The CMO Interview

Welch's Local-Sourcing Story Is Core to Its Outreach

In Move From Resource-Rich Gillette to Smaller Marketer, CMO Wohl Leverages Learnings in Targeting Women

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BATAVIA, Ohio ( -- In a battle with razors, thin-skinned grapes would lose. Yet it's razors that are helping grape jams and juices make a splash among consumers under the marketing leadership of Matt Wohl.

Matthew Wohl
Matthew Wohl
Mr. Wohl is a classic example of an adaptable marketer, having moved last year from running Procter & Gamble Co.'s Boston-based Gillette men's shaving business to taking on the role of chief marketing officer of Concord, Mass.-based Welch's, the processing and marketing unit of the National Grape Cooperative, collectively owned by 1,150 Concord and Niagara grape farmers in the U.S. and Ontario, Canada. It was a short move from one Massachusetts locale to another, but a big step from a dominant personal-care brand with big resources and historically substantial pricing power to a much smaller food-and-beverage marketer that has to be much scrappier: Welch's got $23 million in measured media support in 2009 per Kantar Media, compared to $185 million for Gillette.

Now Mr. Wohl, who reports directly to Welch's President-CEO Brad Irwin, is out to better understand Welch's female consumers and burnish the brand's reputation as a supplier of locally produced products. He's drawing on his experience with targeting women, having helped on the launch of Venus razors that took a radically different approach from traditional Gillette advertising. Prior, women's razors tended to be marketed as "for women" versions of men's systems, for example, Sensor for Women. With Venus, Gillette focused considerable design efforts on making its Mach III men's system truly for women.

Mr. Wohl waxes nostalgic when talking about his new company and why he made the move. "Welch's is such an incredible brand. For me it has such a great history," he said. "We remember it from when we were kids. It has a warm place in my heart." Working with Via, Portland, Me., Welch's will still use traditional media, but Mr. Wohl sees plenty of opportunity to better harness social media for his cause. And he believes understanding his consumers is what will ultimately help him solve the CMO tenure problem.

In an interview with Ad Age, he talked about moving not only from a market leader to a challenger brand, but also from general management back to a marketing role, as well as growth areas for Welch's and why people increasingly want to know where their food comes from.

Ad Age: You were most recently in general management and now you've come back into a marketing role. Why?

Mr. Wohl: I am an avid brand builder. Hopefully what I'll bring is a line-management understanding and sensitivity, so that I definitely will recognize the impact of what we do as marketers and what we do in terms of building this brand and its implication on our supply chain, for example, or our financial picture.

Ad Age: How would you compare the challenges you face at Welch's vs. what you faced at Gillette?

Mr. Wohl: Gillette is an incredible brand. It has a long history of technical innovation and delivering the best performance in the marketplace. The challenges with Welch's are a little bit different. We're a challenger brand. The role it plays in somebody's life is very different. Here we have to think a lot more about some of the category attributes -- flavor, is it 100% juice? Is it a blend?

Ad Age: Are you looking forward to the challenge of working with fewer resources?

Mr. Wohl: What's exciting is how creative you can get. It's a far more guerrilla endeavor than it would be in a bigger company.

Ad Age: Where do you see the major growth areas for Welch's?

Mr. Wohl: As people start to see Welch's as what it is -- family farmer-owned, true, wholesome, authentic and real -- it's going to have a real place in their cupboard. The more we get that story out, the more growth we'll get across all of our business.

Ad Age: It sounds like you want to focus a lot on the local-sourcing aspect. How do you expect to do that?

Mr. Wohl: People want to know where their food comes from. They're really interested in the idea of sourcing and food being grown, not manufactured, not being artificial and fake, and for Welch's, it's so much in our sweet spot of who we are. We're authentic, we're wholesome, we're real. You know our company's family farmers. We keep driving that story, making it relevant, bringing it to life in ways and in places consumers are and women are open to hearing about it. This would be a traditional media-mix plan.

Ad Age: How have you measured success in marketing? At Welch's are you able to do it the same way as you did at Gillette?

Mr. Wohl: It's definitely going to be different. We do have capability and methodologies to understand our return on investments. That said, it's not nearly as deep or as sophisticated as you get at Gillette or at Procter & Gamble, but we do get enough here and we will continue to learn as we go to have a good understanding of what's working and what's not and where we should be pressing in the marketing mix.

Mr. Wohl: We definitely do use full-fledged marketing mix modeling here. The question would be the depth to which we use them and the frequency to which we use them.

Ad Age: How much influence do you have over pricing and how is that different from what you did before?

Mr. Wohl: It's different because at Gillette you have a trade up-model. Here it's a little bit of a different story. We're trying to bring new people into the category, into the Welch's franchise, and satisfy and delight the people who are in the franchise. Pricing plays a little bit different role here than it does in Gillette's world. I have the same responsibility as a marketing leader here, but the strategy is different.

Ad Age: We've focused a lot in the past in stories about the tenure issue for CMOs. Realizing you're new, what's your plan for outlasting that two-year curse?

Mr. Wohl: My intent is to obviously be here for a very long time and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that happens. The way to deliver longevity is to understand your consumer and deliver for that consumer against their hopes and dreams.

Ad Age: What are some of the brands and marketers that stand out to you as doing the best job?

Mr. Wohl: [Gillette does] great work and they understand the consumer well. I find [Southwest] very true to their equity, a little bit irreverent. [Kashi has] done a great job at finding a benefit and making it relevant, bringing it to life with a great portfolio of products that are relevant to their consumer target . The other one I would add is Geico. Each one [of its ads is] about a single benefit, and they leverage them really well to get their messages across.

Ad Age: What keeps you up at night?

Mr. Wohl: Well, now that you've asked me the question about tenure, that is probably going to keep me awake [laughing.] The other is, do I know the consumer well enough, do I get inside of her head well enough and deep enough to really be able to deliver what she needs?

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