Hometown: Lemoore, Calif.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in economics, University of Chicago
Family: Wife Meredith, and three sons, ages 12, 10 and 7
Through much of his career, Chris Jones has been passionate about building brands.
The new senior vice president of marketing at West Des Moines-based Kum & Go LC spent 17 years with the candy company Mars Inc. After starting in the company’s finance department, Jones shifted to sales, operations, consumer promotion, and ultimately, brand management for Mars brands such as Snickers, Twix, Milky Way and Pedigree dog food. In 2008, after living in various U.S. cities for his job with Mars, Jones and his family moved to Greater Des Moines, where he joined Aviva USA.
“We focused on the customer experience, building brands, and acquiring and maintaining customers who were really big fans of our business,” Jones said of his time with Aviva. “Kum & Go is like moving back to my roots in consumer products.”
Why are you passionate about marketing?
I think I look at marketing as the strategic engine of the business. It’s not all about advertising and communication, that’s only a tiny piece of it. To me, it’s about business strategy, customer focus, demand creation and earnings enhancement. When I look at marketing, it’s not just the functional part but the enterprise approach to driving demand, making customers and keeping customers happy.
You moved to Des Moines in 2008. What attracted you to the area?
I think it was the opportunity to really build marketing at Aviva from the first floor up. Professionally, it was a great opportunity to learn a completely new industry. The dealmaker for me though was the personal side. I asked myself if this was a place where my wife and I could raise our family. The professional opportunity was great, but the personal opportunity was fantastic. We love being in the Des Moines area.
What appealed to you in particular about this opportunity with Kum & Go?
One thing that’s so great about Kum & Go is that customer focus is at the core of the business. Coming from financial services, there is still a question mark sometimes as to how much focus should be put on the customers. That’s not a question here.
What does your role here look like?
What I call the traditional marketing pieces of advertising and messaging are just one small sliver of what marketing means here at Kum & Go. Here, the role goes to choosing the items we put in the store, how we merchandise them, the pricing, and external and internal communications, as well as the food service part of the business. There’s a real breadth of what’s in marketing which is exciting to me joining the company. That’s the brand experience and we have the opportunity to manage, lead and bring the brand to life in a lot of different ways.
How have your previous roles prepared you for this one?
I would say my consumer products background is a big part. Also, at Aviva, a big focus was enhancing and getting the customer experience right. That’s the kind of knowledge that’s directly transferrable. There’s a journey a customer takes, and there are really strong parallels between what you do in financial services and what you do in retail. I think this all comes together nicely for a role like this.
What’s a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me is doing one of four things. I’m either working with my peers on the executive team to talk about the strategic direction of the business, or I’m working with the marketing team to figure out the right strategies and tactics to acquire and attain customers. Also, I’m collaborating across the functions to ensure we’re all aligned about the executions of those plans at retail. The fourth thing would be learning. I’m just drinking from the fire hose as the new guy, trying to understand the business.
What are some activities you enjoy in your spare time?
We have three boys so my family spends a lot of time at sporting events. Soccer and sports are a big deal. I’m also trying to become a bigger supporter of wellness initiatives. I’m involved with Vision Soccer Academy in leading the effort to build a new facility in conjunction with the Waukee school district. I’m also teaching myself to play the guitar, which I’m not very good at, so if there are any business leaders who know how to play and want to take me under their wing and give me a couple lessons, give me a call.