LA Business Podcast

41. Mary Rodgers, Director of Marketing Communications at Cuisinart

Mary Rodgers at Cuisinart
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We speak with Mary Rodgers about the growth of Cuisinart, the longevity of the brand, and the shift in product sales since the global pandemic.

Cuisinart.com

Intro: [00:00:00] Welcome to the LA Business Podcast, a form for business owners and senior executives to share the experiences about the elements that drive their success. Your host is Robert Brill, CEO of Brillmedia.co

Robert Brill: [00:00:16] Hey everyone welcome to another episode of the LA Business Podcast today our guest is Mary Rogers, director of marketing communications at Cuisinart.

Thanks for being with us.

Mary Rodgers: [00:00:26] Thank you for having me.

Robert Brill: [00:00:28] So Mary you’ve been with Cuisinart for a long time since August of 1996. Tell us about the company. I mean, I definitely have some of your pans in my pantry or, or whatnot. Tell us a little bit about cuisine, art and how things have changed over the last, last few decades.

Mary Rodgers: [00:00:50] So, yes, I’ve been with the company quite a long time. So I have a lot of a built in knowledge I’ve gained over the years. But the company, when I started had a very, very strong, small selection of products, a lot of people don’t realize that the company started in 1971, but, in 71 they were importing high-end French cookware and distributed in the United States.

But, their real claim to fame and what has made the brand Cuisinart? An icon was the launch of the food processor in 1973. It was first, food processor, the American marketplace, and the reason why it was so valuable to consumers is it took really complex cooking techniques and allowed you to make them very quickly simply and easily, but still get an amazing result at the end.

And then today we have basically representation and many of the kitchen categories for both what we refer to as electric and non-electric. Non electrics is everything from bakeware, to cookware, to accessories, cutlery, dishware, glassware.

And then also we have, a licensed partner, full ham group who we actually use for outdoor grilling products. So we also are in the outdoor grilling space, which is, rather new-ish, but. So ss you can see behind me, a huge selection of super popular, very innovative products. I think the part where the brand has managed to have a lot of longevity is the fact that the company has a very entrepreneurial spirit.

It focuses on very heavily on product development, and innovation. And, we’ve had some major successes in those areas.

Robert Brill: [00:02:45] So let’s jump to the last four months. You know, we’ve been talking to folks who are in the food category and, it seems to be a really good time to be in the food category, especially if you’re, if your consumption is at home.

Popcorn, ice cream, apples, baked goods. tell us about the last four months. What have you, how has your experience been over the last few months as the COVID-19 pandemic has hasn’t happened?

Mary Rodgers: [00:03:15] So I would say there’s several different things. One thing is that we have been able to pivot very quickly when it comes to our message points.

We did start to notice very quickly at the very beginning, some of the things that consumers were looking for, some of which you’ve mentioned things like Breadmakers, waffle makers, coffee makers, air fryers, anything. And then ice cream makers, which you would be like, why, but if you think about it, like ice cream parlors, aren’t open for people still want ice cream, you know, so a lot of comfort related items, comfort and convenience.

And also the fact that I think people were also home and they’re like, Oh wow, I can’t get my my latte or I can’t get my cappuccino and I need to get an, you know, a good espresso maker in house or a better coffee maker now that I’m using it every day. So we’ve seen a lot of, trajectory and specific categories like Breadmakers, which is kind of a sleepy category.

You know, it kind of was, you know, not a high performing category, but not stellar the way it has become where, you know, it was the impetus of, you know, A lot of things, people not being able to get bread in their grocery store. And so they were looking for alternative methods and then when they couldn’t get yeast, they were looking for ways to make bread or other products like that without having to use yeast.

So I’m sure you’ve seen. Banana bread, like crazy all over Instagram or, you know, lots of alternative things. Obviously see a lot of, a lot of coverage on like making my own starter and things along those lines that consumers are becoming very resourceful in fulfilling their basic needs you know, cause the hierarchy of needs is something that was very evident at the beginning of the pandemic.

People were to fulfill their basic needs. Yeah. Before they were like going beyond that. And I think, you know, we’ve gotten out of that phase and you’re starting to see people more inclined to filling needs related to, I can’t go on a vacation.

You know, I still want to be outside and grill, but I, you know, I need to find other ways to expand the footprint of my home. So I think that we’re starting to see some of that. Now. I would say that as far as, Cuisinart brand, we’re really lucky because we have an amazing group of agencies that we work with who are very nimble and that’s also our expectation.

So what we’ve done is we put together like two tracks, because if you look across the country right now, you see a lot of people like in the area of New York, you know, we’re at the very beginning of this. So we’re kind of in a better stable situation as far as opening where you see other places of the country you know, going kind of backwards in a way.

And so we kind of have a two lane strategy. So if, if this is going on here, we can switch back, back and forth depending on what’s happening in the marketplace. And then we’re also, paying a lot more attention to our inventory levels because we don’t want to be promoting something if we don’t have stock.

So when it comes to things like digital and social, where we’re working with influencers, and we’re doing a lot of calendar programming, we’re doing it in very short windows. Now where we used to plan quarter, we used to plan annually quarterly. And now we’re doing everything month to month. Cause you have to, because everything changes every minute of the day.

And then we’re going to even the finite level, absolutely making sure that if we’re promoting something that we have inventory and we have inventory in the marketplace. And so as an example of that with Breadmakers, you know, we saw that trend starting to pick up. And so we started to do more around that space, communicating it to the consumer.

And then we also literally sold out of every breadmaker we had, we were like scrambling to get more of them, but in the meantime, we were able to, to stop. So, you know, we were able to switch out to other things because now with everything going on in the marketplace, you certainly not want to be putting efforts against something, to a consumer where you just kind of frustrate them and they can’t get the product.

So, you know, you have to be. You have to be really willing to kind of dig deep now, you know, dig into things that you weren’t necessarily that concerned about. Like we, you know, we always have an inventory. I always have an inventory buffer, but when you’re in situations like that and you’re selling out things very quickly and unexpectedly, you know, and the lead times have extended, you know, where we were like 90 day lead times, you know, we’re looking at like 120 now.

So you have to be super careful about. Where are you putting your efforts? And making sure that you can, you have supply too.

Robert Brill: [00:08:21] So when you talk about the bread maker and the waffle maker and the AirFryer and ice cream maker, what was the signal or set of signals that you saw? That led you down the decision path.

Okay. Clearly this is what people want. So, and then I further imagined with that information in mind, your advertising and your social content changes, pivots into that. Was it social? Was it some sort of higher level social listening? Like how did you know, when did you get to that point?

So we saw it very quickly on fur in a few different areas.

Mary Rodgers: [00:08:55] We started to see it from our retail partners order levels. Okay. Then we also, at the same time, kind of, this is all happening at this same time. You know, we were seeing, yeast shortages, like right away and we knew that’s when we started seeing the pickup of interest in bread makers, and also bread shortages in general at the very beginning.

And so we have a couple of different things that we do. We do use a social listening tool. We happen to use our partners NetBase that’s, who we had happened to use. And we also, use another, syndicated research called NPD, which is very specific to our category. We started having a lot more, touch points and calls with them because they’re very tied into all the data that we receive. It’s tied to our retail partners point of purchase basically.

So we take that data and we can very early on see within, you know, two week period, changes in the marketplace. And we also are very close to obviously our retail partners, because they’re telling us what the demand is on their side. So, you know, we saw that really early on, and obviously we also do a lot of just gorilla work in social media. You know, things that we see ourselves antidotally. And then we start tying that all together. Also on top of that with our consumer insights group, there are constantly scanning for, any type of news in the categories that are important to us, whether it’s food, lifestyle, behavior, you know, we kind of try to keep on the touch point of anything that would impact our business.

Robert Brill: [00:10:43] So you’re doing, it’s interesting, right? A.S a head of marketing, right? Like your, your job is to kind of like sleuth out and put together you’re the private detective, right? Like you’re the, you’re the person who has to look at all these signals and synthesize them and then make a decision.

Like that’s fascinating. Did you have that infrastructure already set up or were there sort of dramatic changes that you made as you saw this pandemic happening? And I’ll actually qualify that one of the companies we work with, we’re an ad buying firm and we work with a company called Media Mint in some cases.

And they have ad buyers that we contract across the world and they saw this coming months in advance because they’re in other places around the world. So when this stuff hit hard, They were set up and it was an immaculate response with regard to their employees.

Mary Rodgers: [00:11:40] I would say the thing is we did see this coming in a different way.

Okay. So people forget the beginning of this, which is, you know, the fact that when we went into Chinese new year in the factories were closed down. That’s when they started to see the pandemic pickup. And so as the factories were starting to go into their normal reopening phase, they were not reopening.

And so at that point, it was quite interesting because the company was very focused on supply, getting supply and, and getting supply as soon as we could, because we came out of a really good year. So when you come out of a really good year and all your retailers are doing the inventory at the end of January, and you know, they’ve kind of become, you know, they’re looking to resupply come February.

And that’s also when we start into like our new product launch phases, when you come out of, you know, Chinese new year and what happened then was, as they started to ramp up supply, the pandemic came here. So then it was like, complete three 60, because were doing amazingly well until I would say halfway through the third week of March.

And then all of a sudden, like when people went into like panic mode basically. And so our retailers were trying to figure out what they were doing. You started to see them shut down. So there was a lot of concern about, marketplace impact because still retail represents brick and mortar retail. I want to be completely honest.

Brick and mortar retail is still a very large portion of overall retail sales and especially in the categories that we are selling in. So we did see like kind of a stepping on the brakes at the end of March, but as we entered into April and May and June, we basically saw a huge uptick in base and digital online, you know, still.

Still filling the marketplace, but just from a different angle, because consumers were maybe not as willing to go in store, they couldn’t go in store. You know? As you know, like there was a huge scramble, even with some of the, the big accounts like Amazon who stopped shipping basically, which like in your life, would you ever think that would happen?

You know, so you had Amazon stop shipping nonessentials you know, our product categories, you know, we had a period with them. I think it was maybe three or four weeks where they hadn’t ordered anything because they were so focused on anything health care, cleaning, supply, anything in that category that they were making a priority.

So, you know, we went kind of like went into the, went from basically we need to get product to let’s make sure we’re getting the product we need, can sell them that consumers want. Because the last thing you want to do is be scrambling around trying to get inventory that’s not saleable.

Right? So there’s, there’s a lot of people involved in that entire process in our organization. And your, question at the beginning was where we set up for this. I mean, in, in a sense, we were really lucky because we have made. My team and I have made a lot of changes over the last two years on the way that we were approaching, our agency partnerships, we basically went from one core agency to agency specialization.

Robert Brill: [00:15:26] Can you talk about that?

Mary Rodgers: [00:15:27] Yes. So basically see what happened was we had been with, a web development agency who had been with us for almost 25 years. And they had kind of started out as, as you know, small, nimble. It was perfect for our business, as time went on, they took on more and more responsibility, but they were not masters in all of those categories.

Their core strength was basically web development. And we also did a lot of changes around our PR strategy and our PR firm. So we changed web development agencies. PR firm. We went to another social media firm. We found a new email marketing agency. And so we’ve added a lot of specialized companies over the last several years because of the fact that our business is, you know, it’s a mature business, you know, and you, as your business matures, you need to be with the best class people in my opinion, that’s how I operate.

And then lastly, at the beginning of the year, we started to transition to a new web platform. We totally reformatted our website to a best in class CMS. And we just launched that on January 22nd. It took us about six months. We are, we’re finishing up some, like we had like 10 tech integrations.

So a few of those we’ve had, you know, some last minute cleanup stuff with, but you know, that whole process is meant to set us up for a better experience for our consumers, you know, a faster site, more control for ourselves because now if we want to add a new product, we don’t have to call an agency to do it.

I’m in house. You know, we can do that ourselves. We want to run a contest, we can set it up ourselves. So this way we’re working with our agency partner for web development it’s strategy, right? It’s future. It’s not grunt work basically. And my philosophy for that same time period is like, we need to automate everything that we can possibly automate, because I don’t want the smart people that work for me spending their time pounding a keyboard basically. I want them to be using their brains.

And so, that’s kind of where we gone over the last two years and, you know, I feel like myself and my team have worked really hard at setting us up for a great future too. It’s not just about the work we did in the past. It’s about how the work we did in the past is going to make us successful in the future.

Robert Brill: [00:18:05] How did you sell that in? I mean, you know, with all the different changes, I imagine you have to have a lot of sway within the organization, which I imagine you do.

Mary Rodgers: [00:18:15] I know you’re probably not going to believe this, but there’s the reason I stayed with the company so long is because I run my own department.

So I’m, I don’t have to run decisions by somebody. See, you know, every waking moment of the day, they expect me to do the best thing for the business. I mean, we have a budget process and yeah. You know, we’re held accountable for, you know, costs and being more efficient and all the typical things that, because we’re really a decentralized company.

We work on strategic business units. You know, we are responsible for our business locally. We don’t really have to run too many things up the flag pole unless it’s like a, you know, some type of critical issue.

So that’s a huge advantage. I know that a lot of my colleagues at other companies spend most of their time basically cutting through red tape.

That’s that’s really one of the major reasons I’ve stayed with the company. To be honest with you, we can, we can get a lot done. We can really accomplish things. So that’s a huge advantage.

Robert Brill: [00:19:23] That’s amazing. I love that. There’s so many places I want to go, but I can tell you that having love for the job that you do and feeling valued. Is the reason why I do the work that I do. Can I just love it? And I can tell you love the work that you do.

Mary Rodgers: [00:19:45] My management style is to the people who work for me own their business. I’m sure I’m not a micromanager. I want that to feel like they can contribute that their ideas are valued, that they are challenged, that, you know, they see me as someone who’s going to help and guide them, not like hangover them.

Robert Brill: [00:20:13] So I’m looking at your, your ads. I’m looking at moat.com. I pulled up quizzing art. I see food processor, air fryer, the hurricane blender, the precision master mixer, a variety of things, a griddle that all are in line. Right. What’s interesting to me, it appears to me that your products have changed as we discussed.

Right. I’m sure  you’re targeting, running these ads on with a particular intention as we discussed your messaging, hasn’t changed. And that was that’s clearly by design. Did you make a conscious decision early on to say, like, we’re not going to say we’re not going to say words like unprecedented, once in a lifetime, you know,  all the jargony stuff that people say.

I hate hearing, I hate it when I say it. You’re just sticking to the facts and you know, what’s interesting to me is you’re part of the supply chain of comfort, right? Like that’s your role in this whole thing? And you did that on purpose. Yes?

Mary Rodgers: [00:21:15] Yes, because when I focus on our communication points, it depends on what category.

Also, we look at everything. I don’t, I, I look at an air fryer as an air fryer in and of itself. So I want to know as much as I can about what’s going to motivate a consumer to buy an air fryer. That’s my focus. And with that category of very specifically. You know, there was very few players in the marketplace.

And the format that we came out with was an oven format where other formats were these kinds of countertop items that were like roundish looking and very plastic. A lot of them are made out of plastic. And so for myself as a marketer, I was like, I, I really want to know, I know more about this category.

I want to know what’s going to motivate people to buy this product. So we did a lot of primary research. We tested a lot of communication points. We found which ones were more, most meaningful for consumers. And that’s what we went with. The other thing too, is because we’re so focused on innovation, we tend to actually hone in on the things that are better and different about our products compared to the competition.

And are there any claims that we can make that are meaningful to the consumer? And if we are able to make those claims, you know, we also do third party testing and other things related to being able to, you know, get it by the legal department. Okay. And, you know, we are very, I’m very buttoned up when it comes to anything related to that.

We work everything through the legal department because I’m good that I don’t go rogue. We kind of want the company to get in trouble for anything that doesn’t serve me, or the brand, but that’s how we do it. We look at, if I’m marketing a coffee maker, I’m going to look at that product in and of itself.

You know, obviously staying in the, kind of the general format of the brand, the general kind of positioning. But, we look at each thing individually. We don’t say every product is marketed to women 25-54. We don’t do that. And we, bend our communications so it’s meaningful to the consumer.

Robert Brill: [00:23:27] How important is, and I imagine it’s very important, but I’ll ask. How important is digital media in your overall marketing mix ad social media influencers. Can you tell us a little bit about how you wield that, sword?

Mary Rodgers: [00:23:43] So similarly, we have a senior digital marketing person on staff. We also have an eCom, senior e-com manager on staff, marketing manager.

They work very closely together and obviously with me, but digital has become over the last 10 years more and more and more important. You know, I would say that like many brands, we’ve shifted quite a bit of focus from some more traditional avenues to digital. And the reason is, you know, you can have proof of performance.

It’s really simple to quantify proof of performance. And we’ve also put a lot of tools in place, even if we’re funneling consumers to our retailers, through our website, we’re able to capture where they went, if they bought something, you know, where we have a lot of backend, tech data that we can collect, even on that type of thing too.

So, it’s become very, very important. You know, we set benchmarks for ourselves for conversions, sales, you know, we also have made, direct to consumer a priority for the company. Which we started about a year when to say actually year and a half ago. We had an outside company who would fulfill parts and replacement items for us.

And we transitioned that all in house, which was a huge undertaking and, you know, integrated it with our website and also, our managing and fulfilling all of that internally both with, customer service, email communications, and also, the fulfillment end of that

The company as a whole set up a very large fulfillment center. I want to say maybe two, maybe two and a half years ago out in Glendale, Arizona. And it was set up as a brand new pick pack center to help both our retailers because retailers, people don’t realize retailers rely on their vendor partners to actually fulfill their direct to consumer orders.

Cause they’re not set up. They’re not an Amazon or they’re not, you know, they’re not set up necessarily to do those types of things. So they’ve become more reliant on, brands to provide that service for them. So a lot of people don’t realize that.

Robert Brill: [00:26:09] So you’re telling me it’s like drop-shipping basically. I brought something to the best buy and you’re fulfilling on it. But I bought it through best buy.

Mary Rodgers: [00:26:16] Exactly. But you know, on the business end of that, it’s, it’s very savvy because if you think about it, the retailer never takes possession. You don’t have to ship it anywhere. There’s a lot of costs you’re stripping out of the system in order to do that.

I mean, it’s a huge benefit to both partners, you know, and then the retailer basically sells the item, collects the item, you know, collect the cash from the consumer. Never takes possession. The order shipped out. So. it’s a super streamlined way to do. It’s also very complicated, super complicated for companies to execute on because we didn’t set ourselves up as a fulfillment company.

Right. We set ourselves up as, you know, a large format, basically, you know, Distribution. That’s our, you know, points of point distribution, but now that’s not where the business is going. And if you want stay relevant, you have to make investments in those types of things in our company did.

So that was super smart on their behalf, but it also benefits us because secondarily they built in a fulfillment place that we could use as our own direct to consumer fulfillment center.

Robert Brill: [00:27:23] That puts you in a really great position in the next decade. If you can, learn how to, I mean, you are already doing it, but right. If you can do what best buy is doing and just fulfill on the direct consumer, process completely it kind of limits the need for her best buy to be in that supply chain at all.

Mary Rodgers: [00:27:45] Yeah you know, philosophically, the thing is also, there’s a lot that goes on in the retail market place on the business side of things that are not necessarily, evident to the public, the amount of support that retailers expect from brands financially is quite a burden.

When you talk about co-op dollars and you talk about, which a lot of people don’t speak to co-op dollars. And you’re also talking about retailer’s expectation of like, as they want to expand the footprint and digital, they’re expecting more financial support from us so the burden becomes greater and greater and greater.

And, you know, brands are, I also think protecting themselves and their future against the continued part of that. And then there’s also the aspect of, there are several accounts in the retail space that are not healthy. Right. You know, there’s quite a few that are, obviously either on the verge of bankruptcy claim bankruptcy, you know, gonna claim bankruptcy, you know, and there’s a lot of loss to brands when that happens to a lot of people don’t speak to that.

It’s, you know, if you shift in the big order and you never got paid, you know, you’re out for a long time, you get a penny, you know, so a lot of business aspects to all of this. There’s so many different things that marketers and, business people, executives in general have to be aware of and present in now, than they didn’t need to be five years ago or two weeks ago.

Robert Brill: [00:29:43] When I think about the relationship that you might have with a retailer, the one thing that you cannot replace with the retailer, is there a showroom for you? And your competitors granted. And they need a lot of money and caught up on all that stuff. But I’m thinking about this a decade from now, if let’s say the retailers go away or they’re dramatically pulled back, the only thing that you cannot reproduce out of that process with great ease.

Is the showroom experience of actually touching the product.

Mary Rodgers: [00:30:10] Yeah. I agree with you completely. I think that, I just experienced this very recently myself because I’m home all the time now working in my house, your beautiful home back there. If I showed you my kitchen, you would not believe I work for Cuisiart.

I finally decided to bite the bullet and I’m in the middle of a kitchen renovation. I ordered my cabinets and you know, so I’m going through that entire process. Now with the way things are working, these showrooms, you have to make an appointment. You just can’t walk in. It’s like, everything’s a whoha. You know,  it’s like, I got to like call the place that sells the sinks and see if I can come look at a sink because I’m not, I hate, I hate to say this, like I’m not buying the sink.

If I can’t look at it. You know what I mean, if for what they call, they’re really expensive, couldn’t believe how much that stuff costs. But anyway, it’s like, I, yeah, I completely understand. I mean, there’s so many, like now there’s so many like great, you know, use of video and other assets that, you know, 3D or 360, or enable the consumer to get a better idea.

But I would say that one thing with video is, you know, it could be highly retouched in some cases, I mean, we don’t do that. I mean we’re talking broadcast. Yes, we do do some minor retouching, but you know, some of that stuff, it looks really great when you see it, but you’re right. Like you, you know, when you buy it and you get it home, it’s like, Oh, you know what happened? Right.

So, I think that. Also brands that have better reputations and in that way, we’ll do we’ll do better. That consumers would feel more confident buying from an established brand who makes good products. And then I would also then layer on the whole you know how prevalent reviews are for products, and what, and, and the impact that that has on brand sales too.

I think consumers, I even know myself, my husband wanted to buy a battery powered lawn mower and, you know, we read the reviews cause I’m like, and we bought it and we had it shipped to the house, which was really weird. I would never buy a lawn mower, but I think we’re all finding, like our behavior is changing.

Like I never would, you know, have groceries shipped to the house, but I did, you know, and I haven’t been. It’s the best, except for that whole cleaning thing, the whole preparing them for, you know, coming into the interior of your house as a whole, a whole process. If you decide to do that or not.

Robert Brill: [00:32:55] What, you know, you, you touched on the value of brand. What, when you think about your marketing and where your dollars go and what they’re expected to do on an immediate and a long term basis, how do you consider or weigh the benefit or drawbacks of spending marketing dollars on brand versus spending marketing dollars on, I need to get a sale like in the next week and a half.

Mary Rodgers: [00:33:21] Yeah. So, we kind of take a long term approach to that. We do spend money on brand advertising, specifically brand advertising, mostly in the digital space. I would say in other avenues, such as television, OTT, all those types of things is very product focused. So we use a combination of both, but I would say more heavily on product.

But we also have our brand intertwined in there. So, you know, it’s kind of hard to say that a TV commercial is only focused on product because it’s not, you know, I mean, you’re still promoting the brand with the ultimate goal of the consumer buying the product, what I would say when it comes to more digital space, we do have, a combination of where we’re running, let’s say more, D2C, advertising, but also brand advertising. And we’re also looking at both of those buckets and comparing the performance on an individual basis. So every dollar we spend on brand marketing and the digital space is completely kept by itself and evaluated in the same way.

As direct to consumer dollars. So it’s like, you know, here’s our DTC money. Here’s how it’s performing. Here’s our brand dollars. Here’s how that’s performing. And we have done some shifting between the two. When we see that, you know, We’re converting better in a certain way, but we also have them set up.

The other thing about this is like, when I set up the direct to consumer business, we set it up as its own cost center. So it’s its own entity. So that’s another reason why, you’re not going to, it’s not a, it’s not a jail line item where I’m like moving from here to here. I’m moving from here to here. And like, that’s you don’t do that. That’s good. I got a call like the treasury department.

Robert Brill: [00:35:23] What kind of, you know, as we wrap up here, Mary, what marketing tactics or campaign or creative, or what’s the cool thing that comes to mind and you can say, wow, we’re really proud of this one thing that really stood out for us. It might be an initiative. It might be the way you pivoted in the face of COVID.

Like the what’s the thing you can say, like, wow, our team really. That’s something amazing here in new and interesting and cool.

Mary Rodgers: [00:35:52] Can I mention two things if that’s okay with you? I would say top of mind too, I would say I’m super proud of my team because under the circumstances of everybody dispersing, being able to keep everybody motivated every day, you know, really knuckling under, some of the toughest work circumstances I’ve seen in my career, to be honest with you and still being able to keep their wits about them and stay focused and understand, like I tell them the effort you’re putting in now, when we come out, the other side of this, we are going to be so far ahead of our competition that you know, we’re going to have more of a safety net later.

Because of the fact that, you know, we are like a strategic business unit. We are flexible. We’re nimble. We work really well with other departments, whether it’s IT or planning or operations and, you know, getting people and operations involved in, Hey, when is this the product coming in?

You know, and really staying on top of it. I think I’m really proud of that because we’ve had to find absolutely new ways to function. Right? So that’s one, I would say on the product side of things, the Air Fryer category, I would say to you is been a huge success. And I really believe it’s because at the very beginning, we dug in deep with primary research and set that up for success.

I really believe that to be true because it was a category that we were not a player in at all. Number one, there were very few players. And then when we left, launched our air fire oven category. Very successfully. We saw everybody else coming out with them and it’s also one of the top growing categories in our industry right now.

So I would say the work that’s been done around that, you know, has been amazing. And we’re, we still continue to expand on, that work today. There’s many other categories we’re super proud of and we’ve had great success in, but I would say the most current, I would say is air fire category we’re in.

Robert Brill: [00:38:09] Whatever the new normal is whenever it happens. Do you expect your, your, your team or your organization to come back to working in the office or have you found some new way of existing as an organization where you can work remotely? Do your people want that? Do they not want that?

Mary Rodgers: [00:38:33] You know, what’s funny. I have, I would say for myself, I have been to the office about four times. I had to go there because like, you know, there’s mail piling up, you know, there’s like, you know, got to water the plants, just kidding. I did water the plants though. I also didn’t, you know, when we, we were worked from home, March 12th was our last day in the office.

So we were worked from home since that time point. So when, when we left that night, I wasn’t thinking I’m not going to be back here for months. You know what I mean? I didn’t bring, I didn’t, I’m a very digital, you know, digital savvy digital worker. So I’m like I can function. I had enough brains to go buy a brand new printer, so I was way ahead of everybody else.

But, What happened was like, I didn’t even have like a notepad, like, you know, like a couple of little guys and I’m like, Oh my God, I got to buy paper. I got to buy verb, you know? And so, I did start going to the work, going to the office. I go at generally go on a Monday. I did not go this week, because it was a holiday weekend.

We had a lot going on yesterday. So I go, I go once a week and I actually kind of look forward to it. I run into a couple of people I know. I mean, we social distance and keep masks on, do all the things you’re supposed to do. I have a couple people on my team that really want to be back in the office. They kind of thrive on the energy, being around people all the time. I have, quite a few young people too, who don’t live in very big spaces. And I can tell you, even for myself, I don’t live in a gigantic house either. But my husband is a teacher and he works from home too. And so, like I said, like the first three months the house was shrinking, you know, so, I mean, we have a beautiful backyard, so we’re out there a lot.

So we’re fine. We’re in a better position than most, but, I believe we will. We’ll be going back to the office right now. The corporation as a whole has not given us, any indication of when that’s going to be. I think they’re doing a watch and wait, they see a lot of things changing in other States, and I think they want to have a level of comfort and, you know, low risk for their employees.

They never shut down the office. But, you know, we’re allowed to go there, but you know, we just need to let your, supervisor know, and, have a business purpose for being there. And they don’t want you to just showing up because you got nothing to do, but I don’t mean nothing to do, but like you want to just go there for the sake of going there.

So that’s, that’s not what the purpose is. And the other thing is that because of the business we’re in with them, Amount of like preproduction samples and samples that have to be reviewed and the engineering department. Yeah. And the test kitchen, all of those things are kind of critical to the operation of our business.

And that’s kind of coming in all the time. So marketers are going there, you know, not every day, but as they need to, to get their product samples, to review them, to test them. And because that’s part of the whole development process, basically. One of the things that has been really complicated for us has been like more on the asset management side of things like digital video and photo shoots and things like that have been, a little on the tougher side to do.

We’re starting to see that ramp up again this month, basically finding new ways to. To do that work because it’s become more and more important to our business. And our retailers have higher expectations and quicker turnaround times that they want from us. We do use a PIM, Product Information Management system.

We use Salsify as our vendor partner and so, you know, they grab all the data from there, but, you know, they’re needing it faster and faster and they want more and more because they want to build out their content. So they want to have, you know, not just one or two photos, but they want to have six or seven and they want to have video on everything.

And, you know, that kind of came to a screeching halt and was only kind of opened back up even in your area only very recently where you could, You know, have crews together. And, even for us, the part that’s really difficult is that we need to be in the kitchen. And right now, like normally we are in rental places or we have, one or two places that we use such as the one that’s behind me that we use that’s our in house showroom, which we do film some video there, but more kind of like simple and easy things, not anything super complex with a really small crew, we hope to get back to that this month. But, that’s one of the things that’s like really a pressing matter at this point and preparing for fall because, we have a lot of new product launches coming and we need assets, you know.

Robert Brill: [00:43:20] What’s coming, what’s coming in fall?

Mary Rodgers: [00:43:22] So we have, lots of new things. One of the, items that we’re working on, Two brand new categories, actually three to brand new categories. So a line of cordless appliances, but powered, as you would expect from a corded appliance. So we have about four items in there they’re coming kind of in a staggered way.

Normally we launch a whole collection like that at one time, but because of everything going on, you know, some of that stuff being suffled. And then I’m one of the other key categories, which is very popular right now also is, air purification for the kitchen. So a countertop kitchen type model we’re working on that that’s coming in the late fall.

Robert Brill: [00:44:09] So basically, my wife is gonna love this. So basically when I burn my food with every single meal that I’ve ever cooked in my life.

Mary Rodgers: [00:44:17] Maybe I need to give you some pointers.

Yeah, I know. I know. I know what you mean because I am very experienced. I’m not a chef, but I mean, I love to cook. I’m passionate about it, but I have this horrible habit. I have a 1948, like old tap hand stove. And it’s, propane and, I, every time I put a pot on, I, especially if I’m sweating, I turn it up on high and then I go on like doing something.

And then the other day, like I turned around, I look, I see smoke. And I’m like, cause I put the olive oil in and I wasn’t paying attention, you know? And then you smell it. And you’re like, yeah. So I could, I could use a little help in that department too, purifying the air. Even when you cook certain foods that tend to linger, you know, it’s, it’s, you know, helpful for that, whether it’s fish or garlic or, or anything that’s like super spicy, or even like, if you do, things like Vietnamese food, or even like curries and things like that, you know, they tend to leave a lingering aroma.

Robert Brill: [00:45:21] Bacon, I mean I cook bacon like in a grilled cheese at night, the whole house smells until the next morning and my wife is sensitive to it and I hear like every time and it’s starting to become an issue.

Mary Rodgers: [00:45:34] Maybe you can figure out a way to cook bacon on the grill outside.

Robert Brill: [00:45:39] Oh, that’s a good idea.

Mary Rodgers: [00:45:40] Sheet pan.

Robert Brill: [00:45:41] Yeah. Mary Rogers, director of marketing communications at Cuisinart. Thank you so much for being on the show. This was fantastic.

Mary Rodgers: [00:45:49] Thank you so much. It was a real pleasure speaking with you today. Really enjoyed it.

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Credits

Audio Production – Echegoyen Productions

Creation and Marketing – BrillMedia.co, a hyperlocal advertising company.