As VP Internet and E-Marketing in the E-Commerce Division of Kraft Foods, Kathy Olvany-Riordan oversees all of Kraftís online advertising, e-promotions and email marketing for Kraft Foods brands such as Jell-O, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Oreo and many others.
She's also behind the strategic thinking of such Web sites as Kraftfoods.com and her team manages the popular Kraft confections entertainment site Candystand.com.
QUESTION: What is Kraftís most successful online property; and, what directly contributes to its success?
RIORDAN: I really canít say that one site is more successful than the other. But if I were to define success in terms of consumer interactivity and reach, I would have to say it would be the Candystand site (www.candystand.com).
With the amount of consumers reached on a daily basis, it is a huge success. We have the largest collection of quality free gaming with content appropriate for all ages. If I define success as what moves the needle or behavior shifts, that site continues to be on the list. Our research indicates that two thirds of the visitors are heavy Ďsnackers,í and that they are very loyal to our confections brands.
The same holds true for Kraftfoods.com. Our Kraft Interactive Kitchen effectively marries branding, consumer insights and the power of the technology as evidenced through site functionality.
We find we are attracting a loyal franchise of our premier consumers. We are seeing double-digit percentage point shifts in attitudes and equity measures (pre- and post-visit). Consumers do think better of the company, believe we understand them and importantly, meet their food needs after visiting this web site. They feel we understand what they are looking for because we have developed solutions that are central to their needs and desires. We are effectively uniting technology and branding to meet both consumer needs and business objectives.
QUESTION: What are some best practices for creating a promotional site as an extension of consumer relationship marketing efforts?
RIORDAN: You need to look for ways to bring life to the promotion online. One way is through innovative and interactive programming that makes the consumer proposition or idea come alive by engaging and interacting with the consumer. We believe we are successful in this regard. An integrated perspective is required.
Our best practices include getting consumers engaged by asking them to do something online. Your team should also keep informed about how new technologies can support your objectives. Things like personalization engines and email marketing have been around for a while, but there is constant innovation in these applications and plenty more choices and models out there.
That said, we have had success with functional banners, and thatís because we deliver more than just the technology in these applications. We try to manage consumers by fitting into their lives. Yes, we want to find them, engage them, and cultivate them but we must be really focused on meeting their needs each and every time and at every point of contact. In this space it is paramount that you donít just talk to them, but enable them with tools so they can help themselves. Things like new food ideas that save them time, engaging entertainment, and games that drive promotional ideas are what the consumer wants.
QUESTION: Can you recall which contests/sweepstakes initiatives have worked out best for Kraft and why?
RIORDAN: Every one we do builds on the other, but Iíd have to say one of our most successful last year was the LifeSaversģ ĎThe Whole Thingí promotion.
LifeSavers is a key brand on the Candystand site. What we did was extend the reach and visibility of an offline promotion to reach a specific target audience. We had an instant win promotion on packages of LifeSavers. The campaign also had a viral component where people could go to the site and download one of our more popular games to their desktop. If they succeeded in the action, they were entered into a daily drawing. Users were encouraged to play and enter every day and send the game to their friends. This was the first time we were successful with viral marketing.
We also promoted it with rich media. We partnered with sites to the point where we had the colorful, recognizable LifeSavers icon floating across the screens of some of our partner sites. Recently, weíve used codes on packages that drive you to a site where you can type in the code and enter to win.
QUESTION: What are some best practices in online contests/sweepstakes?
RIORDAN: First of all you have to understand the end game. In addition, I do encourage the inclusion of online advertising to increase consumer awareness and interaction; collaborate with key partners, prioritize your highest impact options and commit to measuring and testing beyond clicks.
QUESTION: How often do you consider changes for your consumer websites, and what are the leading indicators for those changes?
RIORDAN: We consider changes on an ongoing basis. Minimally, we make changes monthly, but honestly, the indicators of change are consumer behaviors and insight. We have a calendar at the beginning of the year, and we look at our key promotions. We will optimize on a biweekly basis to improve performance based on what is working or not.
Sometimes you think because this medium is so immediate you have to be so disciplined. We have found that it is not always so necessary. The best thing to do is to look at what the consumer needs are on a seasonal and bimonthly basis and work towards meeting their needs and keeping applications and content fresh. If there is a big promotion coming up we may have a big push to make changes. Itís a balancing act and thatís what makes it fun.
QUESTION: How often do you conduct surveys on your consumer websites, and what kinds of questions will you ask?
RIORDAN: Some surveys run continuously. For those, we are obviously tracking consumer reactions, attitudes, and usage and compare it to log file analysis.
But we have also used ad hoc surveys on specific functionality, promotions, or before and after a redesign. We have some of the best-in-class market researchers to guide us in building on our consumer insights and understanding online consumer behaviors.
We also do a lot of focus groups; some right here in our offices. We have put together an advisory council of consumers to see how we are meeting their needs on an ongoing basis. Honestly, I learn the most by attending these in person. I think you have to constantly keep up with consumers and use these experiences to market to them.
QUESTION: What are some best practices for conducting online surveys as well as what should be avoided?
RIORDAN: Avoid asking for personal info when itís not necessary. If you start to ask for things about their kids and the birthdays of their kids and you arenít even going to use it, donít bother asking. Iíve been in situations where consumers are still scared about privacy. They are going to be skeptical. Keep their concerns in mind.
You also have to use clear and concise language in your questions. Pick out all the jargon. Allow consumers to provide feedback when you can. If you are conducting a survey, you have to keep it to less than 10 minutes or so. Online we tell them up front how long it will take and we separate questions into manageable sections so it doesnít look overwhelming. For instance we let them know they are on section 1 of 3 or question 1 of 5.
Indicate their progress along the way and maybe even offer an incentive for completing the survey. Thank the consumer and show them you value their input. Weíve had a lot of luck with this practice. People can be very excited and interested to tell you certain things.
QUESTION: What has changed about Kraftís online advertising efforts over the past year, and how have these changes worked out thus far?
RIORDAN: There is a lot more flexibility and at the same time more discipline. I think we have more opportunities to realize the promise of ad serving and optimization services and technologies for branding to improve the performance of our online advertising efforts.
I am encouraged that we have a much more strategic approach to online advertising now. People do understand itís not just about a one-off deal. We still focus on how we balance our efforts and our desire to innovate. There is a very real need to improve results with limited dollars. Therefore, we still focus on consumer-centric solutions and reaching them wherever they are online.
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