CHICAGO (AdAge.com) – Donald Goerke, one of Campbell Soup Co.'s most prominent and prolific marketing executives, passed away this week from heart failure. He was 83.
Mr. Goerke, who worked for Campbell from 1955 to 1990, is credited with introducing Spaghetti-Os and Chunky Soup. Eventually serving as marketing research director at Campbell, Mr. Goerke was behind more than 100 product introductions.
"Don made many valuable contributions to Campbell Soup Co. throughout his long career," company spokesman Anthony Sanzio wrote in an e-mail. "He was a great marketer, a mentor and a friend to many. He will be missed by all who knew him."
Spaghetti-Os were a major breakthrough for Campbell when the product was introduced in 1965, as the company had been looking to create a shelf-stable pasta product that could be reheated without affecting noodle texture and wouldn't be too messy for small children to eat. Mr. Goerke is credited with pulling the trigger on "Os."
Mr. Goerke's son Brian said his father was a great marketer, not just because "he enjoyed the soup company as much as he enjoyed golf," but because of his mathematical background. "He had a master's in statistics, and so when he started his research, he knew his numbers," he said. "But he was also a creative kind of guy who liked advertising and brand management, so to have somebody who knew the numbers and could work with agencies and creative types ... it's not a usual kind of combination."
Because of his outgoing nature and universal popularity, Campbell also used Mr. Goerke as an ambassador to the political community and major marketing events. Mr. Goerke appeared at the Super Bowl and at Miss America pageants, and met dignitaries from Ronald Reagan to Lassie.
"Growing up, we had Lassie at the house, and Miss Americas at the house," Brian Goerke said. His father used to joke that he'd been asked to appear at the pageants "because I'm a good kisser." Mr. Goerke also leaves behind another son, David, daughter Ann Nassoura, and seven grandchildren.
Memorial services were held earlier today. Donations in Mr. Goerke's memory are being made to Bethany Lutheran Church in Palmyra, N.J.