Secret Recipes for Product Success


MackJenksFrom baby food to breakfast cereal, Mack Jenks knows a thing or two about secret recipes for product success.  
As director of relationship marketing for Gerber Baby Foods out of Florham Park, New Jersey, Jenks led the marketing communications team responsible for raising their brand equity from a 68 percent market share to 83 percent during 2001 to 2007, a feat few companies in the world can claim.  The startling growth was largely driven by a greater emphasis on consumer relationship marketing (CRM), a technique utilizing direct mail, websites and mobile marketing to target specific households, versus a shotgun, tell-the-world approach.

Jenks, a University of Oregon graduate, recently located to the Sisters area from the East Coast with his wife Jeanie after an 18 year career with Gerber, now an international subsidiary of Nestle Foods.   

A titan in the empire of baby food, Gerber has long enjoyed a reputation as a respected name for quality, affordable baby nutritional products since 1901.  In a 1999 survey, they were found to be the #1 most trusted brand in America, even behind hi-wattage names like Disney and Nike.  

Now Jenks is bringing his vast experience and expertise in the world of consumer packaged goods to new entrepreneurs and business owners in Central Oregon, trying to capture an edge in today’s questionable economy and competitive environment by offering himself as a private consultant.

“After the last merger we decided it was time for us to return to our western roots,” he said.  “I came out here expecting opportunities to move into another corporate position in Seattle, San Francisco or Portland but the reality of the economy changed all that.  These executives still had a great product or service but had cut back on marketing.  They knew they needed to be communicating with the public but didn’t know how to do it.” 

So after hearing the same story in numerous corporate meeting rooms, Jenks realized he could help fill that niche on a project by project basis.   

“They can use guys like me, who have the experience without paying me a vacation, medical benefits or bonus,” said Jenks.  “You agree to a timetable and a scope of work and then when it’s over, their commitment is done.  It’s the best of both worlds for both parties.  In this economic climate, a good marketing strategy is everything.

People need to know what the benefit of their product is compared to your competition.  My thought is – don’t hang on and wait, realign your thinking and start telling people about your product in a way that is strategically cost effective.”

MJ Marketing was formed to assists and focus marketing gameplans for businesses who find themselves reluctant to invest in marketing but understand that they need to.  

“I work with small, medium and large companies on brainstorming sessions, product identity, marketing/advertising strategies and execution,” he said.  “My whole career has been all about the brand and I’ve been involved with many household name products:  Hamburger Helper, Yoplait, Cheerios, Wheaties and Kix cereal.   Our brand group actually reinvented Kix cereal, a fading General Mills cereal from the 1940s, by removing sugar from the product to make it less soggy in milk and reformulated it on the outside then added the slogan Mom Tested, Kid Approved.  Now it’s one of their most popular brands.  It was all a matter of perception and rebranding.”

Psychology and consumer purchase behavior drives the strategy behind each product’s promotional campaign.   In this case it was figures of how many people buy Yoplait and at what increments do they buy at a time.  

“Back in my General Mills days we did a hit promotion known as the Yoplait “Flip-N-Win” game in the early ‘90s.  It was an instant win contest where you could get major awards like a Mazda Miata car,” Jenks said.

“We had random winning prize images printed on the underside of the foil lid.  This was a motivational element to get people to buy more than their normal purchase behavior allowed.  In the collectible version we took the concept one step further.  We heard stories of whole offices banding together to mail in lids for prizes primarily targeted at women aged 18-34.”

Jenks was also part of the management team at Gerber that conducted the famous “FITS” (Feeding Infant Toddler Study) report that is still considered today as the most comprehensive look at the eating habits of children under the age of two.  The exhaustive research with PhDs and the data it generated delivered a compelling message to consumers, providing a platform for nutritious solutions for parents who weren’t making the best meal choices for their children.  It went back to Gerber’s founding principles of producing nutritious products for infants and toddlers.  Moms need an easy solution to daily problems.

“Do you know what the number one vegetable consumed by 15-month-olds is?” he asked.  “Believe it or not… French fries.  Salt and sugar are such basic needs of life that it’s hard to avoid or self-regulate.   The FITS report is an example of science driving the consumer message in a precise illustration.  Every person who ever heard that statement understood.”

These types of strategies and more can be applied to both micro and macro-business situations and challenges.  
“I can help people identify exactly what they should be doing to make their product move and how much they should be spending,” explained Jenks.  “Word of mouth ‘aint what it was a few years ago.   In a thriving economy, that might be sufficient, but when people are counting every single penny it’s not enough.  Today’s consumers need to be constantly reminded with an irresistible message and that is the added value and insight I can provide.”
For more information on speaking engagements or consultations contact Mack Jenks at


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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