Chas Cahn, senior director of marketing at PepsiCo, usually spends his days focused on product innovation and promotion for restaurants, venues, retail locations and nutrition programs at K-12 schools.
But with large-scale closures due to the coronavirus, Cahn is turning his attention to a marketing campaign for a new PepsiCo-led promotion that aims to help families deal with food insecurity during the pandemic.
PepsiCo launched a national campaign on Monday to increase awareness of its Give Meals, Give Hope program with support from athletes, including New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, A’ja Wilson of the WNBA and New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley.
School lunch programs feed tens of millions of children in the United States every year. Kids that rely on these programs have collectively missed more than 700 million meals since the lockdown began.
PepsiCo is pledging to match donations to the nonprofit No Kid Hungry for up to $1 million for the month of April, as part of a larger $45 million PepsiCo effort to distribute meals globally during the crisis.
Cahn spoke with AdExchanger about PepsiCo’s nonprofit work, changing consumer habits and why marketing communications need an extra level of sensitivity these days.
AdExchanger: What’s your work-from-home setup?
CHAS CAHN: I’m in Dallas pacing around a room I commandeered as an office that my 8-year-old son used to use for playing his Nintendo Switch and watching movies. He’s been requisitioned to another part of the house.
What sparked the Give Meals, Give Hope pledge?
This project is an opportunity to use the expertise we have in foodservice to help solve a pretty significant situation right now with underserved children not being able to get the meals they need. We want to drive awareness to this serious need.
Our foodservice team works with thousands of schools and we see firsthand the urgency to get children the nourishment they need, right now more than ever.
What are you doing to get the word out?
We made a commitment to help those in need, but for an initiative like this, the more support and engagement you have, the better the result will be. We’re driving awareness through partners, including athletes, who have graciously donated their time and platforms, including social platforms, to champion the cause.
The program is only a few days old, but No Kid Hungry has already seen an uptick in donations.
I know it’s early, but have you noticed any new consumption habits emerging or accelerating over the past month?
There are trends we’ve been identifying for a few years that the current climate has accelerated into the mainstream, like ecommerce, of course. One thing we’ve noticed is that because this situation is so fluid, consumer needs and desires are as well. Our customer insights team is working tirelessly to determine not only what’s going on in terms of the pulse of the consumer, but also recognizing that we need to constantly reevaluate if we want to remain consumer-centric.
Does the marketing team have to work more closely with your supply chain folks these days? You don’t want to drive demand if supply can’t keep up.
We absolutely are. But doing our part to make sure we can provide the products consumers are seeking right now requires a tight integration with functions all across the organization, not just with the supply chain.
How are you approaching marketing right now, given added sensitivities related to the crisis?
We’re focused on being as supportive and empathic as possible from a messaging point of view. In terms of creative, it’s about being authentic and scrappy so that you can communicate effectively given the constraints.
But the most important thing from a creative messaging perspective is to put people first. As long as we do that, as long as we’re sincere, the consumer connections will naturally follow.
This interview has been edited and condensed.