Ocean Spray has a new CMO, but guess what? He’s not going to ditch the company’s seven-year-old campaign that centers on two cranberry growers talking in a bog. His reason: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The data is telling Ocean Spray that the campaign is working well.
But that’s doesn’t make Thano Chaltas’ job any easier. He's now tasked with taking the neccessary steps of making sure the ad remains relevant in a world that is constantly changing. In an exclusive interview with Giselle Abramovich, senior & strategic editor at CMO.com, Chaltas reveals the challenges that today’s CMOs face is the need to constantly adapt.
CMO.com: What’s your mandate?
Chaltas: My mandate is really three-fold. First, I’m expected to drive global demand for our products. Second is figuring out how we do that with a real focus on innovation, not just in marketing, but for new products as well. And third is continuing to build the Ocean Spray brand all around the world.
CMO.com: Where were you before?
Chaltas: I built my marketing career by spending 13 years at Kraft, in a number of their businesses. I was also most recently CMO of Well Pet. I think my experience in food and beverage at Kraft is really going to be useful. We did a lot of digital marketing there in the early days. At Well Pet our focus was new product innovation and social media. And over the years I’ve built an understanding for not just consumers, but also how to work with retail partners.
CMO.com: The CMO role is changing. What are five core competencies of the modern CMO?
Chaltas: The first is to understand the primacy of business results. Second is having an innovation mindset for both product and marketing. Third is–and this is very different than when I first started in marketing–the acceptance and understanding that marketers co-own and co-create our brand with consumers. So you have to have a flexible test and learn strategy. The fourth competency is putting consumers first, while still ensuring that retail partners will accept what you are doing. And the last is having a laser-like focus on developing your team and forging relationships both across the company and agency partners.
CMO.com: When I think of Ocean Spray, I think of two cranberry growers standing in a bog. How long have you been doing this campaign, and why not try something else?
Chaltas: This campaign launched in 2005, and it has been an incredible success. It captures the essence of our grower owners, the power of the cranberry’s unique taste, and also its health benefits in a quirky and innovative way. I am in data-gathering mode, and from what I have seen to date, the campaign overall continues to be working well, proving to me that nothing is “broken.”
CMO.com: So the “big idea” is showcasing how you harvest cranberries?
Chaltas: Really, if you think about it, the growers in the bog are about getting the instant recognition that this is an Ocean Spray ad, and the growers are the way to connect with consumers. It captures our brand’s uniqueness.
CMO.com: How has marketing changed at Ocean Spray over the past few years?
Chaltas: I would say we are constantly adapting to a world that is evolving as we speak. Between what’s happening with consumers and retail partners, there’s a lot going on. Consumers have constant sources of information, and they are influencing and co-creating our brand–and we need to be there and in the most relevant places with the most relevant information at the right time. The biggest change is recognizing that customers are really our marketing partners.
CMO.com: What are the things that keep you up at night, from a digital marketing perspective?
Chaltas: Vigilance. Not just for Ocean Spray, either. We need to be vigilant that we recognize and keep on top of all the changes taking place. Success stories written two years ago are almost irrelevant to the world today. The things I have done in the digital space in the past 13 years are dramatically different. If I took the Kraft marketing playbook from 10 years ago, it would not succeed today. You have to constantly realize that all is changing all the time. And have that “test, monitor, and learn” mentality.
CMO.com: Is the banner ad dead?
Chaltas: This is almost related to the last question. You would have never even asked this question two or three years ago. I don’t think the banner ad is dead. I think people are just recognizing what they can do and what they can’t do. They still have a role for us, and we use big data to make sure we’re doing them right, getting the right message to the right person at the right time. It’s not dead; it has lost its primacy.
CMO.com: What are Ocean Spray’s three biggest digital priorities today?
Chaltas: Engagement, engagement, and engagement. That’s really what it’s all about; asking how can we develop more one-to-one relationships?
CMO.com: In a recent interview with CMO.com, Coca-Cola SVP Alison Lewis said that Coke has a 10-20-70 strategy. The 10 percent is for innovation, testing new platforms, etc. How does it work at Ocean Spray? Are you testing new approaches? How do you organize or plan for innovation?
Chaltas: We don’t do it the same way as Coca-Cola. The money we spend in digital is almost always in an innovation bucket today. The way we allocate budget in 2013 will not be the same we spend money in 2015. Three years ago, how big was Pinterest? Our strategy is to constantly test, learn, and refine. I don’t like the idea of limiting innovation because then it assumes that some things have an automatic place in the budget. I don’t want to have that attitude.
CMO.com: If you could pick one brand CMO to spend time with, where you could pick his/her brain about anything related to marketing, who would you choose?
Chaltas: I am going to eliminate all the obvious choices. I would pick two. The first would be the CMO at Zappos and the second would be the CMO of Quidsi, which owns and operates wag.com, diapers.com, and soap.com. Both have a fabulous customer experience; they get the product to you immediately, yet have taken very different approaches. I’d love to get them into a room and pick their brains.
CMO.com: What are three social platforms you’re eyeing and why?
Chaltas: For Ocean Spray’s business, recipes are a big deal. So for that purpose I would say we are eying Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook to see what more we can do with them. All three are great for taste appeal with pictures, so there’s an opportunity there for us.
CMO.com: What’s the most important question I did not ask you?
Chaltas: You didn’t ask my advice to marketers. It would be to remember that you don’t own your brand. You co-own your brand and co-create with consumers. That’s the shift from what marketing meant just a couple of years ago. Another piece of advice would be to remember that digital is constantly evolving. Innovate constantly, and monitor and shift.