inflation has as little impact as possible on the pockets of our consumers. We have a very good quality own brand, we are working hard to offer discounts, promotions and coupons through Club Dia, of which 13 million customers in Spain are part and for which 130 million euros have been invested this year. We are not the ones offering the most expensive prices, nor are we the ones with the greatest margin for price increases, and we continue to work on this.
“We have unified the entire graphic and verbal identity of the company.”
Another challenge is to align the brand in all your stores under a unique franchise model. How are you working on this objective?
It is a particularly complex challenge, because retail is a very delocalized sector. Grupo Dia is a company that has a strong and solid respect for local diversity. In fact, we operate in two Spanish-speaking countries and two Portuguese-speaking countries, and we speak the local language. In internal communications, for example, we send communications in Spanish and Portuguese; we do not send them in English.
The whole commercial strategy depends on the country, we work hand in hand, aligned. Now we are trying to bring corporate communication closer to commercial communication. For example, corporately there was a logo that is in capital letters, different from that of the stores. As a company, it didn’t make sense to have a corporate logo and a commercial logo if in the end you work with a single identity. We have unified all the company’s graphic and verbal identity, which is the tone and style of communication. In addition, in our tone and style guide we have incorporated a chapter on how to speak with inclusive language in communications.
In relation to franchisees, they are new partners and companions in this beautiful journey of conquering proximity wherever we operate. We have revised our winning model, we encourage employment and self-entrepreneurship and we can proudly say that half of our stores are already franchised.
“Leading the proximity discourse is our guiding light”.
What are your medium-term objectives in the Communication department?
My great ambition this year has been to establish a communication framework for the company. To work on the narrative, the manual, so that the organization and different countries are nourished by this framework. Looking ahead to 2023, we want to accelerate our reputation, we have started this year laying the foundations and in 2023 we hope to start reaping the fruits of this new framework to pass it on to our stakeholders. We want to accelerate our reputation and lead the proximity discourse. When you think of Dia, we want you to associate it with the proximity and quality store. Leading this discourse is our guiding light.