Kraft touches customers with CRM plan

The way to people's hearts may be through their stomachs, but the marketers at Kraft Foods have decided not to rely exclusively on that maxim to secure the long-term loyalty of their customers....

The way to people’s hearts may be through their stomachs, but the marketers at Kraft Foods have decided not to rely exclusively on that maxim to secure the long-term loyalty of their customers.

Instead, they are following a customer-centric strategic process that was decided upon several years ago, and has now been implemented as a concerted customer relationship management (CRM) plan.

Concluding that its traditional mass media approach to advertising wasn’t generating the kind of return on investment that it had enjoyed in the past, Kraft – aided by the acquisition of new enterprise-wide data management and Internet technology – began to develop a number of tactical ‘touch points’ to enable it to enter into meaningful relationships with individual Canadian households.

The primary goal, says Stephanie Wilkes, director of CRM strategy for the food manufacturing giant, is ‘specifically about meeting the needs of those households by delivering unique and customizable services to them.’

Such ‘services’ have included setting up a 1-800 line that consumers can call for information on a wide range of everyday household matters, from recipe sharing to nutritional meal planning and housekeeping tips.

‘We believe that as we start the communication and relationship with customers,’ Wilkes explains, ‘they need to provide us with information so we can better deliver things to them that are personalized to meet their needs.’

To help get the word out to consumers that Kraft wants to be more to them than simply a purveyor of peanut butter, salad dressings, cheese and other food staples, the packaged goods company hired Toronto-based agency Mosaic Direct to help put its plan into action.

Last year, for instance, Mosaic put together a direct mail piece focusing on a new cooking preparation method developed by Kraft. The package included a glossy, custom-published magazine called What’s Cooking that provides readers new ways to incorporate Kraft products into their culinary repertoire. The magazine, which features articles such as ‘Tuna Tonight: New twists on this classic casserole’, includes service articles, features on the Kraft Kitchens staff and updates on new line extensions.

Wilkes describes What’s Cooking, which has already become one of the largest circulation magazines in Canada, as ‘a key pillar in terms of what we were doing to tactically communicate with consumers and hold up our end of the bargain in providing them with value.’

As has become its modus operandi, Kraft included a product preference survey in the mailing in order to collect relevant information from consumers.

‘That was really the first phase of the dialogue,’ Wilkes says, ‘but we will continue to gain information from consumers in exchange for providing them with valuable solutions that address their food and eating dilemmas,’ says Wilkes.

‘We’re working on figuring out what information we need to get from consumers to evolve our understanding of them, as well as figuring out what we should provide back to them to ensure that it’s a relationship they want to continue to be involved in.’

Kraft also relaunched its Web site ( last year with enhanced content that provided more of ‘what we knew our consumers were looking for, based on the information they had shared.’

According to Wilkes, Kraft’s intention is not so much about shifting its marketing focus away from mass advertising, as it is about adding some powerful marketing tools to its existing mix and building on the relationships it already has with consumers.

‘What we’re doing is really the evolution of something we’ve been doing for quite a while, which is trying to understand who our customers are, what they want, and how we can get that to them,’ she says. ‘This is just the next level of precision in doing that.’

Mosaic Direct president Anne Gronow agrees that Kraft’s move into the world of direct marketing and CRM marks a widening of the company’s perspective.

‘What we’re doing is complementary,’ she says. ‘It’s not like we’re saying Kraft shouldn’t be doing any mass advertising. There’s obviously a need there from a branding and awareness standpoint, but when you want to have a dialogue with somebody, you need to use a more direct approach to engage people.’

With the advent of the Internet as a viable communications channel, she says, Kraft has been able to create enough convenient ‘touch points’ for consumers to either initiate or receive contact from the company.

‘The other thing that is critically important is providing the consumer with a consistent level of service, regardless of how they try to reach us,’ Wilkes says. ‘In this marketplace, it isn’t enough to just give people a 1-800 number in and of itself. You have to give consumers a variety of different channels to communicate back to the organization.’

And what of the organizational challenges inherent to bringing such a new marketing discipline as CRM into the traditional mass advertising-driven marketing environment that exists at Kraft?

‘Certainly, it requires some new skill sets, which we’re actively working to build within our organization,’ Wilkes says. ‘Culturally, what we’re trying to do is position this as a new tool for our marketing teams to have in their toolbox to help drive overall [sales] volume. That’s what we believe this can be.’