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From 'mayochup' to potential mayhem: Kraft Heinz and social media

By Published on .

Michelle St. Jacques
Michelle St. Jacques Credit: Heinz

Kraft Heinz Co., which recently began working with WPP's VML, is wading deeper into the world of social media marketing. It hopes to deepen the relationship people have with its iconic brands, get shoppers to try newer lines—and keep free of the unintended controversies that can sometimes befall brands on social media.

This month's Twitter teasers about "mayochup"—its new product combining mayonnaise and ketchup—is illustrative of its new approach, and how social media can be a successful source of engagement. The "mayochup" effort included a poll asking consumers, "Want #mayochup in stores? 500,000 votes for 'yes' and we'll release it to you saucy Americans."

The product will be released as a majority of consumers who responded gave it the go-ahead, but its name is up for grabs; the company, via social media, is asking if people have suggestions as what to call it. (The idea for "mayochup" came together hours after someone at the company noticed conversations in the U.K. about the mixing of ketchup and mayonnaise in the Gulf states, says Nicole Kulwicki, director of marketing for Heinz.)

It's one of the first social media campaigns done for the company by VML.

"We co-created a kind of custom partnership with them," says Michelle St. Jacques, head of U.S. brand and R&D for Kraft Heinz. "We're continuing to challenge our existing models ... to find new ways and different ways to obviously drive that growth, but also relevancy with our consumer."

VML says it's handling social strategy, creative and community management for the Kraft master brand, Kraft Mac & Cheese and Heinz ketchup. It will also be working with other Kraft Heinz brands including Gevalia, Maxwell House, A1 and Velveeta.

"Anyone can pay for eyeballs," says St. Jacques. "The interesting part is when people just want to talk about you because of either the products you're delivering, the conversations you're having in social, or the creative that you're putting out there."

St. Jacques will take part in a panel discussion at next week's Ad Age Survival Summit in Chicago, discussing how companies are tackling the challenges of social media.

Below, a peek into her social media strategy.

It seems we can barely go a week without a company—or companies—facing some kidn of online backlash. Are customers speaking out more these days?

The world of social has changed everything. Now consumers can tell you what they think, good or bad, within minutes. I consider this a gift. It means that we can react quickly. If we have a problem, then we can address it quickly. If we have something that people like about what our brands are doing, then we can find ways to double down on it. At the end of the day, we are a company driven by consumers so I like to understand as much as possible what my consumer is experiencing.

What's the company's strategy should something go wrong on social media?

There are no stock answers to this question anymore. That said, to me there are three key principles we always try to uphold: 1) You need to be ready with your "what if" situations before you launch a campaign; 2) monitor like crazy both the mainstream and fringe conversations to see if anything is bubbling; 3) act fast and course correct if you have to.

How do you track the health of the brands in the Kraft Heinz portfolio?
We use both the formal brand health tracking that happens throughout the year and we complement it with more real-time reads through social listening. For social, we track daily and weekly to keep a pulse on how our brand is performing and being talked about online.

Want to hear more? Sign up for Ad Age's Survival Summit May 2. Tickets are available here.

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