Steve McGowan, RVP, Shopper Marketing and Strategic Partnerships, at Mondelēz International, is one of three 2020 selections for the Path to Purchase Institute Hall of Fame. We interviewed him in January at Mondelēz International's offices in East Hanover, New Jersey.
From left to right: Michael Tilley, U.S. lead, shopper marketing strategy & strategic partnerships; Michelle Squillante, shopper marketing operations manager; Shebanie Gabriele, senior financial manager; Mindy Stone, customer director, shopper marketing; Steve McGowan; Yolanda Angulo, customer director, shopper marketing; Beth Froncek, customer director, shopper marketing; Cathy Petrous, shopper marketing manager; Jerry Dyrsten, shopper marketing operations manager.
Title: RVP, Shopper Marketing and Strategic Partnerships
Company: Mondelez International
Career path: Applied Information for Marketing (AIM): Client Service Manager (1993-1995); Weight Watchers: Associate/Assistant Brand Manager (1995-1998); Heinz Frozen Foods: Senior Brand Manager; Brand Manager (1998-2003); Cadbury: Director, Category Development & Planning; Senior Brand Manager (2003-2010); Kraft Foods Group: Director of Shopper Marketing (2010-2012); Mondelez International: RVP, Shopper Marketing & Strategic Partnership; RVP, Shopper & Consumer Activation; Head of Shopper Marketing; Director, Shopper Marketing; Director, Strategy & Customer Development (2012- present)
Industry activities: Active member of P2PI/ANA; Member of Shopper Marketing & Digital/Mobile committees with ANA; Member of Brand Innovators and serves on advisory committee. In past four years, his team has won 15 ANA Reggies, one Super Reggie and 12 Shopper Marketing Effies among other various awards. The team also was awarded three Mondelez Marketing Excellence awards in 2019. In the past five years, McGowan has presented and spoken at 20 different conferences and events.
Education: Wake Forest University, Babcock Graduate School of Management: MBA Marketing and Finance; Carnegie Mellon University: Bachelor’s, Economics & Industrial Management
In recognition of the shopper marketing success he has guided at Mondelēz International, as well as for the ongoing commitment he has made to helping advance industry knowledge through thought leadership at various public events, Steve McGowan has been selected as a 2020 inductee into the Path to Purchase Institute Hall of Fame.
A 17-year veteran of Mondelēz and its predecessor companies (Kraft Foods and Cadbury), McGowan is responsible for leading the consumer packaged goods leader’s shopper omni-commerce marketing function in the U.S. He also guides strategic partnerships with manufacturers, vendors and other entities across the company’s portfolio, and plays an instrumental role in the development of strategies, plans and post-analytics for both shopper and strategic partnerships solutions.
Under his guidance, Mondelēz has won 12 Shopper Marketing Effie Awards in the last four years, showcasing the exemplary work that he and his team are doing to drive best-in-class shopper engagement.
In January, Bill Schober and Peter Breen interviewed McGowan at Mondelēz’s offices in East Hanover, New Jersey.
Tell us about your background.
McGowan: I grew up on Long Island. I was one of five kids, three boys and two girls. My dad was a lawyer with his own civil practice and my mom was a homemaker. In high school, I mowed lawns and worked at a car dealership, where I washed the cars that came in for service. It taught me the important lesson of doing the extra things to make the customer feel special to ensure the repeat visit.
So then off to college presumably?
McGowan: I picked Carnegie Mellon University for its business and engineering schools. Each was ranked in the top 10 at the time. It was an amazing academic school that didn’t have a great athletic department. They built a new football stadium to attract more attendance to the games. To entice students, the school offered free floppy disks to any who attended. Unfortunately, this was our claim to fame that got written about by Sports Illustrated.
You went in thinking engineering, majored in managerial economics and industrial management, but in your junior year, something changed. What happened?
McGowan: I took a new products class and immediately knew it was what I wanted to do. It had analytics, but there was also insight, strategy, vision and creativity. I decided I had to figure out a way to pursue my career passion. I knew that to get into brand management I would also need a master’s degree. Carnegie Mellon is a very technically driven school where students work primarily on individual projects, but Wake Forest University, where I earned my MBA, was the opposite. The education was focused around group projects and collaboration. It was a great dichotomy of education philosophy.
You earned an MBA and joined Applied Information for Marketing (AIM).
McGowan: The executive team all worked at IRI or Nielsen previously. The company built and sold a piece of software to CPGs that basically lined up shipment data versus consumption data, week by week, brand by brand. It was an impressive piece of software for 1993 and our clients were companies like Heinz, Kraft, Unilever and Church & Dwight.
I, of course, had no prior experience in this field. But with the training of my manager, I really learned how to interpret consumption data and programming results. I could see how certain merchandising only drove forward buying of product, while others truly drove incremental consumption. It was a great foundation of business analytics for my future roles.