Five Questions With Ocean Spray's First Global CMO

How the Juice Brand Plans to Accomplish 'Breakthrough' Innovations

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For eight years Ocean Spray has run a campaign featuring farmers, often in a cranberry bog, talking about the company's products and experiencing a humorous mishap or two.

Ocean Spray's long-running campaign
Ocean Spray's long-running campaign

It's a tried and true formula, and Thano Chaltas, the newly appointed global CMO, has no intention of changing things up. "It's not about how do I make my mark and change everything," he said. "It's about how do we take the great things about this campaign and then look across digital, social, video platforms and tell a different story. That's the opportunity."

During a visit to New York last week for the company's annual cranberry bog display at Rockefeller Center, Mr. Chaltas said he's spent time with each member of his marketing team, as well as the company's agencies and grower-owners, since his appointment in late July. The alum of Kraft Foods and WellPet is being charged with developing and executing a global marketing playbook at Ocean Spray, as well as fostering innovation in the fast-evolving beverage category. Here, he also discusses the CMO's most important ally and how he stays fresh after more than 20 years as a marketer.

Thano Chaltas
Thano Chaltas

Ad Age: Given that you're the company's first global CMO, how will you be evolving the organization to make it more global?

Mr. Chaltas: There's nothing broken, this is about seizing an opportunity. The reason to create a chief global marketing officer is because we see areas outside of North America as critical to driving growth. So we're forging those relationships between the North America marketing team and the country teams. It's less about an organization structure and more about matrixed conversations.

Ad Age: How do you make sure the organization is staying innovative?

Mr. Chaltas: We're also creating and leveraging an innovation center of expertise. It's a standalone team that is a combination of marketers, consumer-insights folks, product developers and product commercialization focused on innovation. …There's a shared reporting relationship, to the VP-research and development and me. The best innovation starts with what a consumer needs and how R&D or technology is enabling that consumer need. Otherwise you create a product, and you have no way to shape it in a way that consumers will use it. We created this structure specifically so we could get to bigger, more breakthrough consumer-driven innovation.

Ad Age: It sounds like the head of R&D is an important ally. Who is the most important ally for CMOs today in the C-suite?

Mr. Chaltas: If you only make one key ally, you're making a mistake. You have to start with building a great relationship with the chief of sales or VP-customers; you have to drive profitable business growth with the CFO; you have to be tied to a partner in R&D, because innovation is the lifeblood of growth; and you have to be tied into whomever is owning the IT side of things. It's a mistake to say one person is most important.

Ad Age: That's evolved even in the last few years. You didn't used to hear so much about the CIO-CMO relationship, for example. How do you stay on top of what's new?

Mr. Chaltas: Personally, I make sure, at least a couple of times a year to go to some kind of industry event. I was recently at the Kellogg Marketing Leadership Summit. It's good to take a step back, breath and come back with some interesting nuggets.

Folks internally need to stay fresh, too, and I encourage them to get out. …The minute you stop trying to get better is when you start getting worse.

Ad Age: Speaking of staying fresh, so no plans to change up the company's long-running campaign?

Mr. Chaltas: You'll continue to see our veteran and rookie be the personification of our grower-owners. I give [Arnold] a lot of credit. They do a good job of keeping it fresh. We tire of campaigns far before consumers do. Look at Maxwell House. It's been "good to the last drop" for years and consumers get it immediately. When consumers see the farmers in the bog, they get that connection immediately. So there's more time to really romance the product in our message.

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