KRAFT ACTS TO BOLSTER BRANDS;KRAFT LINKING BRAND ADS

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Kraft Foods, seeking to leverage the weight of the Kraft name, is testing an umbrella advertising and marketing strategy in Canada, and will bring the experiment to the U.S. in 1997.

The strategy is part of a master plan to bring to bear the enormous clout of its brands together in more joint marketing efforts.

"We're the 800-pound gorilla" in the food industry, said John Bowlin, Kraft president-chief operating officer, who keeps a 4-foot stuffed gorilla in his office to remind him of that fact. And the marketer intends to "start acting like it."

"We have all these brands. Very often consumers use them together; very often our customers put them together. All we're doing is creating efficient marketing ties around them," Mr. Bowlin said.

In the U.S., Kraft is working with Ogilvy & Mather, New York, to find "what we call the essence of Kraft," he said.

In Kraft's research, he said, four distinct categories came up: Products that now have Kraft as part of the corporate and brand name, such as Kraft Macaroni & Cheese; products in which Kraft is a prominent name on the label although not part of the brand name, like Philadelphia Cream Cheese; products that have the Kraft name and 800-number on the back label; and products such as Tombstone Pizza and Bull's-Eye barbecue sauce, which don't use the Kraft name.

LABEL ADJUSTMENTS

He said the plan is to create more brands under the second category, with the company name prominent, and to almost standardize the back label and 800-number on most.

Mr. Bowlin said that in cases where a "unique product and [its] imagery" don't call for the Kraft addition-like Tombstone-the labels won't change.

Future advertising could reflect the new emphasis, he said.

In Canada, the company is running TV commercials-created by Leo Burnett Co. and J. Walter Thompson, Toronto-that begin with a general message, include a "donut" in the center for an individual brand message and conclude with another corporate plug.

"We could do something like `What do you want tonight? Here's an idea,' and then ends with something like `Kraft. We bring good foods, good ideas to you,"' Mr. Bowlin said. "It could be that simple."

NOT AN IMAGE CAMPAIGN

Mr. Bowlin stressed that the company won't embark on a corporate image campaign similar to the "We're Beatrice" effort of the early 1980s.

"Odds are very low of having us do a manufacturer chest-pounding campaign," he said. "We won't be saying, `We are Kraft, we are wonderful."'

Spending on an umbrella effort could be significant, considering Mr. Bowlin's estimate that Kraft now spends $700 million to $800 million on media annually. Already in Canada, he said, "70% of the media weight is under the Kraft name. Brands are fighting to get into that campaign."

The process for creating such a campaign in the U.S. will be "evolutionary," he said, no matter what the results in Canada.

Moreover, Kraft is looking at things like a common tagline and look in print advertising and free standing inserts.

"Virtually every FSI looks different even if we buy four to six pages. Unless you knew we made the product and look for the logo in the corner, there [is] no commonality," he said, a particular pet peeve of his.

Bringing the Kraft clout to bear is part of what Mr. Bowlin calls Kraft's "gorilla" or "simian" marketing that extends to promotions and promotional alliances.

JUST THE BEGINNING

He said the company's recent $60 million deal to sponsor a programming block on Nickelodeon is only the tip of the iceberg.

"We have $3 billion worth of product tied to kids and we never marketed them together," he said.

He said the company could also do similar adult promotions tied to its $1 billion in "better-for-you" low-fat or fat-free products.

"What you see in '96 will be just the seed of what we're going to be doing," he said. "The trade looks at us as one customer. Consumers should, too."

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