A refusal to view Nabisco cookies and crackers one-dimensionally, instead building them into farther-reaching snack brands, landed Jerry Noonan in the field. The quest for the "big idea" in marketing Frito-Lay snacks-including starring such political luminaries as Dan Quayle and Mario Cuomo as spokesmen-distinguishes Brock Leach. Capitalizing on an unmet need with a blockbuster shaving product qualifies Gillette's Peter Hoffman, while an unstinting emphasis on global advertising singles out Colgate-Palmolive's John Steel.
And thinking outside the box with new ways to market cigarettes in the face of an increasingly restrictive legislative challenge is what leads the way to Philip Morris USA Exec VP-Marketing and Sales Michael Szymanczyk.
No one has more marketing clout in the cigarette industry than Mr. Szymanczyk, but it's a power anti-smoking groups are continually trying to dilute.
Mr. Szymanczyk, 43, has the deepest pockets in the industry: His $500 million-plus budget is spread across brand media advertising, consumer promotion, direct mail and sponsorships. But it's also funneled into efforts aimed at forestalling the anti-smoking sentiment.
As such, one of Mr. Szymanczyk's first duties after his promotion from VP-sales last January was to announce the company's Action Against Access initiative to prevent sales to underage smokers. That cleverly timed bombshell came just two weeks before President Clinton announced he was allowing the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to regulate tobacco to curb teen-age smoking.
Although a PM veteran, Mr. Szymanczyk is new to the marketing function he inherited in December. But observers expect more efforts along the lines of PM's Marlboro Unlimited-a smokers-only promotion awarding trips on a custom western-bound Marlboro train-that aim to give smokers an air of exclusivity rather than exclusion.
That strategy is evident in PM's current tongue-in-cheek ads for Benson & Hedges, which show smokers enjoying their cigarettes while perched on top of buildings or on airplane wings.
Mr. Szymanczyk is, furthermore, in charge of direct mail, a marketing tool that continues to gain clout within the tobacco industry as advertising options-such as some sports stadiums-dry up. In fact, all sports sponsorship, another big-budget outlay for PM brands, is threatened by proposed FDA regulation. (The company spends an estimated $15 million on Marlboro Team Racing alone.)
Talk about being watched!
Being watched-and noticed-is behind Brock Leach's "big idea" strategy that includes using politicans to hawk salty snacks for Frito-Lay.
"One of our standards is that we want our commercials to be talked about," says Mr. Leach. That he achieves not just through unusual creative but also through creative use of media.
"We choose the biggest media events to get our brand stories out-whether it's through the Super Bowl or the NBA finals," he notes.
Mr. Leach leverages Frito's $80 million in measured media advertising by tying in the creative idea through all avenues, utilizing Fox NFL broadcast announcers Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long all the way to in-store promotions.
"He has a facile, creative mind that is so unusual among the typically conservative and traditional marketers," says Bill Katz, general manager of agency BBDO Worldwide, New York.
He also delivers. Mr. Leach, 36, pushed to revitalize Rold Gold fat-free pretzels as part of his "better-for-you" product initiative, which also includes healthier, fat-free snacks such as Tostitos. Pushed by such impactful TV commercials as those featuring "Seinfeld" star Jason Alexander appearing to jump out of a parachute during the Super Bowl, Rold Gold sales have been impressive.
Expansion into a wider-ranging snack line is key to the success of Nabisco's Jerry Noonan.
Although his measured advertising expenditure-$110 million-should prompt him to play it safe, the senior VP-marketing at Nabisco Biscuit Co. doesn't.
Instead, he's challenging the company to move beyond its cookies and cracker image into snacks, as well as into new ways of packaging and distributing them.
In addition to mapping out distribution via video stores, Mr. Noonan has promoted the use of innovative food packaging ideas, such as resealable bags and single-serve pouches that fit neatly into kids' lunch boxes.
Mr. Noonan, 36, also has breathed life into older products, including Chips Ahoy!, last year giving the brand new packaging, an improved recipe and highly visible TV support playing off of Benny Goodman's hit "Swing, Swing, Swing."
That shored up the brand's position as the No. 1-selling chocolate chip cookie, and Nabisco claims it upped sales 14.4%.
But undoubtedly the biggest engine powering Mr. Noonan's marketing group-and the entire cookie market-is SnackWell's, the line of low-fat cookies and snacks that has rung up $500 million in sales this year alone.
The brand has proved so successful for Nabisco since its 1992 introduction that the marketer has introduced a line of yogurts, and the brand name is now being applied to the puddings marketed by its sister Fleischmann's division.
"He always talks to us about a portfolio [of products] rather than a single product," says Colleen Gowl, exec VP-group management director at FCB/Leber Katz Partners, New York.
A benefit to his job? "I get to eat all kinds of snack foods," Mr. Noonan says.
With 38% of the $1.4 billion cookie market also under his belt, that's power. But it's a power he hasn't abused: He's described almost universally as the quintessential nice guy.
It's a single product, however, that puts Peter Hoffman in his company. Mr. Hoffman was responsible for the launch of the Sensor razor and, at Gillette, there are few words more powerful than that.
That blockbuster shaving line propelled Mr. Hoffman, 46, to the post of senior VP-business management for the company's North America group. In fact, it was his handling of Sensor's stunning $175 million marketing budget in its 1990 introductory year, along with the success of Gillette Series men's toiletries a year later, that won him a series of promotions-to president of Braun U.S. and then to group general manager, Braun North America.
The Sensor brand-and Gillette Series-are marketed globally as megabrands. Gillette has sold 150 million Sensor razors and 3.5 billion Sensor blade cartridges in 75 countries to date.
As head of Gillette's North American unit, which markets blades, razors, toileteries and personal care products such as the White Rain haircare line and Right Guard deodorant, Mr. Hoffman commands a $200 million ad expenditure.
But big as that is, it's only part of Gillette's plan for growth: Advertising, says Mr. Hoffman, is just one element in "a total business strategy that includes products and product lines, technology, branding considerations.....packaging, and the geographic stretch."
Geography is everything to John Steel. The 65-year-old executive brings a worldly perspective to his position as Colgate-Palmolive Co.'s senior VP-global marketing & sales. That outlook has been honed during his 46-plus years with the company, serving in at least seven countries on several continents.
What this tour of the world has left him with is a profound sense that it's possible to reach people with the same brands and the same advertising and promotion messages.
That a new Colgate toothpaste called Colgate Total is now positioned and advertised the same way in 90 countries is just one example of how Mr. Steel approaches package goods marketing.
It's he who's instrumental in instilling a global perspective into every person associated with Colgate's consumer communications, both within the company and at its advertising agencies.
"If you're not planning and executing [marketing strategy] globally, I don't think it will be possible to survive into the next century," says Mr. Steel. "The focus is how to reach all the people with a common message and common brands. That's the future."
Written and reported by Andrew Cranin, Laurie Freeman, Iris Cohen Selinger and Ira Teinowitz.
Philip Morris USA
Ad budget: $226 million
Career: His second tour of duty at Philip Morris Cos., Mr. Szymanczyk started his career at Procter & Gamble, where he served in a variety of
sales and management posts from 1971 to 1987. He left to join Kraft as VP-sales, and before he advanced to VP-retail operations in 1980, the food marketer had become a PM subsidiary. After a one-year stint as senior VP at Swift Eckrich, he returned to PM USA as senior VP-sales in 1990, moving into his current post last December.
Ad budget: $81.7 million (U.S.)
Agency roster: Young & Rubicam; FCB/Leber Katz Partners; McCann-Erickson, Worldwide.
Career: A native Australian and career Colgate executive, Mr. Steel joined Colgate's Australian company in 1949 as marketing assistant. He moved up via different marketing positions and, in 1969, was appointed general manager, Hong Kong. He went on to serve as general manager for Colgate's former Sports Group, marketing director for the Far East and VP-business development for the Far East, among other posts. In 1988, he was named VP-South Pacific Region and four years later moved to senior VP-global business development in New York headquarters. His title was upgraded in March to senior VP-global marketing & sales.
Budget: $80 million
Agency roster: BBDO Worldwide, DDB Needham Worldwide, Tracy-Locke
Career: A 14-year Frito-Lay veteran, Mr. Leach joined the company as assistant product manager in 1982. Between then and 1993, when he was named VP-brand marketing, he held a variety of marketing positions including zone marketing manager-southern division, senior product manager and marketing director-northern and central divisons. He was named senior VP-marketing in 1994.
Peter K. Hoffman
Gillette Co.'s North Atlantic Group
Ad budget: $200 million
Agency roster: BBDO Worldwide; Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos; N. W. Ayer & Partners; Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising (U.K.).
Career: A career man at Gillette, Mr. Hoffman joined in 1972 as assistant product manager, toiletries. He eventually rose to group sales and marketing manager-Europe in 1983 and later country manager, Gillette Holland, before becoming VP-marketing for the North American Group in 1988 and VP-business management of that group in 1990, prior to taking his current post.
Nabisco Biscuit Co.
Ad budget: $109.6 million
Agency roster: FCB/Leber Katz Partners (cookies); McCann-Erickson Worldwide (crackers)
Career: Began as assistant product manager at Frito-Lay, moving to soft drinks and sister Pepsi-Cola Co. in 1986. He joined Nabisco in 1992 as category business director for cookies, moving to the company's VP-marketing a year later.