In the first step of its bid to regain slipping brand loyalty and flagging market share, Campbell’s Soup Company has announced the hiring of Mark Clouse as the venerable American food company’s new CEO.
Campbell’s has been falling in popularity and profits in recent years, and the company liked what it saw in Clouse, who was at the helm of Pinnacle Foods when that company enjoyed a 54 percent increase. This was doubly impressive because, overall, the packaged food market has been slowing considerably, with major brands and products with household names losing value.
A surge in consumers checking labels more closely and trying to shop for “healthier” food options has left some longtime staples fighting for a steadily decreasing market. After Pinnacle was sold to ConAgra Brands, Clouse was looking for a new challenge. A military veteran and West Point graduate, Clouse has a strong, all-American presence that should appeal to traditional Campbell’s customers.
He also brings a proven track record of success to the position. In addition to the windfall at Pinnacle, Clouse had successful tenures at both Mondelez (Oreo) and Kraft Heinz.
The timing of this announcement is interesting. Clouse is expected to start “immediately,” and Campbell’s can tie-in its new leadership with the new year. Doing so borrows from the hope, optimism, and goodwill generally conveyed in New Year’s wishes. The company, like its customers, can start fresh and new in January.
Campbell’s released a statement welcoming Clouse and calling him the company’s top choice for the top job. “Mark was the board’s top choice due to his success leading organizations through significant transformations…”
So, is that just meant to be a positive statement, or is it a loaded one? Is Campbell’s telegraphing major “transformations” at the company in the coming year? The statement certainly leaves that open to consideration, and, in that way, tweaks the standard “welcome aboard” statement into a “pay attention, big things are happening promise” … without ever saying that.
The company needed some positive news and some good press. Campbell’s has been locked in difficult negotiations with Third Point, a prime investor that came looking to sweep out all 12 directors and replace them. The back and forth turned “bitter” but the company and the investment group were able to come to an understanding. Third Point got two board seats and Campbell’s got a new boss for a new beginning.
The positive messages coming out now, just before the new year, should help the company set a more optimistic tone for 2019.
- 5W Public Relations CEO Ronn Torossian