Kraft Heinz was in the midst of an overhaul under new leadership when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Now, as it caps off a year in which its products have been more popular, it's setting out to deepen its relationships with consumers by spending more on marketing, placing bigger bets on its big brands, and shaking up its agency roster.
As part of its plan, the company has tapped Johannes Leonardo to lead creative for Oscar Mayer, Kraft macaroni and cheese and Kraft Singles starting in January, adding major pieces of business to the roster of Kraft Heinz brands the agency began working on nearly a year ago. The shop replaces Dentsu McGarryBowen on Oscar Mayer in a significant blow to the Dentsu-owned agency, which had worked on the high-profile brand for years. Dentsu declined to comment on the loss of the account.
The packaged food marketer wants to “elevate the consumer-centricity of our approach,” says Sanjiv Gajiwala, who joined Kraft Heinz in August in the newly-created role of U.S. chief growth officer. “Maybe in the past we were about ‘this is our product,’” says Gajiwala. Now, he says, Kraft Heinz aspires to be more about “consumer obsession.”
Kraft Heinz already claims that 97% of U.S. households buy its products, a level of household penetration that far exceeds the 65% average for companies in the food and beverage industry, according to data presented by the company in a recent investor presentation. To put it simply, its goal is to get people to buy more of its products more often.
Kraft Heinz is leaning on a smaller roster of agencies to work on its most storied brands, a plan announced months before Gajiwala joined. Perhaps the biggest shakeup is that Johannes Leonardo will begin working on Oscar Mayer. Johannes Leonardo also won Kraft macaroni & cheese, which recently worked on projects with various agencies, including VaynerMedia and Mischief @ No Fixed Address this year. In 2018, Droga5 won the account after it was held by MDC’s CPB.
Along with Johannes Leonardo, which has an expanded roster of brands to work on, Kraft Heinz continues to work with Wieden & Kennedy, VaynerMedia, Gut and Leo Burnett.
“They’re all agencies that I believe will help us be more consumer obsessed and be more uncomfortable ourselves,” says Gajiwala.
More to spend
Kraft Heinz has been resetting its strategy under the watch of CEO Miguel Patricio. The former global chief marketing officer at Anheuser-Busch InBev joined the food giant in 2019 and has been putting marketing in more focus. “Before, we treated marketing as a cost,” Patricio said during an investor presentation. “Today, we are viewing it as a strategic and creative business investment it is.”
Like many other food companies, Kraft Heinz turned off much of its advertising earlier in the year. With products practically flying off the shelves at supermarkets and long waits for grocery delivery early on during the pandemic, there was little need to promote products or attention to introduce new ones. And as people spent more time at home, they turned to products they knew, including many in the Kraft Heinz portfolio.
“Our brands are in a lot of households and people are potentially reacquainting themselves with them,” says Gajiwala.
Now, the company has a bigger budget to work with as it tries to retain and grow that base. Marketing investments in the second half of 2020 are up 70% versus the first half of the year and are up 40% from the second half of 2019, says Gajiwala.
The increase in spending isn’t a one-time boost. In September, Kraft Heinz said its plans include increasing spending on marketing by 30% over the next five years, off a base of roughly $1.1 billion. It is also shifting more spending to working media.
Kraft Heinz has reset the way it thinks about its products, moving from more than 55 product categories to six so-called platforms: Taste Elevation, Easy Meals Made Better, Real Food Snacking, Fast Fresh Meals, Easy Indulgent Desserts, and Flavorful Hydration (the last four in the group are focused on the U.S. and Canada).
Wieden & Kennedy will lead creative for Taste Elevation, the biggest platform, where it already worked on Heinz, Kraft Mayo, and Grey Poupon. Johannes Leonardo will lead creative for two platforms, Fast Fresh Meals, which includes Oscar Mayer, and Easy Meals Made Better, which includes mac & cheese.