CMO Insights: Melanie Huet, VP Marketing, KraftHeinz Corporation

Melanie Huet

March 19, 2019

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Melanie Huet, VP Marketing, KraftHeinz Corporation.

In this video, Melanie talks about:

  • Studying behaviors of users and customers.
  • Measuring marketing initiatives and overall trends.
  • Brand innovation and media innovation during the growing digital age.

Learn more about Melanie from her LinkedIn profile and follow KraftHeinz Corporation on Twitter. 

For more great CMO interviews like this one, please check out our other CMO Insights Videos or our YouTube channel.

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Hi, welcome to Revenue Marketing Television, the CMO Insights Series. I’m your host, Jeff Pedowitz, President and CEO of The Pedowitz Group. Today as our guest, we have Melanie Huet, who is Vice President of Marketing for KraftHeinz. Melanie, welcome to the show.

Melanie Huet:

Thank you, Jeff. Nice to be here.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Nice to have you. So a great company, big brand, lots of products. So maybe tell us a little bit more about your role and some of your major responsibilities there.

Melanie Huet:

Sure. I’m the Vice President of Marketing at KraftHeinz, and I oversee a portfolio of about three and a half billion dollars in that portfolio or some brands that you probably remember from your own childhood. So Caprisun and Kool-Aid, and then planters and a variety of others. And what I focus on in my role is strategy equity and brand innovation.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Excellent. So brand innovation, you know, back in the day, right? Especially a big company like craft it would be fair to say the company controlled the brand, right? But now in the age of digital and customers, having more power customers are starting to have a lot more control of the brand. So how do you innovate given those dynamics and the changing forces that are happening?

Melanie Huet:

I guess it’s a great question. So we spent a lot of time on that and I’d love to talk a little bit more today about Kool-Aid because when I think that brands a great example of innovating the brand and not necessarily having to do everything through just product innovation. And so we focus really heavily on media innovation. And what that means is when you look at the user base, which is kids, tweens teens, more specifically, we needed to find a way to take Kool-Aid man and the Kool-Aid brand, and really entrenched in their hearts and also connect with them in a way that was relevant to their lives. So that meant stepping out of our more traditional footprint of TV and print and finding a way to embed ourselves in the lives of tweens and teens. And so I’d love to tell you more about that.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Go for it.

Melanie Huet:

Okay, great. So Kool-Aid man, as you know, has been around for a long time and you will probably also know studying gen Y and gen Z, that trends changing and consumers are abandoning regular television. And specifically with the tweens and teens, they are moving to multi-screen formats. So most of us as adults are maybe using two screens, three screens at most Gen Z will want to use about five. So when you’re dealing with three to five screens, now you’re in an entirely different ballgame. And also trying to reach these consumers is a little bit more difficult because they tend to be in mediums that don’t traditionally have a lot of advertising built into them. Things like they’re watching Netflix, they’re, they’re gaming, they’re doing other things. So when we decided to go about reinventing Kool-Aid, we had to really deep dive with our media company Starcom and understand where the children are.

 

And what we found is that, you know, they’re watching YouTube, they’re playing games they’re interacting with one another and the way to embed Kool-Aid man in their lives and really bring meaning was to, to integrate into those formats. So we said, Hmm. So how do we do this? And we said, well, what would be the best thing in the world for us as a brand, as if Kool-Aid man could become his own YouTube influencer. So when we set this big goal and started to chase it down, all sorts of wonderful things started to come to life on Kool-Aid. So now Kool-Aid man is releasing a video every single week into channels, like YouTube and promoted on Twitter. He also has a stable of his own influencers promoting him and his content, and you’re going to see him appearing in some gaming, which I can’t speak to just yet. And he also has new products coming out as well that kids will love. So hitting the shelves right now is Kool-Aid sour.

Jeff Pedowitz:

I love that. And we were, we were I think this is a good segue cause you think Kool-Aid and, and kids and digital, when we were talking before the interview started about some of your passions about working with kids and digital. So tell us a little bit more about some of your initiatives there.

Melanie Huet:

Sure. I mean, I love working in this space because kids are such honest consumers, so they, they definitely tell you exactly what they like and don’t like, and you know, with children you know, we’re looking for ways to, you know, to strengthen that bond. So we look at product innovation. We spend a lot of times with our, with the parents and the children looking at what their unmet needs are and on Kool-Aid being a brand all about fun. We’re always looking for new ways to innovate and bring fun. One of the things we uncovered is, you know, kids obviously love new flavors, there’s flavor boredom in the marketplace. And if you study the candy market, there’s a ton of sour candy. And none of that was showing up in the, the juice and the drink aisle. So Kool-Aid sours is coming out. It’s actually coming out this next month.

Jeff Pedowitz:

They, they do want to try all the flavors. A few years ago, my son was much younger when we went to the Coca Cola factory in Atlanta, and he insisted on trying all 96 flavors. Needless to say that didn’t end very well for him.

Jeff Pedowitz:

But he did try all the flavors. So yeah, they definitely, definitely are very curious.

Melanie Huet:

Yeah, Jeff, I have two daughters and they are eight and 10, so they were my at-home testers and they tested all the flavors and they had a few favorites in common and they had a few that not as much in common that they didn’t like.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Ken can appreciate that. So tell us about just some of your testing capability at, at Kraft Heinz, because with all the different brands, with all the different channels, how do you keep this all organized? I mean, what’s your operation, I guess look like, cause it’s probably got to be pretty fascinating. I would think just with all the different things that you do.

Melanie Huet:

Sure. So I, we, we look at, we test extra about the product innovation and the media innovation. So on the product side, we do regularly bring kids in and talk to them and try products and make sure that we have a pulse on what’s cool. It’s pretty easy to lose that nowadays with the trends shifting so rapidly. And then on the media innovation side. Similarly, when we are with with kids, we study their behaviors and try to look at what they’re doing and how they’re interacting with each other that unlocked some of the things we’re doing this year, which is, you know, we know they’re spending a lot of time on video chats and there is some texting, but there’s really no email. And so that led us to, to understand that even though we can’t track it to an ROI necessarily that we wanted to make sure that we provided a lot of content, that Kool-Aid could be a part of that would get shared amongst those kids. And we are seeing that that’s prevalent in their behavior.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So one of the challenges I’ve seen us as we’ve worked with CPG companies over the years is that they’re disintermediated from the retailers. You know, so whether it’s a Kroger or Walmart a lot of times you don’t, you don’t have that POS data, right. So if you’re doing a promotion and you drive people to the store, how do you know that one of your various marketing initiatives actually results in a direct sale? Or do you just look at overall macro trends in purchase behavior? How do you, how do you get some of that data back?

Melanie Huet:

Yeah, sure. We do look at overall trends, of course. And sometimes we can through marketing mix analysis and other regression analyses make a pretty strong connection. I would also say though that some of the new tech that’s out there around where you can track a user’s patterns, you know, through Facebook and other trends, we’re able to kind of more clearly see where consumers are moving, is helping us understand which types of marketing efforts are gaining the most traction. And then of course, things like e-commerce because you can try to make a direct sale. We’re also trying to tag some of our advertising where appropriate with digital coupons and things where we can actually track all the way back to point purchase.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So do you have direct commerce initiatives that, that you and some people can go right online and buy some of your products?

Melanie Huet:

Not so many. We tend to be working through Amazon and then the, the eCommerce platforms of our key retailers at this point,

Jeff Pedowitz:

How has Amazon as a, as a retailer, the work with, do they, do they share the data with you?

Melanie Huet:

It depends on your relationship with them. A lot of that data is confidential that Amazon has, you know, I had a relationship with them when I was at Kimberly Clark and I was running the childcare business at Kimberly Clark because diapers and childcare products are so heavily entrenched on e-commerce. And we spent a lot of time with Amazon and they were a great partner on the portfolio. I’m managing now it’s a little bit different on food, especially beverages, they just ship well, it’s very expensive to ship water. And so, you know, the, the, the link there and the sales there, aren’t quite as strong, just, just because of

Jeff Pedowitz:

With their purchase of though, of whole foods. Do you see that changing at all as they kind of get into a bit of a, both traditional retail environment, as well as shipping groceries direct to door? Or do you still think it’s maybe not,

Melanie Huet:

Oh, absolutely. Amazon buy whole foods has been tremendous because that gives us a lot more ability to sell our products. So those products can now be delivered directly to the home, which was fantastic. It also opened up some channels because whole foods, you know, has a very tight restrictions on the food requirements and the ingredients that go into what they would consider acceptable products to sell in that channel. So, you know, it’s opened up some, it’s removed some barriers there that were there before, and I think we still kind of hold them up as best in class. So on Kool-Aid while that brand is pointed towards fun. And it will always be fun and does have some ingredients like sugar and other things in it. I also managed Capri sun and we’ve been taking a really close look at that ingredient line. And over the years we’ve been improving because we want to make sure we have products that meet the needs of all the moms. And it would make companies like whole foods you know, more comfortable with selling us.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So a w across all your products. How, I mean, what’s an average time, I guess, for before a brand gets refreshed.

Melanie Huet:

Oh, like a small refresher, a big one,

Jeff Pedowitz:

I guess a small one probably is not as noticeable. Maybe it’s a small, subtle changes right. In the minds of the consumer, but I guess maybe a big change to address like that.

Melanie Huet:

We just did a huge refresh on Capri sun. Last year, last summer that rolled out a renovation and just doing again meeting the updated ingredient requirements that parents have, because really everyone’s a lot more focused on health and wellness, which is, which is a great trend. I would say in general, those refreshes tend to be driven by if the sales start to slow. You know, then we tend to take a deeper look into the portfolio and do a larger refresh in there probably more like every three to five years, but on a daily basis, we’re taking a look at everything we are selling and trying to make sure we’re optimizing. So I would say the small refreshes, you know, they can happen at any point in time. It’s really based on if we see an opportunity, we’re going to jump on it.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. so I’m curious, what, what kind of technology does Kraft Heinz use from a marketing standpoint? So if we’re going to look at your stack, how do you go to market channels, your view of the customer, your analytics and data, and someone, whether, whether some of the major components,

Melanie Huet:

Oh, sure. We have a variety of tools, which makes it a fascinating place to work. So we have a lot of analytical tools that we look at, you know, Nielsen, and we use a lot of the different things that Nielsen offers in terms of looking at, you know, equity new products. We do a lot of testing in that space around brand equity, brand, strength, sales, you know, household penetration, all those metrics to keep a pulse on exactly how our brands are doing, where we have opportunity. We might have some challenges when we look at the innovation space, I’ll repeat a little bit, some of the same tools applied there, which is helping us understand, you know, what consumers want. We can deep dive into ethnographies and other things if we need to get a little closer or make sure that, you know, our data is still relevant because sometimes trends change things. And then also just getting an understand of the market size opportunity when we’re looking at new products and then on the, on the ad tech side, which has really keeping all of us marketers busy and awake at night, that’s a rely pretty heavily on our media buying agency and also our ad agencies to help us stay on top of those trends and try to make sure that we put our messages right message right. Time, right. Vehicle by leveraging that latest.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah. You’re on your DMP ad tech stack must be pretty comprehensive. I, I got to imagine that your paid media spend is pretty elaborate, especially worldwide.

Melanie Huet:

Yes, absolutely. It’s it is pretty elaborate. And I think the, the most challenging part of the job, which is also the most fun part is making sure that when something new pops up, that we jump on it right away. So an example of that small example, but a good one is Instagram came out with the stickers recently a few weeks ago, and our agency team picked it up that morning and they literally texted us, like we have to jump on this. And so we had a Kool-Aid sticker campaign running on Instagram, you know, a couple hours later. And I think those are the types of opportunities you have to grab.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So I think it was the recent Deadpool movie, the second one. And then there was a joke made that social media was dead. You know, it was just a fad or passion. So do you think that’s the case? They’ve already think that social is here to stay and it’s all different kinds of channels.

Melanie Huet:

I think it’s here to stay for a long time. Like, is it going to be here in perpetuity? I don’t know because something could change that, but right now I don’t think it’s a fad. I think it’s really critical actually, because a lot of your brand equity is tied up in social media. Having worked in the mom and baby space for a really long time at Kimberly Clark and then kind of shifting to moms with older children now at Kraft Heinz, I see the same trends when we study parents and consumers, which is their number one sources of information are Google. You know, what my friends say, which is social media and you know, other influencers like that. So absolutely your brand is wrapped up in social media and it’s really critical.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah. You mentioned Google and search. One of the things that we’ve been tracking is a voice activated search just because that the rise of Alexa IOT, Siri last year 40% think of all search was voice activated. So are you, are you guys tracking this too?

Melanie Huet:

Yes, we are. Because also with the focus on gen Z on some of the key brands I’m leading, there’s, there’s a lot of voice searching. The, you know, the kids are less likely to type in. And also if you think about age of children, so this is not, we don’t target this young, but we, we still study the patterns. I mean, kids have a cell phone in their hand at age one or two. And so voice is an easy thing to use way before you’re able to type words. And what we see with tweens and teens is it’s very heavy in the voice searching. And now I’m starting to see in the data as well that the adults are picking up and that trend is starting to become more prevalent with them.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So how does that change the marketing experience? Because now there is no copy or image or a sticker or button, it’s just a conversation, right. Or maybe it’s music or it’s rhymes, or it’s a game, or it’s a quiz, like how is marketing going to change when it’s a conversation? It’s almost like the minority report kind of concept, right? But you’re just having this conversation in a year without actually printing something.

Melanie Huet:

Jeff, voice search is going to change everything. And I think there’s a couple big implications. The first one is when it’s voice search in outcomes, one recommendation, as opposed to a list of maybe 10 that can show up on a screen, which means that you have to get into the number one slot. Cause if you don’t get into the number one slot, you might be missed completely, you may have no option. Okay.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah. Just kind of want to say, yeah. Tell me page two, number 17 down. I really want to listen to all that, right? Yeah.

Melanie Huet:

Yeah. You’re like, Siri stop. I don’t need 10 recommendations. You want one? So that puts a lot of pressure on us. And then also if you think about who are the companies behind the voice assistance, some of those might have their own products that they, that they want to advertise, which could make it difficult for those of us in the branded space to, to get into that number one slot we’re expensive. Right. there’s usually a path in, but it’s never free. And I think then the second thing with the voice search is just you know, all of the pictures and images are going away. So we’re going to go back to this, to this platform. That’s actually a little bit more difficult to brand in. So then things like what’s your, what’s your Sonic identity is going to be critical. So maybe we’re back to add, you know, the new version of ad jingles and things that will help consumers link to your brand.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Or smoke signals, just more in electronic format. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Right. Well, it’s definitely a brave new world. So Melanie, thank you for sharing some of your experiences fantastic company. And I, you know, my wife and I for certain will continue to be consumers for many of your products, but thank you for sharing your, your marketing insights with us today.

Melanie Huet:

Thanks for having me. I had a wonderful time. Thank you, Jeff.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. Thanks Melanie.

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