Kraft Foods CEO That Was Then, This Is Now

Kraft Foods CEO That Was Then, This Is Now

Kicking off Nielsen’s Consumer 360 conference in Las Vegas, Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman and CEO of Kraft Foods addressed the ways reaching consumers have changed significantly over the last twenty years and how the Internet and social media are increasingly important components of overall marketing strategies.

Previously, brands acted as teachers, according to Rosenfeld. Marketing was designed to build an image around a brand with the expectation that consumers would be attracted to it; they would aspire to the brand. Today, that “paradigm is upside down,” as brands want to learn from consumers and find ways to connect with them.

One way to do that is to find shared values. Kraft’s Hockeyville campaign in Canada builds on a national passion by reaching consumers across the country and engaging them with the Kraft brand in a new way. Co-sponsored by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association, Hockeyville enables towns and cities to compete for the chance to host a pre-season NHL game in their community, as well as win $100,000 to upgrade local sporting facilities. The campaign crosses all of the major media – print, TV and the Internet – and enables consumers to create their own stories. Unlike traditional marketing efforts, Kraft is not the main event: consumers are the focus and the brand is simply a facilitator. “It’s amazing seeing people waving boxes of mac and cheese at a sporting event, but it warms my heart,” said Rosenfeld.

Rosenfeld also discussed how in the past, marketers would debate whether a campaign should be emotional or functional. Today, that debate doesn’t occur: campaigns serve both purposes, with culture added to the mix. Using the resurgence of Miracle Whip to highlight this trend, Rosenfeld outlined how market research – particularly Internet mining – enable the company’s marketers to find a core group of young, passionate and loyal fans for the sandwich spread: males, age 18-34. Using this information, Kraft marketers sought to make Miracle Whip part of contemporary culture with quirky, fun TV commercials which led to the campaign’s mention by Stephen Colbert. A mock “Sandwich Spread Smackdown” ensued, and Kraft strategically bought all of the advertising around one the show’s episodes. Further updating the brand was placement within Lady Gaga’s hit video “Telephone” — a video that was viewed more than 38 million times on YouTube, and the once-staid brand is adding market share in North America.

Another way marketing has changed is that in the 1980s and 90s, brands sought to reach consumers by appealing to individuality. Today, brands seek to build relationships with people, appealing to “us” as opposed to “me.”

Five Key Takeaways:

  1. Yesterday – Brands were teachers: Brands had a one directional lesson to teach consumers.

    Today – Brands are students: We need to sit back listen and learn; ask consumers to help create the stories.

  2. Yesterday – Take it or leave it: A mentality of brand superiority ruled

    Today – Shared values matter more than selling proposition: Successful campaigns speak directly to consumer’s sentiment.

  3. Yesterday – Brands were either functional or emotional. Brands were either one or the other – not both.

    Today – Brands are functional, emotional + cultural: We no longer need to choose. Digital means you connect all three levels.

  4. Yesterday – It’s all about me: Brands were marketed toward individuality.

    Today – It’s all about us: It isn’t about “I”; it’s about “we.” Successful brand’s help build relationships with friends and families.

  5. Yesterday – They need us: Brands told consumers why they needed the brand.

    Today – We need them: Brands need consumers more than consumers need brands.

Speaking to the importance of mining insights and using research, Rosenfeld outlined the missing tools in the brand toolbox.

  1. Need deeper consumer understanding: Know your consumers like your family
  2. Need new measurement tools:  Understand which tactics work, which don’t and why in real time.
  3. Need to tap into social and cultural values: Discover what is going on in consumer’s minds and find real ways to make consumer’s lives richer and more meaningful.

In closing, Rosenfeld noted that people are consuming 350% more data than thirty years ago, reading 100,000 more words a day outside of work and that 24 hours of video is loaded every minute on YouTube to demonstrate how things are changing faster than ever before. Brands have to adapt to this environment if they want to continue to be successful. “Let’s get going,” concluded Rosenfeld.

Nielsen’s annual Consumer 360 conference makes the connections between content and commerce to provide the most innovative and insightful view of the new consumer. The event is being held in Las Vegas this year.

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