Campbell’s Mark Clouse on Keeping a 150-Year-Old Brand Relevant

The CEO says canned goods deserve more respect

Headshot of Campbell Soup Company's CEO Mark Clouse
Campbell's CEO Mark Clouse wishes canned goods got more respect.
Campbell Soup Company

Campbell Soup Company president and CEO Mark Clouse joined the brand in January 2019, becoming just the 14th leader in its 150-year history.

Earlier this month, Clouse gathered with employees from New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange as part of the brand’s anniversary celebration, which will continue for several months.

“Campbell Soup Company was born from a simple idea: to make delicious and affordable food, accessible to all. One hundred and fifty years later, we’re still staying true to this notion,” the brand wrote in its anniversary retrospective.

Clouse, a 20-year veteran of Kraft, recently sat down with Adweek to talk about the Campbell’s legacy, as well as how it keeps up with changing consumer preferences.

How do you navigate your marketing and advertising in the age of rapid consumer feedback?
Clouse: It starts with understanding our consumers and the role our brands play in their lives. We gather insights in a variety of ways, including engaging across social media and learning from search, ratings and reviews. We are challenging our historical approaches to advance the speed and power of our insights by bringing new technologies, better utilizing AI and collaborating with new partners.

These capabilities need to be at our marketers’ fingertips so brand teams can make adjustments in real time and optimize programs in flight: audiences, partners, placements within partners, etc.

What’s the biggest buzzword in your industry today and how is Campbell’s preparing for it?
Data. Personalization, evolving trends and multiple cohorts with unique messages and content all make data critically important, especially in helping us understand how people are interacting with media. The lines between media planning and data analytics are getting more and more blurry.

To stay ahead of the curve and find new ways to reach consumers in an impactful and seamless way, we must be open to new ways of working, different agency models and training our team to react in real time across multiple platforms. Media planning is no longer an annual event, but a dynamic, evolving and always-on process.

Name one important thing about your brand that you wish more consumers knew.
I think the can gets a bad rap. There are so many benefits to this packaging format for food. Other than drying or freezing food, which I know something about, canning is one of the oldest, best and most natural forms of preservation. It’s essentially time and temperature.

Plus, steel cans are one of the most sustainable forms of packaging—they are the most recycled container in the country. Steel cans can be recycled over and over, forever, without losing strength or quality. Cans also seal in freshness and nutrition for year-round use. Campbell’s tomato soup packs in six tomatoes per can and maintains nearly all of the nutrition from the time the can is sealed until the time you open it at home to have it with a grilled cheese on a cold day.

What’s the biggest change that your company or industry has had to contend with in the last two years?
The food industry has gone through unprecedented changes over the last several years that touch consumers, retailers and competition. It starts with evolving consumer preferences and changing nutritional demands for foods that are less processed, with cleaner labels and extends to transparency about the origins of ingredients.

It also includes changes to the way people shop for food, whether it is online, at value outlets or through meal-delivery services. If that isn’t enough of a challenge, the competitive landscape has also changed with reduced barriers to entry online, smaller disruptive brands targeting specific consumer niches, and the ever-rising bar on the quality of store brands.

All of this transformation has put significantly greater pressure on larger, established brands to ensure we are building relevance, availability and delivering differentiated value. It is without question challenging, but I believe our scale and iconic brands, combined with 150 years of knowledge, is a true competitive advantage if we are willing to evolve and transform with the industry.

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