This is a tough time for consumer packaged-goods companies, but Kraft isn’t going to let cheaper private label competitors eat its lunch. In fact, Kraft is using the economy as an impetus to steal business from others, like pizza delivery firms and soda peddlers. As CMO for the company, Mary Beth West is behind a lot of these initiatives, plus the company’s high-profile logo change last week. In an interview with Brandweek, West talked about the logo, private label and foxhunting, among other things.
Brandweek: What exactly is this new logo and corporate identity for Kraft that you announced at Cagny on Tuesday?
Mary Beth West: For us, it’s really the opportunity to define, unite and inspire the employees of Kraft Foods around a single purpose and a set of values and behaviors that really will be global in nature and provide the opportunity for us to have both clarity of purpose and a reason why we all show up every morning.
BW: How did the idea for this new logo come about? Why create a new logo and corporate identity in the first place?
MW: It’s a very logical next step in our turnaround as we continue to define the new Kraft Foods and grow it to become a top-tier performance company. The process and the journey that we took to arrive at it was completely collaborative. It was a combination of getting input from employees and consumers, and really taking a look at several top companies both inside and outside of the consumer packaged goods industry to understand high performance culture.
BW: And why the emphasis on ‘delicious?’ Certainly, you could have chosen anything else.
MW: We believe that with our portfolio of products and our positioning as the second largest food company in the world, that you cannot really stick another food company’s name into that line and have it resonate as well as Kraft’s does. We believe it will help guide and form our business decisions going forward.
We love the fact that delicious works on many levels. It’s not just about our food and the way our products taste. That, of course, comes first, but it’s also about the recipes we deliver and the different ways we deliver them. It supports the work we do, in terms of the huge range of healthy lifestyles [our products offer.] All that is work we view to be delicious in nature.
BW: Why separate the Kraft corporate and brand identity?
MW: At the end of the process, when we [decided on the slogan], “Make today delicious,” we looked at our corporate identify . . . We felt there was an opportunity to really reinvent the corporate identity and have it be a visual manifestation of make today delicious.
Our goal was to acknowledge our past, but to do it in a way that was very forward-looking. The new logo is energetic and has a vibrancy and energy to it that truly delivers on [the meaning of “make today delicious”].
BW: Kraft nearly doubled its profits in its 3Q earnings report. Its latest earnings quarter, however, saw profits drop by 72 percent. Analysts I’ve talked to said this is a result of consumers trading down, retailers cutting back and, most notably, private label’s gains. What steps has Kraft taken to combat the surge of private label?
MW: As [our CEO, Irene Rosenfeld], said in her remarks, it really is about a continued investment in our quality and innovation and [product] varieties, and we will continue to support our core brands in a way that we believe adds value to consumers and delivers in delicious ways.
BW: Which segments of the business are you focused on growing right now?
MW: We’re always focused on driving our key brands and it really is about helping them remain competitive and relevant in this current economic situation.
[On the earnings call], Irene talked a bit about some of our brands which are clearly on trend in this kind of environment: Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese and Velveeta, which both provide delicious, home cooked meals. At this point, we’re focused on growing all of our key brands.
BW: What challenges does an economic downturn present to a marketer like Kraft and how are you embracing those challenges?
MW: Clearly in this environment, where consumers are looking to stretch every dollar as far as possible, we’ve done an excellent job of serving up some of our brands in a fresh way with a value proposition that consumers find appealing. With Kraft’s “DiGiornonomics” campaign, we positioned DiGiorno as a brand against carry-out [pizza] and delivery. We’ve positioned our Kraft Singles business as pocket change for a grilled cheese sandwich, and Kool-Aid against soda with our “more smiles per gallon” value message. We’re getting in-market results by giving consumers a conscious value proposition.
BW: Tell us one fun fact about yourself.
MW: I used to be a foxhunter. It wasn’t a live hunt. It was a drag hunt. I grew up in upstate New York. I don’t do it anymore, only because there’s not much foxhunting in Chicago.
BW: In between your two full-time jobs—CMO of Kraft Foods and mom to three kids—how do you find the time to cook?
MW: Sunday afternoons I will cook a couple of things for the week. I tend to make a lot of one-dish meals. I like to have nights that are destination nights, so taco night, pizza night. When you’ve already framed it up as a cuisine type (and I use that word loosely with my kids), it makes it a little bit easier.
BW: Favorite Kraft Foods product?
MW: I do love our Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese. It is a product that I make and doctor up and call it my own. I’ll pair it with roasted chicken, sprinkle a little cayenne pepper on top (not on the kids’ side, though. They don’t care for it), and they really love it. It doesn’t take long to make, at most, 20 minutes.