People to Watch 2017: Marc Bennett
Company: Johnsonville Sausage
Title: Shopper Marketing Manager
Education: Marquette University (bachelor’s, advertising)
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.
Before joining the Johnsonville team in the fall of 2016, Marc Bennett spent nearly a decade in the advertising world.
He was an account manager for a mock agency tasked to work on the AOL (yes, that AOL) account. He and his team even put together a $25 million campaign that they presented to peers and professionals in a national advertising competition – and that was while earning his degree from Marquette. He also worked on business-to-business accounts for a small agency in suburban Milwaukee, and that’s when he became more curious and motivated to take on bigger challenges “because you gather a breadth of experience and learn a sense of humility pretty quick,” he says.
Bennett moved into account management functions after graduation for small- and midsized agencies in the Milwaukee market, most recently with Cramer Krasselt for more than five years, and worked on dozens of brands across multiple categories “from powersports to paper and everything in between,” he says.
But it wasn’t until a former colleague, Jamie Schmelzer, opened his eyes to shopper marketing that he wanted to make the jump to the CPG world. Schmelzer, Johnsonville’s integrated marketing director, created a group that handles marketing communications, shopper marketing and social media, and he brought Bennett in as a shopper marketing manager.
“He’s taught me a great deal about thinking creatively and believing in my own ideas,” says Bennett about his current “coach” at Johnsonville. Bennett is responsible for executing marketing communications programs with the company’s West Region sales team and customers (including Albertsons/Safeway, Winco and H-E-B), while also developing communications strategies and plans for some of its integrated power periods, including its “First Brats” spring grilling initiative, “Brunchspiration” Easter and Mother’s Day breakfast programs, and the “Sausage Support Center,” a back-to-school campaign featuring a hotline and live call center that provides support in the form of recipes, cooking advice and “curiously pleasant conversation,” he says.
Bennett says over the past year he’s been able to bring in more integrated marketing communications programs beyond the traditional retail programs that the team does in partnership with the customer. “We’re really trying to get our sales and brand teams to align on consumer journeys for everything we do,” he says. In some cases that isn’t just a retail activation, but the steps ahead of that that the team controls.
Shopper marketing provides too rigid of a definition, he says. “It really is a broad understanding of how you talk to somebody who is shopping for your product.” What he sees is myriad big, complex challenges for shopper marketing. “And I don’t think there’s one answer to all of them. To me, that’s exciting.”
The challenge in approaching all of this, he believes, is being organizationally comfortable with the risk of investing in new programs, technologies and strategies. “Not everything is going to sell more products, but everything will be a learning opportunity,” he says.
Looking ahead, Bennett says physical stores will have to create shopping experiences that will entice consumers to get off their couches. “Some will, and some won’t,” he says. “I foresee both e-commerce and physical stores playing a role in the lives of a consumer. How much of a role it will play entirely resides in the choices of the individual.”