How Ann Mukherjee (PepsiCo) Keeps Whetting Consumers’ Appetites

January 15, 2015
Ann Mukherjee (PepsiCo)

Ann Mukherjee (Pres., PepsiCo Global Snacks)

In the fiercely competitive and fickle beverage and snack business, you need a marketing leader with a deep understanding of the consumer landscape, an eye for innovation and the ability to delight consumers. One might argue that Ann (Anindita) Mukherjee is a “consumer whisperer” of sorts; she gets consumers and seems to be in lockstep with the latest trends in the art and science of marketing.

Mukherjee has built an impressive resume of accomplishments since joining PepsiCo and Frito-Lay in 2005, where she has advanced from VP of marketing to CMO at Frito Lay and is now President of PepsiCo’s Global Snack Group and Global Insights Group. Her leadership helped Frito-Lay reach $14 billion in sales with consistent annual growth rates higher than the global snack category as a whole.

Her most notable and enduring Frito-Lay campaigns include Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” – the poster child for user-generated advertising –  and “Do Us a Flavor.” The “Do Us a Flavor” Facebook contest, which also leveraged consumers by helping them pitch ideas for new chip flavors, earned a 2014 GMA CPG Innovation and Creativity award. In its 9th year, Frito-Lay’s “Crash the Super Bowl”, the largest online video contest in the world, has upped the ante, with its grand prize winner not only walking away with a cool $1 million, but a year-long gig at Universal Studios. These consumer engagement tactics resonate with consumers, causing them to feel empowered to participate and seek out brands that encourage this behavior. The “Crash” ads “are really not talking about Doritos at all,” says Peter Daboll, CEO of television analytics company Ace Metrix. “They’re more like sitcoms. And viewers respond to them because they’ve got a certain authenticity, aren’t overly produced and didn’t go through five approval committees at the marketer or several remakes by an ad agency”.

But Mukherjee, who has been playfully dubbed the “Queen of Corn,” has focused on much more than advertising. As she told the New York Times in 2012, “Demographics, the aging population and changing ethnic mix, and bifurcating income are the trends reshaping the way people are eating,” Ms. Mukherjee said. “We’re snacking more often during the day, and we’re looking for snacks that are more satisfying physically and healthier.” To meet these various challenges, Frito-Lay launched new brands like Stacy’s Pita Chips and Sabra for the more health conscious, and expanded the Lays and Cheetos brands into dollar stores and other discount outlets.

In a speech at Snaxpo 2014, Murkherjee noted that, “Mass marketing no longer resonates with today’s consumer and it must be replaced by one-on-one marketing with dedicated focus on pre-shop behavior.” According to Murkherjee, research has shown that 76% of purchase decisions are influenced before consumers even start shopping, primarily in the forms of social media and consumer written reviews. As such, there are significant strides to be made in the realm of word-of-mouth marketing.

So what’s next for the now President of PepsiCo Global Snacks & PepsiCo Global Insights? The need to gain a better understanding of the ways that technology will continue to change the retail experience, and continued expansion into emerging markets. “When people think of Lay’s they think America, but actually we have some of our strongest audiences around the world,” Mukherjee says, “There are no borders anymore, we all know that. The world is global. Everyone knows that. The same is true for the potato chip.” Chew on that!

See Mukherjee speak at BRITE ’15 (March 2-3, NYC) and hear more about her efforts at PepsiCo and how to leverage the art and science of marketing.

BY JENNIE MILLER AND MATTHEW QUINT

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