Paul Holmes 26 Mar 2003 // 12:00AM GMT
The year 2001 will certainly go on record as the most transformational year in the 132-year history of the Campbell Soup Company.
In January 2001, after a careful and lengthy search, the company announced its appointment of veteran food executive, Douglas R. Conant, as President and Chief Executive Officer. Conant knew that Campbell faced harsh critics in the analyst community who contended that the company had an old mindset, an old product and no immediate signs of a willingness to change and grow. From the time of his appointment, Conant began to make dramatic changes at Campbell. From January through July 2001, Conant hired eight new executive leaders, created four new executive positions, authorized a $900 million European acquisition and reorganized the company into two key divisions: North American Soup and North American Beverages and Sauces.
On July 27, Conant made history as he announced the single most comprehensive commitment to revitalization even undertaken by Campbell leadership—a major investment plan to strengthen the company and its brands across the globe. Conant detailed his five-step strategic plan in a speech to analysts and investors that was covered extensively in the national business press.
The Campbell Soup Company 2001 Annual Report, therefore, became increasingly important for many reasons:
- It would serve as Doug Conant’s first annual report as President and CEO of Campbell Soup Company;
- It would provide a forum to further emphasize his history-making strategic plan announcement and a hard-copy blueprint of the plan;
- It would communicate to shareowners, institutional investors, employees and the general public the spirit of dramatic change and excitement that had enveloped the company since January 2001;
- It would embody the company’s commitment to change and illustrate a new, contemporary, and forward thinking Campbell Soup Company.
To prepare for this undertaking, the Annual Report team delved into a two-month long research and preparation stage, evaluating approximately 75 annual reports (food industry and non-competitive industries). The team scoured over each element of award winning and acclaimed books, such as the President/CEO letter, the Chairman’s letter, book organization, cover style, layout, key messages, etc. The team also reviewed past Campbell books to analyze theme, key messages and book layout.
After completing the comparative research, the following objectives for the book were established:
- To illustrate Conant’s five-step plan for Campbell renewal to shareowners, institutional investors, employees and the general public with a serious business approach;
- To demonstrate that although Campbell was an 132-year-old company, it was armed with new leadership and a new forward-thinking attitude;
- To openly address shareholder concerns and to reaffirm the Campbell commitment to remedying those concerns;
- To generate excitement about the future of the Campbell Soup Company among shareowners, employees and the general public.
The Annual Report team decided to use a famous Andy Warhol image on the cover of the book, accompanied by the book theme, “It’s Not Enough to Be A Legend.” This was the first time a Warhol image graced the Annual Report cover. The image was selected for a dual-purpose: 1) to serve as a pathway for honest and open communication to disappointed shareowners, i.e. “It’s not enough to be a legend. Every legend must be renewed.” and 2) to communicate Campbell’s new contemporary, forward-thinking attitude that Warhol, known worldwide for his legendary Campbell Soup artwork, represents still today. The cover and inside cover immediately addressed our second and third objectives for the book.
To illustrate the July 27 transformation plan, the Annual Report team organized the book according to the five strategies of the plan. The Campbell plan was introduced on the first page of the report and became the framework for the CEO letter to shareowners. To further describe and emphasize the details of the plan, each strategy was isolated and explained in five key sections of the book, with actual examples of different initiatives for the upcoming 2001-02 fiscal year.
Section 1 brought the first and most important strategy, Revitalize U.S. Soup, to life with its descriptions and photos of progress in the “eating” soups and “cooking” soups categories. This section also highlighted 2002 developments, such as the Winter Olympics sponsorship, the McNabb/Warner Chunky campaign, new products and new health messages, to generate excitement about the year ahead for the company.
Section 2 explained the importance behind “strengthening the broader portfolio for predictable volume and profit growth.” Using a mix of typical still product shots, non-conventional product photography, photos of consumers enjoying Campbell brands and copy about exciting achievements for fiscal 2002, this section met the challenge of mixing extremely diverse brands, from V8 Splash to Godiva, under one important strategic umbrella.
Section 3 illustrated the new face of Campbell brands in Europe and around the world. Following the May 2001 acquisition of several large Unilever brands, Campbell’s international portfolio had changed drastically. For the first time, Campbell shareowners and employees could see the exciting growth and change that had occurred in fiscal 2001, and look forward to more acquisitions under the promise to begin to build new growth avenues.
Section 4 communicated Campbell’s resolve to drive a quality agenda while continuing to drive productivity. From a beautiful shot of the Campbell tomato fields of California to a large photo of an employee who has perfected our recipes for over 40 years, this portion of the book demonstrated personal attention and commitment to the best ingredients and production.
Section 5 gave the Annual Report team the opportunity to showcase “Team Campbell,” and the company’s commitment to substantially improve organization excellence and vitality. Photographs of employees from all divisions and backgrounds, arranged next to a symbolic aerial shot of Campbell’s Field in Camden, N.J., defined the company’s new theme: “Campbell Valuing People. People Valuing Campbell.”
To echo the “legendary” Warhol painting on the front cover, the back cover featured the 2001 Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup can, accompanied by the phrase “Every Legend Must Be Renewed.” This juxtaposition again summarized the attitude of Campbell going forward, reminding readers of the company’s strong level of commitment to change, revitalization and renewal.
Each year, the Annual Report Team surveys over 100 shareowners to determine what they like and dislike about the annual report. The survey results echoed the feedback we received from the analyst community and institutional investors. One institutional investor called to say, “You were honest. You set a precedent. I’d like to find out how to order a blown-up poster of your cover this year.” From the survey, we learned that the “back on track” message was communicated. Over 62% of shareowners read the book at the time of survey. Fifty percent of those surveyed felt confident that the company was taking the right steps. Eighty percent shared that the Campbell Annual Report surpassed many of other companies’ reports.