Pepperidge Farm president discusses customers’ habits

Irene Chang Britt, the president of Pepperidge Farm, spoke to students in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium on Tuesday night.  Photographed by Connor Martin
Irene Chang Britt, the president of Pepperidge Farm, spoke to students in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium on Tuesday night. Photographed by Connor Martin

During the first years of her undergraduate studies, Irene Chang Britt was a competitive cyclist, leading her to open a bicycle store with her brother.  After graduating with an MBA degree, she sold toilet paper door-to-door.

“You make it and you sell it,” she said. “If you don’t make it and you don’t sell it, your family doesn’t eat.”

Now, Britt is the president of Pepperidge Farm, best known for its Goldfish crackers and Milano cookies. In her talk titled “From Anthropology to Advertising,” Britt detailed her journey into advertising in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium Tuesday night.

Understanding how people behave makes up an enormous part of good advertising, Britt said.  When she joined Campbell Soup Company in 2005, Britt said ethnography, an in-depth study on consumers, helped one of the company’s products, V8, understand its consumers and how it could target customers in advertisements. Britt added that the ethnography helped the company increase profits.

Britt realized that V8 consumers weren’t “health nuts” but instead people who did not have time to eat vegetables, which is why they chose V8.

Although ethnographies are not very common because of their in-depth analysis, Britt said these studies contributed to the profit increase.

“Sometimes you just have to make a leap,” she added.

When a member of the audience asked Britt what her most stunning insight was, she said it was discovering customers’ habits, like the V8 consumers.

Dan Colantonio, a sophomore psychology and advertising dual major, said that hearing consumers that didn’t have time for vegetables drank V8 was interesting, since one would expect healthy people to buy the product.

Britt has continued to try to get to know the consumer in her time at Pepperidge Farm. Britt said Goldfish crackers went from the fifth most popular cracker in the U.S. in 2006 to the second today.

Pepperidge Farm developed a storyline and characters for Goldfish, Britt said, relating to kids and the problems they face during childhood.

The Goldfish miniseries considers the multimedia world people live in, Britt added, allowing kids to go online and vote for what they want to happen in the next episode. After compiling the votes, the children get to see their input in the series.

“It’s about respecting the consumer and respecting that story,” Britt said.

Britt said the company wants to expand its focus on children to people of different ages.  This is when she introduced Goldfish Puffs, which are aimed at teenagers who want to relax with their friends.

Elaina Powless, a junior advertising major, said she loves Goldfish and shares a large box with her roommate.

“I saw the early miniseries and I think that’s why I have such a strong connection with Goldfish snacks,” said Powless, who is also a former advertising representative for the Daily Orange.

Colantonio said that Goldfish are his favorite Pepperidge Farm snack, since he remembers watching it on Nickelodeon. After watching Britt speak, he said he learned that it’s important for advertising agencies to know their consumers.

“One thing I would take from this is that the best way to advertise to people is to really know them,” he said. “If you spend the time, the money and the research to know them, it really pays off.”

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