Mary Rodgers (Cuisinart) - Ice Cream Cones and Milkshakes
Speaker 1: Maybe big data has gotten too big. Whether you're a B2B marketer or a consumer brand, your data needs to be viable, relevant, and accessible, so that Stirista can help you retain customers, acquire customers, and make it personal.
Ben: Welcome to The Marketing Stir podcast by Stirista, probably the most entertaining marketing podcast you're going to put in your ear. I'm Ben, the associate producer here at Stirista. The goal of this podcast is to chat with industry leaders and get their take on the current challenges of the market, and we'll have a little fun along the way. In today's episode, Vincent and Ajay chat with Mary Rodgers, head of marketing communications at Cuisinart. She talks about how being inclusive when targeting audiences helps boost marketing efforts. Ajay returns from his vacation and Vincent is glad to not be in Texas summer heat. Give it a listen.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Ladies and gentlemen, hello, and welcome to another episode of Stirista's The Marketing Stir. I am your happy host, Vincent Pietrafesa, the vice president of B2B products and partnerships here at Stirista. It is so great to be talking to you. I felt like it's been a while, you know? I just feel that way. But love that people are listening to this podcast. We keep growing. I love that we are now... I'm going to conferences. Conferences are back and people are coming up to me. Let's be clear, it's not like 75 people are coming up to me and being like, " Oh my God, I listen to your podcast." I'm not Harry Styles for those young listeners out there. But people are like, " I love your podcast. I listen to it while I'm on the treadmill or working." And we appreciate that. Come up to me more. We really do love hearing that. First of all, if you're new listeners, welcome. Who's Stirista? And who's this guy? Why is he like this all the time? Who is Stirista? Let's pause for a second just talk about Stirista for like 10 seconds, and then we don't mention it the rest of the podcast. Marketing technology company, we own our own business- to- business data, our own business- to- consumer data. People utilize that data, our partners, to help target that data, to get new customers. We have our own sending platform for email. We own our own DSP called AdStir. We do connected TV, display, OTT. Email me at vincent @ stirista. com if you need anything. That's all. I'm confident that we can help you. I just gave you my email address, ladies and gentlemen. The other thing I'm confident in, and I got to see him and I will see him soon, because we are attending the B2B Sales& Marketing Exchange conference in Boston, August 10th through the 12th. Go to that. Come see us. Ladies and gentlemen, my co- host, Mr. Ajay Gupta. What's going on, Ajay?
Ajay Gupta: Hey Vincent. Just back from a refreshing week at Yellowstone, so I'm in need of a break from my vacation now.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Vacation from the vacation. I saw those pictures. I'm like, " You look like you were in the movie City Slickers." Remember that movie? You were just having fun. I saw you with just different animals. There was a bear. Then there was a moose. I'm like, " Where is this guy?" I love seeing the pictures. Beautiful sunsets. It looked like a postcard when you were posting them.
Ajay Gupta: Yeah. Unfortunately it was about... Well, it was 50 to 70 degrees there, and I got back to Texas and it's about 110. Yeah. My body's having a little bit of a tough time adjusting.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I would imagine 111. That's just why? Why do people do that to themselves? Why do people do that? It's not right. It's not fair. But I'm glad I'm not in Texas in the summer. You and I are going to see each other. We've got the San Francisco trip coming up. We've got a-
Ajay Gupta: That's right.
Vincent Pietrafesa: ...a Boston. You're coming up back to my way, Boston, Massachusetts. That will be fun. We're happy to have you. Ajay, let me tell you something about some of the guests that we've had on. Love them all. Some of the brands I've discovered for the first time, other brands I know, I love, and I've used my whole life. They make me smile. They make me smile because when I hear this brand... And wait till you hear our guest, because I go back. I feel like I've known her a long time and I just met her. That's the warmth I get from this guest. That's the warmth I get when I think of this brand, Cuisinart. Cuisinart. Cuisinart. You know it. You know this brand. If you don't, you live under a rock. But what reminds me, family gatherings, cookware. When I'm cooking it's the first cooks that I ever had. I asked for it when I was graduating college and I was out in that real world. I asked for it, and I still own it today and I have new products as I grow and my family grows. But we are really proud to have this brand and this guest, ladies and gentlemen, the head of marketing communications, Mary Rodgers. What's going on, Mary?
Mary Rodgers: Nice to be here today. I'm very excited to be speaking with you, and I really look forward to it.
Vincent Pietrafesa: We're happy to have you, Mary. You and I talking, we live in that same tri- state area. I love the brand. You love the brand. We're going to get into that. I couldn't stop smiling when you and I were talking in the beginning, because I'm like, again, there are some, like I said, brands that I discover and we learn. I'm like, " Oh, is that... That's what you do?" Then you have those brands that you grow up with and you know and it just brings that warm feeling. I go right to my mother cooking, my grandmother, me cooking in the kitchen, gathered around, serving. I don't know. I can go on and on about all the products and what the brand means to me. For those again, living under a rock out there and they don't know Cuisinart, tell us about it. Tell us about your role specifically and some of your duties there.
Mary Rodgers: Cuisinart, the brand, was born in 1971, and it was founded by a Carl Sontheimer who was an MIT engineer. His passion was around cooking and also French cuisine. He had taken a trip with his wife, Shirley, to France, and he had discovered a method of speeding up food preparation in the kitchen. He then designed the original food processor, which launched in 1973, which actually changed the way that consumers prepared food in their home kitchen. It gave them the ability to speed up complicated processes and get them done very quickly. Also, it came in really handy because in the 70s that time period was really when people were getting out of that industrialized food segment where they were going from a lot of prepared boxed items to really actually coming to the forefront of where cuisine and food preparation is today. It was becoming... Obviously Julia Child, James Beard, there were several well- known celebrity chefs, those early celebrity chefs who actually helped bring the brand along because they used the product. But one of the things people don't know about Cuisinart is in 1971, they first started distributing very high- end cookware that was made in Europe. That's where they got their foray into the gourmet stores and those small boutique shops that are really hands- on service to customers. Because you can imagine a food processor is a high education product. To bring something like that onto the marketplace, when you're changing people's behavior, it takes a lot of effort. The food processor is basically iconic to the brand and where the brand started. Still, today, our most popular food processor is the classic- styled food processor that kind of has been in the line for a very, very long time. Not the original one, but the second generation one is the... I mean, it's been modified and updated and changed over time, but the shape is very classic, integrates well into almost any style kitchen. Your second question to me was about my career, about my work at Cuisinart. I head up marketing communications at Cuisinart. I work across the entire brand portfolio. We work under a MasterBrand portfolio, so which makes it nice and clean and easy for me. My area of the business is brand marketing. I also oversee all the D2C, e- commerce, consumer acquisition, market research. I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but basically everything but product development. I mean, I am involved in the product development process by guiding product development with supporting primary research and concept testing and things like that. It's not as if I'm not in any way involved in that. It's just that I'm not the one who is overseeing that complex process with our products, especially in the electrics, the durable goods business. It's a pretty complicated process to design, develop, launch and manufacture a product.
Vincent Pietrafesa: With Cuisinart, you're right, my first foray into it is with the food processor. That's the food processor. I still have one and I also have cookware, I have some cutlery, but it's obviously so much more than that now, grilling, bakeware, flatware.
Mary Rodgers: Yes. We have a very extensive line of products. Basically we kind of group them in two ways. We have our electrics products and then the other product categories we call non- electrics because it's everything else that doesn't get plugged in. Everything from, like I said, cookware, gadgets, cutlery, the gamut of the kitchen categories basically. We're pretty well represented across electrics and non- electrics.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. That's a good way to describe it. Mary, the other question that we ask all of our guests is how you got into this space. How'd you get into marketing? How'd you get into marketing communications? These stories are never the same from guest to guest, so we'd love to hear your story.
Mary Rodgers: Interestingly enough, when I was in high school, I... Well, first of all, I was talking to somebody today and I said, " My first real job, I worked at an ice cream place and that's how I learned to count money and I also learned how to..." That was like my first foray. Everything from doing dishes to making ice cream cones and milkshakes. After that, I also started working in a nursing home because I had planned on going to nursing school. Well, I shouldn't say planned, because I actually did go to nursing school. I started in nursing school, but obviously I'm not there now. My aunt is a nurse and she was encouraging me and I really was interested in it, and also having the experience of working in a acute care facility was something that was life- changing when you're in high school. It exposes you to a lot of things that some people would never get exposed to. I went to college for nursing. I was not a great memorizer, and when you are in nursing, you have to memorize every bone in the body and every vein. That was not my foray. Then I actually switched into English literature because really at that time in my life, I was writing poetry and I was doing a lot of writing for self- expression and that's my real talent. That's my foray, how I ended up going into communications at the end of the day. After college, I worked in retail and this is kind of all... circles around in a way. It's never a direct journey. I worked in retail, I worked in housewares and I was just married at the time and I started in the assistant buying area. Believe it or not lingerie and then men's and boy's, and then I ended up in housewares. Then they promoted me and they wanted me to go into store. Basically the process there was you would go into stores and you would have to go out into the field and not necessarily be in the home office. I worked in store operations, which was not conducive to someone who'd just gotten married because the schedule in store operations is like on Monday you're open, on Tuesday you're closed. On Tuesday you're closed, on Wednesday you're open. It was like a seesaw schedule and it was just not conducive at that point. I ended up then going into publishing. Marketing and publishing. That was my first real job in marketing. I progressed from there. Then obviously I transitioned back to the home goods area, which I worked for Dansk, which is now owned by Food52. I worked for Farberware. This was all in marketing. Then obviously went from there to Cuisinart. Cuisinart was always on my radar as an up- and- coming brand. It was very intriguing to me and I happened to get lucky and they were looking for somebody in marketing communications because they were trying to take the brand from... It was kind of small, really quite small compared to where it is now. They were really looking to take the brand to the next step. That's how I ended up joining the company at that point. It was also at a point where the marketing channels were a lot smaller than they are today. So inaudible. It was definitely at that time when I joined the company much more like the traditional marketing channels. As you can imagine, there's been a lot of progress in that area over the years. That's how I ended up here.
Ajay Gupta: Mary, what a fascinating background. As Vincent said, every story is very unique, and yours in particular with the writing portion, I have a master's in creative writing and my parents were worried for a long time that it would not translate into a job. Yeah. I think writing actually translates well into a lot of things. Probably not like neurosurgeon or something along those lines, but-
Mary Rodgers: Yeah. Sometimes you don't realize like some inherent talent of your own that it's something other people just struggle with horribly. It's really interesting because I write all the time for lots of different things obviously. For me I can just sit down and I just knock it out and I have other people on my team who's like, " I'm really struggling to get some thoughts around this." It was funny too, when I went back to get my... I went back to school to get my MBA not that long ago, and when you're studying for your MBA, you have to do a lot of writing. For me that was like, I was like, " This is just right up my alley." Economics on the other hand I had to put some effort into that.
Ajay Gupta: Mary, it's so rare to see somebody working for a company as long as you have at a time where average work span is less than two years at a company. Tell us a little bit about your experience working here and what are some of the most valuable things you have learned?
Mary Rodgers: People ask me this quite often because you're right, it's basically unheard of in many ways. People say to me, " Why have you been there for so long?" The real reason at the end of the day is that I have a lot of freedom in the way that I run my share of the business. We are not highly bureaucratic, so it's not like I talk to colleagues at other companies and they're like, " I have to talk to this person and I have to run it up the flag pole three times." Currently we're a very decentralized organization, though the company is trying to become more centralized in certain aspects of the business. That is really what's kept me there. I have a lot of freedom to make decisions. I have freedom to write my own roadmap for the business. I think that at the end of the day is what has kept me there. Also, Marketing in itself has changed so drastically over the last five and 10 years that that in and of itself has kept it so interesting and intriguing for me, because I said, I've worked with the company for a really long time and I have not had one day that's been exactly the same as another. For me, that's something that I find very powerful because it's interesting. Every day is different but I have direct impact on my decisions and my roadmap items that I can execute on.
Ajay Gupta: Mary, tell us a little bit more about what are some of the channels that are working for you? What are things that may not be working, but would love to get some insight on your marketing strategy?
Mary Rodgers: Yeah. One of the things that I pride myself on is we don't chase things. We enter when we think it's appropriate for the brand and the business. I think this is an issue I've seen across marketing, and it doesn't matter what brand it is, where they want to be first there, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it's right for their customer, their consumer. So we are really very strategic about entering new channels. We examine it. We also try to time it so it's appropriate. We also have to make sure that our consumer that we're trying to reach is also going to be engaged in that channel. Doesn't make a lot of sense for us to be in channels where our type of customer that we're trying to reach is not present. I'll give you an example of this. One of the things that's been on our roadmap for a little bit has been social commerce. We tested it about three or four years ago and consumers were not yet there, but we had a lot of great learnings. We had built the infrastructure for it, but now we're ready to really act on it. That's a channel that we're going into, that's new for us. When I say social commerce, this is shopping directly on the social platform and consumers are much more accepting of that now than they had been three or four years ago. That's a channel that we're developing. Our partner in that is Salsify. We work with them on our PIM and a few other things, digital shelf audits. This segment that we're just adding is called orders and inventory, but that's one of the items that we are focused on for this year. A few others, affiliates is something that we're planning on executing on for new channels, but this all ties back to our execution of bringing D2C and e- commerce in- house in late 2018. Thank you. Well set up before the pandemic so we weren't chasing that. We've always been selling direct to consumer, but not fully enclosed within the organization. We were using a fulfillment company and flat filing orders to them but still store fronting the experience to our consumers ourselves so we could also make sure that we were collecting first- party data too. That's something that has been a focus for our corporation as a growth pillar also. We are very thoughtful in the way that we approach new channels, because the other thing I find too, is like, if you put so much energy into something that you really haven't well examined, haven't decided if it works with your strategy, you're also sucking up resources that may not produce anything on behalf of the brand or the business. You have to also look at this is the way I handle this, but it's not necessarily the way... I'm not saying my way is the only way. I'm just saying that I think that marketers sometimes need to be more thoughtful in the way they approach things, because a lot of times they want to put the badge on the portfolio, and I did that, or like I'll give you the latest example, the metaverse, which is the latest shining bobble or bobble that people are chasing. I'm definitely studying it. How does this work with our business? Is this the area we need to be in? Is this something that makes sense for us? Where should we go from here basically?
Vincent Pietrafesa: Mary, I also wanted to add one thing that I know you won't say because you're very humble, but a testament to longevity there is that you also do a great job. You just don't get to keep a job for 20 years plus. You have to also be good. That's a testament to you. I just wanted to add that for you. Also, Mary, tell us about... You're talking about social media. Social media has changed a tremendous amount even in the last like 10 years, but how has Cuisinart embraced it? Are there any channels that really work for you? Any channels that surprise you? Is Cuisinart on TikTok? That would be a surprising channel for me. But I would imagine that maybe it'll work. Talk to me about it.
Mary Rodgers: Yeah. Interesting. We still see Instagram and Facebook as... I'm going to give you a couple, but Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and also YouTube are channels that work really well for us, for many different reasons. YouTube we've discovered that people want to come there when they want to understand if maybe they're not using their product correctly or maybe, oh, how do I do this? So we're doing a lot more what we're referring to as troubleshooting videos. We work with our customer service teams and we are really close to them about what do you think people are going to want to know about this product? Or where they may not necessarily operate it properly or put it together right way. We do that in advance of the product coming out. Then after the product comes out, we touch base with them again, what types of things are people calling about? Then we build content around that. That's a channel that we're using that way. Obviously for Instagram and Facebook it's about inspiration, engagements. We use a combination of self- developed content, influencer content, content creator content. That's how we are using that channel. We are on TikTok, but only very recently. That's another area where we're using a lot of content creators to create and produce stuff for us based on our marketing calendar and a few other things, because there's a lot of food- oriented material on TikTok. How I made that, how I did that. I think there's room for us to grow there. I also know that TikTok announced they were going to do social commerce and now it seems like they peeled back a little bit. We'll keep our eye on that going forward. Those are, I would say, the top channels that our consumers are engaged in.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Interesting.
Mary Rodgers: I mean, I'll give you an example of something that we're not currently using. We're not active on Twitter. It's just interesting too, because the way that we actually did have activity on Twitter and we basically didn't have a lot of engagement. We just didn't see our customers there. It became a platform that was very media- oriented and celebrity, politics. For us to insert ourself in that, it started to make little, to no sense, so we had abandoned that channel. At one point, we did have like an editorial- type channel where we were posting news and things like that but we ended up also finding that that was really... We found we were not getting a lot of engagement. You have to continually examine each of these channels to see if they still make sense for you. But you should also, as a channel grows, keep up with where they're going, what their roadmap is and then how you can integrate that into the work that you're doing on behalf of the brand. At the end of the day, it's about serving our consumer and if we're able to serve, inspire, delight our consumer, that's why we're in those channels. Obviously at the end of the day, we want to inspire them to be in the brand family and be able to also keep them engaged long term, not just for the moment. That's how we look at it.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh, no, that's very interesting and thanks for sharing that because a lot of people just say, " Oh, all social channels work." It's good to know that obviously you have to try them and then if certain ones don't work, you have to pivot. No, thank you for sharing that. I want to stay on your consumers. Did you notice over the past few years that your consumers' behavior or demographic has changed in any way? If so, how?
Mary Rodgers: I would say one of the things that we have noticed over time is that originally the housewares, home goods business had been very oriented around women. As things changed, in my eyes, anecdotally, and also research- wise, primary research- wise, we are reflecting more of an adult U. S.- based audience. We've seen quite an evening out of the genders over time significantly. Well, and also if you start really thinking about consumer behavior, like behavior behavior, in- home behavior, men are much more engaged in cooking and also shared responsibilities in the kitchen. I also know a lot of working women who... This is antidotal, who also have the kids and the big career and this and that. In some ways they've also allowed that maybe responsibility to go to their partner and not necessarily be their sole responsibility as it had been in the past. We've seen a really, really interesting evening out and more engagement by men, which is great. We are a very inclusive brand. We are not just marketing to women. That's not something that we do and I think it's reflective also in the primary research results. Also, we're very appealing to young people. A lot of times, sometimes inside the organization we'll say things like, " We're not appealing to young people." But then it's like, you show them the data and it's like, yes, we are. We're really strong in that area. Sometimes you tell them that and they just have it set in their mind that it's not. One of the interesting things that we started to do is we started doing a brand tracker about a year ago. That was something that was really on my to- do list. I really wanted to get that launched and then have it done consistently. For our business, it doesn't make sense to do something like that on a quarterly basis because our business doesn't change that dramatically quarter to quarter. We are doing it on a yearly basis. We're just about to approach our second year on that. But the interesting thing is we started to compare the data that we collect from our brand tracker to other primary research to see like if... One of the people I work with, they call it the sniff test. What do you see on the data that you collected on a nationally distributed basis and what are the data points that we are also checking? They're really close. They're very, very close. That gives us a lot of confidence in the numbers, and like I said, genders changed. I would say and kitchen behavior is probably one of the other biggest changes. During the pandemic everybody was home rediscovering their passion for cooking in the kitchen, and also out of sheer necessity, but I also think that it depends on how engaged you are in that process to begin with. For myself, I love to cook. It's a passion of mine. I also find it creative. It's very creative. For me it's a creative outlet. It's not a creative outlet for everyone. There's moms out there with kids that have full- time jobs and they need to come home and they need to make a meal for their family and feel good about it. That for them may be their weekday behavior, but they might put a little more extra love and effort into it on the weekend when they have more time and their family's home and they want to make it special for them. I think that that's another thing that's changed dramatically. I also think during the pandemic people did experience cooking fatigue. I will tell you that even for myself who I worked from home from like March to July full time and so was my husband who was a teacher. After having to sling three meals a day for like months on, months on, month on, months on, months on end, I have to tell you, even a passionate home cook can get worn down. One of the things that we're doing now too, is we're always keeping our eye on what's important to the consumer. How can we help them navigate the current economic environment and how can we teach them that when they go to the store, instead of spending X, Y, Z on a certain food product that's pre- made, how do we help you think about that in a different way? How can we help you economize or just... I'll give you an instance. For instance, like hummus. You want to buy hummus in the store. It's$ 5. You can buy a can of garbanzo beans for less than a dollar. If you're a good shopper, you can get some deals on it too. You can make a snack for your family that is extremely healthy, super nutritious, and so simple and easy to make when you have a food processor. You don't have to have the gigantic 14- cup model, you can have a smaller formatted model. We even have items where we have attachments that go on more of a blender base, or you can even make it in a blender. It takes a little more finesse to do it in a blender because you need it to be a little more liquified. You need a little more liquid to add in there, but things like that, helping them think along those lines, how can I get great snacks on the table for kids during summer? We're always thinking about those things on how we can serve our consumer in a different way.
Ajay Gupta: Mary, here's a fun question we ask all our guests. I'm sure you get a lot of emails and LinkedIn messages trying to solicit and sell you something. What's one that really gets your attention, and more importantly, what's one that really annoys you?
Mary Rodgers: I love when people reach out to me with a new, interesting product that's relative to my business, or that they've actually maybe done a little bit of research on the brand, or maybe even looked up some of the work that I've done for the company and understand where I might have some pain points. What am I trying to solve for? I think those things are super helpful to me. I would say one of the things I do out of habit is in the morning I get up and like typical marketers you catch up on the latest news. Obviously this week, there's a lot going on in the retail industry with a lot of significant sales. They've been matched by a lot of retailers so it's not just become a week for one retailer. It's become a week for many retailers. I do all my reading. I follow a lot of big companies on LinkedIn and I follow a lot of well- known marketers. I would say the ones that I dislike the most are the ones that reach out to you and you'll say something like, " It's not something I'm interested in right now, but..." And then they just keep bombarding you with messages. It's like please stop. The thing is too, is one of the things I was talking to our CIO about this, and it's like I set up an automatic signature, email signature, and it's like non- solicitation. It's like, " Thank you for sending your email. I'm not interested in your product, but please remove me from mailing list." And that-
Vincent Pietrafesa: That's good. That's a first.
Mary Rodgers: Yeah. I was like, " Oh, that's a great idea. I love that because obviously..." But half the time they don't listen anyway, or the best ones are the ones that they email you and they say, " Is there something you don't like there?" They give you the A, B, C. I'm like, " Leave me alone."
Vincent Pietrafesa: How about E? It's you I don't like. I don't like you for reaching out to me.
Mary Rodgers: It has nothing to do with whether or not I like somebody.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I know.
Mary Rodgers: I think the thing is that... And I will tell you something. I have worked with a lot of companies that have reached out to me. Okay? I have done that, but it has to be meaningful to my business and it has to solve a problem for me. I mean, you have to be open- minded to it but I also think that the people that you reach back to when you say, " This is not really something I'm looking at now. I might look at it in six months." I think that that's something that needs to be respected.
Ajay Gupta: Mary, what's something cool or something new that's coming out?
Mary Rodgers: We just launched this really unique coffeemaker. It's called our Grind& Brew Single- Serve. Grind& Brew Single- Serve is a category that we were in quite a long time ago and was our foray into the coffee category, what we had become known for. As you can imagine, you're grinding whole beans fresh. Gives you the most flavorful low- acid results for coffee. We designed this product, this Grind& Brew Single- Serve that's really cool. It actually is a nice small format. It's great for any- size kitchen. It's nice and sleek. It actually grinds the beans and dispenses them automatically into a reusable filter basket and filter cup. Then you take that and you put it into the single- serve side of the machine, and you are brewing a cup of coffee from whole beans without having to deal with any disposable cups or pods as we refer to them as. It's also extremely economical. It's great for the environment because you're not putting anything back into the system. It also makes an amazing cup of coffee. That's something that we just launched. We're doing a lot of marketing around that. Also, focused on upcoming September, where we're going to be launching a lot of marketing campaigning, because September's also National Coffee Month so it's a super important month for us and for our business, and so you'll see a lot of activity around that. The product is already distributed nationally. It's available at stores. It's 149. 95, is the price point. It's a nice price point. It's, like I said, well- designed, beautifully- made, very nice product.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome. All our listeners who are business executives I'm sure drink coffee, myself included. That's a nice, cool product on the go. I don't know that about the low acid. That's pretty cool.
Mary Rodgers: Yes. Yeah. So-
Vincent Pietrafesa: All my acid reflux sufferers out there, including myself in that category, that's awesome.
Mary Rodgers: Yeah. Basically what happens is it's a burr grinder mechanism, so it crushes the beans. It doesn't chop them, which it's a better process. It's also super consistent. You get a super consistent grind. The other thing is if the coffeemaker is designed and it doesn't overextract the beans, you get a very consistent flavor. Also, when you overextract, that's when you get more acid. That's super important.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Good to know.
Mary Rodgers: Makes a nice smooth cup of coffee. Also, the great thing about it too, is that you can use any type of bean that you prefer. My husband likes to buy from small local makers who roast their own beans, so if that's something that is important to you. The other thing I found over time too, is that consumers like to blend their... They're always doing something you never imagine they'd do, right? They like to blend their own beans. They'll commingle two different varieties of beans and make their own custom blend and personalize it. I think that's super interesting too.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love that. I love that. That'll be in September. September is also back to school, a lot of people, I mean, in college need that cookware, off campus they need different supplies. That's pretty cool. I got to look out for that, but it'll be hard for me to get away from my current Cuisinart coffeemaker with the timer that I've had for 16 years, ladies and gentlemen, it's still running. It's still running perfectly. This is a true story. This is a true story, no exaggeration. Mary, just a couple of more here before we wrap. What is a campaign that you were involved in or Cuisinart has been involved in that you were really proud of over the years where you were like, " Wow, that really made a difference. We sold a lot of products or just people really talk about this product a lot." Love to hear that.
Mary Rodgers: I would say one of my proudest accomplishments... I'm not very good at talking about my accomplishments publicly.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That's why I added those in for you because now... Yeah.
Mary Rodgers: I know. I need to do a better job at that.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Well, your experience and your resume speaks for itself. That's why you don't need to do it. That's why guys like me do it. You know?
Mary Rodgers: I would say my proudest accomplishment, when it comes to a product success would be we launched an air fryer in late 2017 it was. It was one of these products when you work for a company that's very entrepreneurial, they don't necessarily do concept research on every product. Well, you can't. For our business, you couldn't do it for every product, but what happened was the original founder of the company came up with this idea of making a oven- formatted air fryer. Up until that point, they had been what we refer to as basket style, which are still on the market. They're the ones that it's kind of a drawer. You open the drawer and the food is in there. It's more like pile on top of each other. You don't get as good a result with some of those style basket fryers, but improvements are being made with those. Anyway, they came out with this concept and it was one of those things where it didn't exist. There's always a struggle when something doesn't exist before, because there's not a... Where do we put it? Do we put it with the basket fryer? Retailers, do we put it with the ovens? If it's with the ovens, how are people going to distinguish that from a different oven? What ended up happening was after the product was actually fully developed and in inventory, they came to me and they said, " We don't understand what's going on with this product. We need your help, this and that." I said, " Okay. Well I think what we need to do..." Because, look I'm more than happy to say, " Look, this is a category we don't know. This is not coffeemakers. It's not food processors. It's a category that we do not know." We ended up doing very extensive primary research. We actually did everything from understanding the wants and needs of consumers to testing advertising and understanding advertising messaging. What was the most important messaging to consumers? Then obviously the positioning of the product. What ended up happening was not only did we come out of that study with how to actually market the product to the consumer, but also our future product roadmap. We had so many great ideas from the consumers that enabled us to take one product and make an entire line of products out of it. So, as you can imagine, it also was, and still is the largest growing category in our business. It's about a billion dollars, I think, right now. It's huge and it still has legs and we're still doing line extensions to that. We have some items that are coming out later in the fall, which are going to be really interesting. There's basically, like I said, two formats. The oven format and the basket format. The basket format, I think is the one that's like a billion dollars.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Wow.
Mary Rodgers: It's pretty significant. I would say that by far was... There were other ones. I wasn't a one- hit wonder.
Vincent Pietrafesa: No, no. No. We know that. We know that.
Mary Rodgers: One of the early ones was basically the Grind& Brew format for coffeemakers. That was another one that I'm super proud about too that is still a concept that's still on the line.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome.
Mary Rodgers: We're still marketing it in different formats too.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That is cool. Yeah. The air fryer changed the game. That's one of those products that in a while that's come out, you're like, " Wow. This is changing the game." That's great. Mary, I can't let you leave without talking about... Julia Child's one of the first things you said in this interview here. So how did Julia Child influenced the brand? Everyone knows Julia Child. Everyone should know James Beard, but not as well- known as Julia Child. James Beard, the James Beard Award. If a chef gets that he or she is really good, but Julia Child, how did she influence the brand?
Mary Rodgers: Well, not only Julia Child, but Jacques Pépin also because they actually started using the products in... A lot of our products are used in cooking shows and also you'll see demos on morning shows that you'll see our products used. That's really where they actually got traction. Carl Sontheimer was very smart. He built a lot of relationships with well- known celebrity chefs who used the product and consumers would see it that way and it would be demoed and used. That's how he started really building up the brand. I actually personally worked with Julia Child, not at Cuisinart, but at Farberware when I was there. She was actually one of my idols, even before I got to work with her personally, and she was such a cool, down- to- earth, really, really kind person. You have to really look at what she did for educating consumers in a fun but still educational way. She really got people interested in fine cooking really. The thing is too, it's super important to talk about this. We do a lot of work with supporting some schools and hospitals with education, with young people, because a lot of that has been removed from the education system and so now people are really heavily reliant on parents teaching cooking skills to their children and also organizations. Like I said, we work with a group called Charlie Cart, which supplies cookware and items to teach nutrition inside hospitals for children. That's really cool. We're also always looking for opportunities to do thoughtful things that make sense for the brand in those areas too.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love it. I can't not think of Julia Child and hear that amazing voice, that powerful voice of hers, that iconic voice in my head. Lastly, Mary, we got to know you at personal level, poetry, your love of cooking, but I have to ask this last question, what is a kitchen item you cannot live without? Mine is my Cuisinart coffeemaker. There's a timer. Wakes up in the morning, pop. It's ready to go. What is yours?
Mary Rodgers: I mean, it's hard for me to pick one, but I would say-
Vincent Pietrafesa: Like picking a favorite child, right? Why inaudible?
Mary Rodgers: I would say... And maybe this is just because it's been so successful for us and I worked so hard on it, but I would say our Cuisinart air fryer, toaster oven, and we have a new model with a grill, it has grilling functions so you can grill indoors. I use it literally almost every day. If we're not grilling outside... My husband and I we're outside all the time if we can be. The weather's been beautiful on the East Coast recently so we're outside like every night until like 10 o'clock, which I know sounds crazy. But I use it every day. It's perfect for... I can put two pieces of salmon in there and I can have it done in like less than 15 minutes. The basket holds up to three pounds of food. You could do three pounds of chicken wings, but the great thing about it too is like, I can put two potatoes in there and cook them a little bit and then put in my salmon or maybe some asparagus. I can actually cook a whole meal. I've gotten really good at it.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome. I love it.
Mary Rodgers: I literally use it every day. It's funny too, because I renovated my kitchen. I did a gut renovation on my kitchen during COVID. I know, crazy, but I was so glad I did it because I realized, " Why am I dealing with this kitchen that is just not appropriate for my level of skill?" I put in a beautiful Italian stove and an oven and I don't turn the oven on very often because I'm using my air fryer every day. I mean-
Vincent Pietrafesa: Because you have that. Yeah.
Mary Rodgers: Obviously, I would say the next two in line for the siblings would be my food processor. Actually, during COVID I took a lot of cooking classes and learned how to make pasta by hand, but now I've advanced my method to I do it in the food processor. It's so quick and easy. Then of course my coffeemaker. Who can live without a coffeemaker?
Vincent Pietrafesa: You need it. I know. That's awesome. This has been great because again, it's products and brand that I really love and I really use. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. That's Mary Rodgers, ladies and gentlemen, the head of marketing communications at Cuisinart. This has been an awesome episode. I'm Vincent Pietrafesa, that's Ajay Gupta. This has been another episode of The Marketing Stir. Thank you so much for listening and we'll talk soon.
Ben: Thanks for listening to The Marketing Stir podcast by Stirista. Please like, rate and subscribe. If you're interested in being a guest on the podcast, please email us at themarketingstir@ stirista. com, and thanks for listening.
Ajay and Vincent chat with Mary Rodgers, Head of Marketing Communications at Cuisinart. She talks about how being inclusive when targeting audiences helps boost marketing efforts. Ajay returns from his vacation, and Vincent is glad to not be in Texas summer heat.