Campbell’s CEO Returns To Alma Mater
Morrison Discusses Business Strategies
Published: Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
In a consumer economy recovering from a recession, companies are looking for any way to satisfy, and Campbell’s Soup CEO Denise Morrison, BC ’75, explained how she became one of the most prominent women in corporate America and the steps her Fortune 500 company is taking to increase the brand’s excitement, convenience, and emotional response.
In her presentation last night, hosted by the Economics Association, the Boston College alumna addressed Campbell’s goal to reach “beyond the can” and become more global with consumer input and a broader product platform.
Campbell’s vision to grow profits in North America with soup and simple meals and drive forward healthy beverages and baked snacks is designed to reinvigorate the nostalgic brand.
After a decade of events that produced fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, Morrison said that changes have occurred in the American psyche.
“People are spending more on what is more important to them and their families and are willing to pay more for what is most important to them,” Morrison said.
Morrison defined the new and diverse consumer segments as the most critical issue within the industry.
For Campbell’s, the culture of food is changing. With a shift to non-traditional, multigenerational, unmarried, single parent, multicultural families, more voices are deciding what the family will eat.
The consumer today is seeking good nutrition in meals that are affordable, fast, convenient, and taste good. They are looking for an emotional recovery from the recession.
For the food industry, that means that consumers want to experience new types of food that make them feel good and excite the palate.
In response to this, Morrison explained Campbell’s focus on the generation change to the “Millenials.”
“Our core, loyal customers are the baby boomers and seniors,” Morrison said. “[The Millenials] are the children of the baby boomers and there’s 80,000 of them.”
Campbell’s used the opinions of these young adults to reinvigorate the brand, introducing new flavors and products with a distinctly progressive design campaign reflecting the diversity of this new sector of consumers.
Increasingly more technological, buyers want to see themselves as resourceful with a command on the complexity of the technological realm.
Campbell’s is responding to these changes with products like the campbellkitchen.com app and the use of technology to mine data in order to know which of their new products will sell on shelves and where.
These booms in technology are heightening communication between all parts of the world, accenting the importance of globalization, a factor Morrison sees as important to the industry.
With these diverse changes in the consumer economy, Campbell’s has transformed their consumer insights into more than 50 new products, with rich product textures, bold flavors, and innovative graphic design. The company is hoping to increase the brand’s excitement, convenience, and emotional response.
“We are facing a consumer environment that is becoming more complicated by the minute,” Morrison said. “But, at the same time, it is offering us more opportunities.”
When Morrison graduated from BC in 1975, she was in only the second class of women to graduate, and became one of the leading women in corporate America when instated as CEO at Campbell’s.
An A&S double major, the benefit of Morrison’s economic focus is clearly apparent, but her major in psychology taught her how to know consumers and understand the dynamics of leading people, two skills that launched her into her position today.
When asked what the most important thing she could impart on students was, Morrison was adamant about the effect of BC’s lesson about becoming a lifelong leader.
Beyond an intellectual experience, Morrison stressed the critical thinking and analytic skills the University teaches students to apply in coordination with strong ethical values.
“Serve as a leader, live a balanced life and apply ethical principles to make a significant difference,” Morrison said, stressing the importance of always leading with integrity.
What did Morrison suggest to get a leg up in the business world? Go digital. The world is going digital. “Think about what Steve Jobs did,” she said. “He found the intersection of technology and music and technology and reading at technology and TV.”
The last piece of wisdom Morrison had to offer was the importance of networking.
Morrison broke into the food business at BC when attending a recruiting event on campus with Proctor and Gamble. After getting a job with the company, she learned the industry by stocking shelves in supermarkets.
“Networking is the opportunity,” Morrison said, “but you have to get the job.”