Profile: Jacque James, National Account Executive- Shopper Lead for Key Accounts, Bimbo Bakeries USA
Jacque James has held numerous positions during her six-plus years at Bimbo Bakeries USA. She started out as a sales analyst working cross functionally with her entire team, providing her first exposure to insights. From there she moved on to a national account executive role managing the Hispanic brands and private label business. In 2014, James’ team leader saw an opportunity to elevate the company’s role with the customer by linking insights to action while building a stronger relationship between the brands and the customer. This was the beginning of her journey in shopper marketing.
Please describe your current role and responsibilities.
JAMES: I lead the strategic direction and implementation of all shopper marketing activation for Kroger, Target and Meijer. I work closely with the sales lead of each customer team to collaborate on each and every event to make sure we are aligned on all fronts. I ask for trade to support a shopper program. I will amplify a trade deal with shopper tactics to transform into a fully 360-degree shopper marketing program. Arguably the most important thing I have learned over the last five years is that true success only comes when the shopper marketing lead and customer sales lead work side by side. There is no room for silos when the goal is success. I am blessed to say I work with the best account executives this industry has.
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How did your company come into shopper marketing?
JAMES: In 2014, we didn’t know what “shopper marketing” was or had even heard of the term. What we knew is that our customer’s core initiative was to be “customer first.” We had to be front and center supporting that initiative with our powerful brands. Thankfully, our customer category manager was open and supportive to trying new things, thinking outside of the box and breaking internal department silos. We partnered for success with other category managers, the company and other CPG partners on shopper solutions focused directly on our customer’s core shopper. Consequently, shopper marketing as we know it was born at Bimbo Bakeries. I moved into a dedicated shopper marketing role, which is my passion.
How does your company organize its shopper marketing function?
JAMES: The shopper marketing function is new to Bimbo Bakeries USA as an organization. Within the last few months, our marketing department has built an amazingly equipped shopper marketing team grounded in our corporate offices with field support expanding for our key customers. Due to the outstanding results from my team and our counterparts on other national accounts, the company has recognized the value and growth potential in shopper marketing.
What motivates you most in your current position?
JAMES: This question really moves me. Here’s why – shopper marketing itself motivates me. I have a marketing degree but was born a saleswoman, so the fact that I get to do both every single day is motivating in and of itself. Shopper marketing is the sweet spot between marketing and sales. I always say there is no one more passionate about shopper marketing than myself. It truly is what I was meant to do.
What was your biggest professional challenge, and how did you overcome it?
JAMES: In the early years of our shopper journey on my customer team, you can imagine the resistance we experienced internally of this new “fluffy” concept of shopper marketing. We are a direct-story delivery organization with more than 11,000 front-line sales partners that we needed to convince and collaborate with to truly make this concept successful. We had responses such as “Shopper marketing? What is that? Why can’t we just do things the way we always have?” It took persistence and passion to never give up. Our organization was going through change and any time there is change, there is opportunity. Any time we heard “no” or encountered resistance, it was that much more motivating.
Who helped you through this process?
JAMES: I owe it all to my team lead, Chuck Brindisi, as he was shopper marketing’s biggest supporter. With more than 30 years of experience with Bimbo Bakeries before he retired last year, Brindisi was the air coverage I needed to assist me in convincing our internal and external customer partners of the incremental growth potential of shopper marketing. The incredible post-event customer data helped us win over key stakeholders within Bimbo Bakeries. We were building shopper marketing at the company together from the ground up. I’ll never forget the time Brindisi told me during a personal coaching moment: “What you and our entire team are doing is changing the world,” he said. “Any setbacks are all just a moment in time. We will look back one day and appreciate the hard times like these that are needed to truly change the world.” That’s exactly what we did and I’m blessed to still be doing so.