Why Kraft Believes Most Data Is Crap

Kraft says first-par­ty data is the key to cre­at­ing mean­ing­ful brand expe­ri­ences.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Data can be a pow­er­ful tool to help brands bet­ter tar­get con­sumers on an indi­vid­ual lev­el and serve up the most rel­e­vant con­tent. But that’s only when the data itself is actu­al­ly rel­e­vant to the brands in ques­tion. And with so many providers offer­ing data, how are mar­keters to know which source is the best fit?

At Ad Age’s recent dig­i­tal con­fer­ence, Julie Fleis­ch­er, senior direc­tor of data, con­tent and media at Kraft, ref­er­enced her now some­what infa­mous com­ment that 90 per­cent of data is crap at a pri­or event and she notes Kraft still believes most data is crap, but it is “all in” any­way.

But that’s only when it comes to first-par­ty data.

Things Had to Change…

Like many brands, Kraft had a long lega­cy of rely­ing on TV to build its brands, but came to real­ize it had to do some­thing dif­fer­ent upon its split from Mon­delez in 2012, accord­ing to Bob Rupczyn­s­ki, vice pres­i­dent of media, data and cus­tomer engage­ment.

The first thing we did was look at our agency state­ment of work and we lit­er­al­ly had the same one we had in 2000,” Rupczyn­s­ki said. “It had nev­er been updat­ed. We were look­ing at con­sumers and tech­nol­o­gy that were very dif­fer­ent, but an agency SOW that hadn’t changed in 12 years.”

But Kraft is a “$20 bil­lion com­pa­ny that had done the same things the same way for 50 years,” Rupczyn­s­ki said. And so in order to effect change, he had to “scare [upper man­age­ment] a lit­tle bit. There is a dooms­day black cloud over head…consumers will change and so we have to change, too.”

In oth­er words, data was the only com­pet­i­tive advan­tage in terms of under­stand­ing con­sumers in a tru­ly unique way and the brand had to start to acti­vate against that, he said.

Col­lect­ing data is worth­less, but under­stand­ing con­sumers and doing some­thing dif­fer­ent, that was the approach we had to take,” Rupczyn­s­ki adds.

The Data Source: KraftRecipes.com

For Kraft, the abil­i­ty to under­stand con­sumers and do some­thing dif­fer­ent starts with data from the 100 mil­lion con­sumers it sees every year on its KraftRecipes.com site.

We can track [con­sumers], col­lect infor­ma­tion and under­stand when they’re cook­ing, what ingre­di­ents they’re using, what hol­i­days and sea­sons they’re celebrating…and deliv­er rel­e­vant con­tent,” Fleis­ch­er said.

In oth­er words, Kraft said con­tent is at the heart of its mar­ket­ing approach and the brand can mine result­ing data to cre­ate more mean­ing­ful expe­ri­ences by under­stand­ing con­sumers on an indi­vid­ual lev­el.

But, Rupczyn­s­ki notes, in an era of con­ver­gence and empow­er­ment, the brand must match the pace at which con­sumers live their lives, which means Kraft must fig­ure out how to deliv­er its mes­sage quick­ly and appro­pri­ate­ly.


Address­abil­i­ty is our strat­e­gy,” he said.

But it hasn’t always been a per­fect sci­ence.

Last year, we did won­der­ful­ly at get­ting to the right peo­ple and under­stand­ing when to serve that mes­sage to them, but we served all of them the same mes­sage, which was a missed oppor­tu­ni­ty,” he said. “At the end of the day, con­tent has to be put in con­text, but con­text has to be pow­ered by a data lay­er.”

The brand has since piv­ot­ed to tar­get­ing with more appro­pri­ate mes­sages.

But first Kraft had to fig­ure out how to bet­ter dis­sect its data.

Most all of us are lack­ing in terms of data lit­er­a­cy. It’s not a skill taught in busi­ness school,” Fleis­ch­er said. “[But] if you aren’t col­lect­ing, inter­ro­gat­ing, orga­niz­ing and acti­vat­ing data, you’re wast­ing your time.”

Address­abil­i­ty, on the oth­er hand, allows mar­keters to “get to know con­sumers on a gran­u­lar basis and…reach them indi­vid­u­al­ly,” she said. “90 per­cent of data is crap. It just is. In the world we’re work­ing in, the vast major­i­ty is crap.”

Third-Party Data is Crap

She points to Kraft’s cof­fee brand Gevalia and its K‑Cups prod­uct as a “per­fect exam­ple of the need for address­abil­i­ty – any­one who doesn’t have a brew­er is a wast­ed impres­sion.”

Fleis­ch­er said the brand test­ed four types of data about brew­er own­ers with two ecom­merce play­ers and found only 14 to 20 per­cent of the data was cor­rect about brew­er own­ers.

It, in part, points to the need for uni­ver­sal data ter­mi­nol­o­gy and also expos­es addi­tion­al issues with third-par­ty data, such as lack of knowl­edge about how the data is col­lect­ed and even when it was col­lect­ed.

In addi­tion, she said Kraft’s Crys­tal Light brand want­ed to adver­tise to “trend­set­ters,” but with one data source in par­tic­u­lar the brand ulti­mate­ly dis­cov­ered that “trend­set­ter” was defined as con­sumers who shop for con­tem­po­rary fur­ni­ture.

You need to dig into it to under­stand the con­text of that data,” she said. “Garbage is garbage, even at scale. You can take data with a stun­ning lack of qual­i­ty and you can’t make up for it by just hav­ing more of it.”

In oth­er words, data needs to be vet­ted, under­stood and inter­ro­gat­ed, she added.

It’s a remark­ably opaque indus­try by design because it allows ven­dors to sell prod­ucts, but it is hard­er for us to use and rely on,” she said.

What’s more, third-par­ty data sources are the same ones com­peti­tors like Pep­si and Gen­er­al Mills use, she not­ed.

So Why is Kraft Still “All In” on Data?

Despite prob­lems with third-par­ty data, Kraft said it sim­ply can’t rely on the media that got it to this point in time any longer.

Con­sumers aren’t pay­ing atten­tion to ads,” she said. “We’re at an inflec­tion point as an indus­try at which we can’t 30-sec­ond spot our way out of this.”

That means the only way for­ward is to go back to KraftRecipes.com to under­stand con­sumers, engage with them and get data back for free through the pro­pri­etary lens of the prod­uct.

Our mantra is enrich, scale and diver­si­fy,” she said.

In oth­er words, the brand wants to enrich first-par­ty data, scale its data so it sees more peo­ple and gets to know them on an indi­vid­ual lev­el and then diver­si­fy that data by under­stand­ing con­sumers through the lens of the prod­ucts and cook­ing behav­iors.

First-par­ty data is not crap,” she added.

What’s more, con­sumers are will­ing to share a tremen­dous amount of data about health and loca­tion, so brands that don’t have the infra­struc­ture to col­lect, store and ana­lyze that data to deliv­er rel­e­vant con­sumer mes­sages will fall behind, Rupczyn­s­ki said.

Con­sumers of the future are why we’re all in,” he said.

What’s your take on first and third par­ty data?

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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