September 27, 2022 | 4 min read

In partnership with The Drum, the 4A’s created a content series titled ‘Convene. Challenge. Change,’ which investigates brand/agency relationships, as well as the trends of the day.

In this episode, 4A’s president and chief executive officer Marla Kaplowitz sits down with Alia Kemet, senior vice-president, global creative and digital transformation, McCormick & Company, and Dave Fitzgerald, founder and chief executive, Fitzco, to discuss how brands are at the center of culture through the agency-client partnership, and how creativity drives decision-making using a culture-first perspective to keep authenticity central to the campaign.

We hear about how McCormick & Company (a leading US spice brand) kicked it up a notch in terms of marketing during Covid. “We were moving with a level of speed because we had no choice,” says Kermet. “We were looking at data every single day, we were looking at culture. We were combining the two and looking for opportunities to really delight our consumers and draw more people to our categories.”

This pushed McCormick to discover “the souls of our brands during this time. The Cholula brand is welcoming, and Fitzco helped us to unearth what that soul is and how that comes to life for consumers,” says Kermet. “If we didn’t have the stress of the pandemic, we wouldn’t have hit on all of those key insights like we wanted to.”

Its agency, Fitzco, discusses some of those insights that led to the recently-launched campaign for Cholula, how the brand’s Mexican heritage was emphasized, and how they kept a culture-first perspective.

“The challenge was to give Cholula distinct positioning. Hot sauce is a very crowded category, but what became apparent to us very quickly is that it’s a very male-dominated category. They’re all focused on ‘heat’ and not flavor,” says Fitzgerald. “Cholula happens to have a picture of a woman on the label, La Chila. In Mexican culture, the mother is revered. In our background research we found that there was a lot of rich territory, a lot of white space for a red sauce. That gave birth to the soul of the brand. The platform became the mother of sauce. It came during a cultural moment where countries run by women were winning the Covid-19 war, working moms were at home raising and teaching kids at the same time. It was the perfect time in culture to launch the mother of sauce.”

So how did this recipe come together so harmoniously? Fitzgerald says: “There are a lot of things that make for a great partnership. The number one thing is trust, but that’s earned over time. The second most important is perspective. We have to keep in mind we’re not curing cancer. We take our jobs seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously. When you have perspective, you’re not fearful. A fearful client and a fearful agency is the worst combination. If either is fearful, you lose.”

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