Kraft’s Anderson Takes Different Tack At ANA Conference

Offers big picture thoughts on change instead of case histories

Dana Anderson didn't follow the brief.

Asked by Bob Liodice, CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, to present practical examples of brand problems and solutions, Anderson, svp of marketing strategy and communications at Kraft Foods, instead offered acerbic thoughts on how to think and act differently.

Speaking Friday during the ANA's annual Masters of Marketing conference in Phoenix, Anderson illustrated how a historically left-brain company like Kraft has embraced intuition and risk-taking. It was telling that her sole agency shoutout was for Droga5, a relatively recent Kraft player that works on a handful of new and up and coming brands.

Earlier presentations, from Walmart's Stephen Quinn and AT&T's Esther Lee, may have been more polished and on-point, but Anderson's elicited laughter, applause, and knowing glances. She lightheartedly acknowledged resistance to change within Kraft, mimicking the worried voice of a finance executive. Ultimately, she asserted that Kraft had become more flexible and experimental under the leadership of CEO Irene Rosenfeld.

Anderson described Kraft's transformation as "leaping," noting that it requires leaders with "high goals and freedom." In particular, she mentioned an executive who literally hands blank checks to employees who need support for innovative ideas. When some within Kraft pushed back on the practice, the executive met with Rosenfeld, according to Anderson.

"She said, 'Is it working for you?'" Anderson recalled. And when the exec nodded, Rosenfeld replied: "Keep going."

Of course, Kraft hasn't seen the fruits of all its experimentation just yet. Like any major corporation, change comes relatively slowly and results are uneven. Maybe that's why Anderson opted to go big picture Friday. Still, the basis for reinvention is clear.

"We live in a V.U.C.A. world," Anderson said, using an acronym for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Anderson went even further to suggest that change can be fun. And when Liodice, channeling his inner James Lipton, asked Anderson the same question he's asking all presenters (what's the one lesson you'd like attendees to take away from your presentation?), Anderson cajoled rather than dictated.

Summing up her call for using intuition, experimenting, constantly learning and being flexible, Anderson said, "Oh, give it a try. C'mon. You're going to love it and it's going to make a difference."