ConAgra Foods Exec on That New Smiley-Face Logo

ConAgra Foods has unveiled a new logo, following in the footsteps of food giant Kraft, which also underwent a logo change earlier this year. ConAgra, however, faces a different challenge: It wants the same corporate identity recognition among consumers as its brands, which include PAM cooking spray and Egg Beaters. Not many consumers know the company behind the brands because ConAgra formerly operated as a holding company, with businesses in the fertilizer and ethanol industries, explained corporate communications vp Teresa Paulsen. The new logo is backed by an ad campaign, which kicks off today (Tuesday), via Bailey Lauerman, Omaha. Ads running on TV, online, radio and in print carry the tagline, “Food you love.” ConAgra is also redesigning its corporate campus, in Omaha, to reflect the logo; it will include a fountain in the shape of a spoon and a smile on a plate. Paulsen spoke with Brandweek about the changes at ConAgra and why it was time for a new corporate identity. Some excerpts are below.

Brandweek: ConAgra Foods yesterday announced a new corporate brand identity (and logo). Why so?
Teresa Paulsen: We wanted an identity that better represents the company that ConAgra Foods is today—progressive, authentic and uncomplicated. As we were a company that in the past sold things such as fertilizers and ethanol, we wanted to make sure we communicated that we are also a [consumer-oriented brand] and that we make the foods people love.

BW: How did this all come about? What was the ah-ha moment? How many years was this project in the making?

TP: We worked on it for about a year. We didn’t go into it thinking we were going to change our logo. We began with research [by Bailey Lauerman, Omaha, Neb.]. And once we had the research, we took a really hard look at it and it told us that people do love our iconic brands, and they said things like they can’t imagine living without them, but we also found that they didn’t strongly associate ConAgra Foods with those brands.

The inquiry was really to our retail and commercial customers, investors and employees [800 participants surveyed via focus groups and one-on-one sessions total]. We did not talk to consumers, but everyone in those three groups is a consumer. From a corporate perspective, we wanted to focus on those three groups: customers, investors and employee.

BW: How did this disassociation between the brand and the company come about?
TP: It’s pretty easily explained. For a long time, ConAgra Foods acted as a holding company as opposed to an operating company. It’s only been in the last few years that we’ve operated as an operating company. When you’re a holding company, your corporate brand is really in the background, so we never made an overt attempt to associate our products or brands with the company itself. This marks the first time we’ve been doing that in the marketplace. [When you take that into account,] it’s pretty easy to understand why many of our stakeholders groups don’t have a strong association between ConAgra Foods and Orville Redenbacher’s, Hunt’s, Healthy Choice or many of the other brands we make.

BW: When was the last time ConAgra Foods undertook something similar? How long has the current logo been used? How do the two logos differ?
TP: This would be the first time we’ve done anything comprehensive in terms of talking to various stakeholder groups. This is the first time the company has done anything this in depth from an R&D perspective around the ConAgra Foods brand itself.

The last time we changed our logo was almost 10 years ago. [That logo] was very business-like. It was just text. You could say that it had less personality. With the new logo, we wanted to make sure that food clearly came through, but we also feel like this identity is more emotional. It’s more powerful and it connects more closely with our stakeholders.