CRM chief signals shift at Masterfoods

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Masterfoods USA has hired veteran direct marketer Bob DeSena as its first director of relationship marketing in an effort to build financial accountability among its brand managers. Just a few weeks into the new job, Mr. DeSena is already predicting that the increased emphasis on accountability will spark a "fairly dramatic" shift of marketing dollars from mass vehicles to more personalized efforts for a number of Masterfoods brands over the next year.

Although he would not specify exact brands, Mr. DeSena said that by the first quarter of 2003, a number of Masterfoods' pet-care and confectionery lines will have new relationship-driven programs, and at least one or two will be "heavily weighted toward CRM programs over the next year or two."

Masterfoods spent $280 million on measured media last year, including $48 million on dog-food brands Cesar and Pedigree, $17 million on Whiskas cat food, $47 million on M&M's and $46 million on Snickers, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

As Mr. DeSena defines it, CRM refers both to customer relationship management (using technologically enabled software that allows for sales-force automation and online campaigns, among other things) and consumer relationship marketing (the hybrid of direct-to-consumer marketing with real-time Web-based automation tools added to it for direct marketing). But the crucial component, he said, is the underpinning of significant testing and research that will allow Masterfoods to "concentrate on those folks that are more valuable to the brands."

Masterfoods has developed a 14-step process, heavily research-based, that offers new ways to test the return on investment of marketing programs it develops with its "agency partners and specialized resources." That lineup is not expected to change despite the ramp-up of CRM, Mr. DeSena said. Among its current agencies are Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide and Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide and Arnell Group, both New York.

"We're offering our brand managers a new set of tools that shows return on investment of direct communication or aggregated communications in an effort to help them determine the right integration, balance and mix," Mr. DeSena said.

Testing ROI

The hiring of Mr. DeSena is part of an ongoing marketing innovation mandate by Paul Michaels, former president of Masterfoods who was recently promoted to Mars' Americas regional president, and Bob Gamgort, former general manager of chocolate, who replaced Mr. Michaels. Mr. Gamgort has exhorted the power of integrated messages, "the more customized the better," and the ability of technology to help in developing them.

Mr. DeSena has more than 20 years of experience in direct marketing, with stints at Wunderman and DraftWorldwide, now owned by Young & Rubicam and Interpublic Group of Cos., respectively. He spent another decade at Time Inc., where he helped develop digital-cable joint ventures with General Motors Corp. and Procter & Gamble Co. With such experience he is the first to admit that "there is no silver bullet [with CRM]. It is a discipline, a business-building strategy that needs to be applied on a brand-by-brand basis."

Fast Facts

Name Bob DeSena

Title: Director of relationship marketing, Masterfoods USA

Goal: To promote financial accountability of marketing programs

Expected result: More personalized approaches

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