Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Soul Food: How Heinz found its marketing heart

Heinz has stripped back its marketing as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic and says it will never operate in the same way again.

Asmita Singh, foodservice marketing lead at The Kraft Heinz Company, says its marketing would now increasingly focus on adding value to the world. She said: “This has been a real turning point, realising that we need to do more with purpose.”

Singh was speaking at day three of The 99//Club Digital Festival, a week-long event tackling the theme of ‘Emerge Stronger’, and set out the FMCG’s new approach in an initial 99-second long speech, followed by questions from the audience. “My call to arms to everyone is how can we really be consumer obsessed, to build a better world through marketing,” she said.

Speak only when you have something to say 

For Heinz, that meant speaking “only” when it had something to say instead of “pumping out tonnes of crap”.

Since the pandemic took grip it has only pushed out a handful of communications around just a few initiatives: the extension and expansion of its partnership with charity Magic Breakfast to provide 12 million school children with weekday breakfasts after schools closed; the launch of a direct to consumer service, Heinz to Home, with priority and discounts for blue light workers, and providing families with recipe inspiration.

This month it launches Click & Chips, an initiative to get 100-plus fish and chip shops back in business, giving them tools, such as marketing, delivery and app support to enable them to launch a delivery service.

“We will create and push out these campaigns when the key groups that need our help speak out to us – we’re not really so interested in anything else right now.”

Lead with head, not heart

It had been easier than anticipated to reimagine its marketing direction because they had led with “heart not head”. “I often find we try to justify everything and share the root cause analysis for why you came up with this idea or want to support that cause, and there are a lot of people picking away at it,” she said.

“I don’t think we’ll ever move away now from purpose-led marketing particularly on these canned products, if I’m honest…. “So now is the time to listen and to be empathetic.”

Empathy was also the focus for Janelle Estes, chief insights officer at UserTesting; Justin Berkovi, chief product officer, Your.MD, and Nick Fry, group head of UX design at Cheil.

Estes noted that while 75% of organisations thought they were customer-centric, only 30% of customers believed that to be true.  The empathy gap highlighted a strong mismatch between what businesses thought they were delivering and what they actually were.

Reach out and be empathetic

For Berkovi, it was often not just that a brand did not know or understand its customers but also that it lacked real understanding and honesty as to what it was. “You’re only as honest as your best intentions,” he said. “And that’s an ongoing challenge for building products and We are in times now where I feel that this is more important than ever: you have to reach out and be empathetic, because people want to be heard.”

Also speaking on Wednesday were Rachel Pollard, Starling Bank’s chief growth officer; Jonathan Kelly, global head of trading at Twitch and O2’s head of online Mark Nicholson.

The week-long invite-only festival is a collaboration between MAD//Fest and New Digital Age, and follows a succesful 99 Club event held earlier this year before lockdown. Over the course of five days 99 speakers are debating topics across themes including media and tech, customer experience and personalisation, brand experience and creativity, and innovation for growth.