Trendsetter Masthead

Bob Rupczynski
Bob Rupczynski


Like us on Facebook

See the current issue of
The Internationalist

Find out how to sponsor an issue of Trendsetters

Trendsetters: Kraft’s VP Media/Data/CRM, Bob Rupczynski, Talks about New Structures for a Real-Time World

Bob Rupczynski would be the first to admit that it’s not easy to transition a 100-year-old company that built an empire through television to a new media world—now steeped in data and obligated to react in the moment to consumer needs. However, he was hired 18 months ago as Vice President of Media, Data and CRM to help make Kraft nimble, so the foods giant could move from a standard 9-month media planning approach to real-time thinking with daily decisions that tie back to sales.

For Bob, the first step in becoming a more agile marketer was to build a new infrastructure that does not look like any organizational framework currently in place at a corporation that can boast over 27 brands each generating more than $100 million in sales.

He was speaking last week in New York with media agency partner Lisa Donohue, CEO of Starcom USA, at the 2013 ANA Real-Time Marketing Conference presented by Starcom. Kraft, of course, is one of the largest consumer packaged food and beverage companies in North America, with annual revenues of more than $18 billion. Kraft launched as a public and independent company on Oct. 1, 2012, after spinning off its global snack operation as Mondelez International Inc. The grocery division continues to carry the Kraft name, and includes such brands as Oscar Mayer, Planters, JELL-O, Maxwell House, Velveeta, Philadelphia, and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

Bob Rupczynski described how Kraft Foods’ real-time marketing journey has now become a business practice across many of the company’s brands. At the heart of the process is driving business value, and he underscored that his role is not accountable to social media metrics, but to sales—or specifically product movement at the store level. He added, “Our marketing activities must lead to purchases, and we have to understand which purchases are tied to what we’re doing. We need to look at this on a daily, weekly, monthly basis as we simultaneously watch sales, and then we must be continually flexible in our activations.”

To make this happen, Bob had to collapse all departments, teams and specialists that touch upon media, data or CRM into one department with application across the entire organization. This took roughly 8 months, and involved numerous legal and privacy issues, along with dramatic changes to corporate infrastructure. Silos are one of a number of impediments to real-time marketing, which must be collaborative and multidisciplinary by nature. However, he acknowledges that product managers understand the nuances of their brands better than his team. “We simply provide a data and activation overlay that can enhance their product sales and relevant consumer interactions.”

Bob Rupczynski explains that there are several critical components to agile marketing—a strong data strategy, organizational infrastructure that can drive a different culture, and relevant, personalized content that consumers want, delivered at the right time. Data, without question, is the most important component. “It unleashes everything else,” says Bob. “However, data for data’s sake doesn’t matter; it must drive strategy.”

Kraft had incredible, unconnected data from many different sources within the organization that had never before been brought together. Bob was able to initiate an enterprise data strategy that further broke down the silos within the company-- once people understood that unearthing what’s below the surface could better contribute to creating what consumers want, precisely when they want it.

Through Bob Rupczynski’s encouragement, Kraft’s marketing evolution is moving from being campaign-focused to always-on. There is greater emphasis on responding to change, rather than simply following a plan. Plus there’s a shift in focus to individuals and interactions, instead of process and protocol. Bob jokes, “If you’re not failing, you’re not pushing hard enough. Get comfortable with life in Beta.” He is clear that testing is critical to real-time marketing success. We now exist in a business culture that sees payoffs from “many small bets.” He says, “The days of ‘big, safe bets’ are over.”

Initiating this real-time overlay was not easy, and it is still in process. “Kraft,” says Bob, “is not full of Millennials. We had to show our people a tangible vision and constantly unveil the capabilities and benefits of truly agile marketing.” Through Town Halls and monthly meetings, Bob and his team eventually found five or six brands that were willing to be first movers and take risks publicly by testing and sharing results. Experiments with both Planters and Lunchables demonstrated significant lifts in real sales, which caught the attention of other brands and started the shift to a real-time marketing culture.

Prior to taking on this new role at Kraft Foods Group in August 2012, Bob Rupczynski served as Global Director of Digital Marketing for the Wrigley Company in Chicago for four years, working with brands like Skittles, Lifesavers, Starburst, and Altoids. Earlier, he spent seven years in global digital marketing at Alberto Culver.