People to Watch 2017: Kara Farnham
Company: Mondelez International
Title: Customer Director, Shopper Marketing
Education: Xavier University (bachelor’s, business administration, marketing)
Ten individuals represent the People to Watch Class of 2017. Nominated by their respective companies’ representatives in the Path to Purchase Institute’s League of Leaders, these rising stars are making a name for themselves by doing work for their brands that is worthy of attention.
As Mondelez International’s customer director, shopper marketing, for Kroger, Kara Farnham has built a solid foundation of trust with the retailer and with both brand and sales teams internally. She’s helped Mondelez become a valued partner in her nearly four years there. That’s what gives her a sense of accomplishment every day.
If you ask her what she’s most proud of in her career to date, her answer wouldn’t involve a specific Oreo or Ritz campaign, but rather something she learned before she ever entered the working world.
A biology/pre-med major when she entered college, Farnham realized that marketing was her passion with its blend of creativity, strategy and proven results. She had strong mentors in her mom (who had a successful career in IT at Procter & Gamble), dad (president of an architectural firm) and in Teri List-Stoll (currently executive vice president and chief financial officer of Gap Inc.), whom she met as a senior in high school.
List-Stoll was senior vice president and treasurer at P&G at the time; Farnham babysat her children. “I was in complete awe of her ability to balance her successful career and her family and the passion she had for mentoring other women,” she says.
Farnham, in her own right, has started carving out her niche, first with Pep Promotions on its P&G business as she learned about building relationships, working on cross-functional teams, problem-solving, the vendor community and building powerful brands.
With a new desire to be a part of the strategy and not just the execution, she moved into a shopper marketing position for Dr Pepper Snapple Group on its Kroger account team. From there she moved into her current role, where she is responsible for working cross-functionally to build insight-driven strategies for the Mondelez brand portfolio at Kroger.
“I’m ultimately responsible for bringing those strategies to life in a targeted, relevant and meaningful way for Kroger shoppers,” she says. “I need to make sure I’m leveraging all the resources available to me to build out the different brand strategies at Kroger. It’s not something I can entirely do on my own so the cross-functional piece is important.”
A big piece is making sure the team understands what the data is telling them and leveraging that to build out the brand strategy. “We need to help Kroger achieve its goals and objectives while also achieving our own,” she says.
A planner by nature, Farnham challenges herself to be open to new opportunities as her career develops. “I remind myself that most shopper marketing roles didn’t exist 10 years ago, so how do I know what opportunities will be out there 10 years from now?”
Insights and e-commerce are two growth areas of interest to her. “The more experiences and exposure you get outside of the role, the better marketer you will be,” she says.
She realizes the importance of staying on the forefront of technology, especially while working to engage Millennials and Gen X shoppers throughout their purchase journey.
She sees e-commerce as a challenge but with definite opportunities. “Our brands are highly impulsive and we’re constantly working to find ways to drive the impulse purchase or convert the impulse to a planned purchase in the e-commerce space.”
More and more brick-and-mortar purchases are going to convert to e-commerce as retailers and brands find ways to break down the barriers to purchase, such as turnaround times, freshness, trust and assortment, she says. “It’s going to be essential that we modify the ways we speak to these shoppers to stay relevant. We also need to help our retailers develop their e-commerce platforms and win the trip, just as we do in brick-and-mortar. Shopper marketing will definitely play a role in that.”