February 21, 2009
Robert Chrenc '66CBA, '06HON knows consumers. Through his very
successful career as a former Managing Partner of Arthur Andersen
& Co., Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for
ACNielsen and Non-Executive Chairman of the Board of Symbol
Technologies, he gained a worldwide perspective on the consumer
goods industry and marketing. He has rendered service to several
high profile, international clients including Hershey Foods,
Colgate-Palmolive, Estee Lauder and Kraft Foods and is currently a
member of the Board of Directors for Monster Worldwide, Inc. the
parent company of Monster®, well known as a leading global online
careers and recruitment resource.
He recently took a break from his busy schedule to share his
thoughts on a few things including the state of the current
marketplace and how sweet it was to work with Hershey.
You gained a worldwide perspective on the consumer goods
industry during your tenure with Arthur Andersen & Co. where
some of your clients were stalwarts like Kraft Foods and Hershey.
What are some of the valuable lessons you learned during that
time? Arthur Andersen was a great firm that taught you a
lot about client service, working with the clients and caring about
the clients. That was one of the tenets of my career. I always
cared for the clients and worked hard for them.
You worked for ACNielsen, which is premier in the field
of marketing information. In the current economy, how valuable
would you say is market research? Extremely valuable
because this economy is very, very difficult. I always like to say
that when I was a kid, you went down the cereal aisle and there was
Cheerios, Kelloggs and Wheaties. Now there are a hundred different
brands, flavors and sizes so to understand what the customer really
wants the consumer goods companies really need the market data that
Consumer confidence seems to be lagging a bit right now.
Is there anything you think companies can do to inspire their
customers? Of course it’s a particularly challenging time
with escalating oil prices which are rippling through the economy
and the housing crisis isn’t helping. I think that most of the
larger companies have to stay the course and get through this down
economic cycle. What we are going to see is a shake out of
companies that aren’t as well managed. After 40 years, I’ve been
through many business cycles and the stronger companies will
What are some of the biggest differences you see in the
marketplace since you started in corporate America? The
biggest change clearly is globalization. When I started, basically
every company had international operations but they were relatively
small in comparison to their domestic business. Now, most
multinational companies have operations all over the globe.
Some of your clients were iconic companies. Did you have
any favorite products? I would have to say Hershey Foods
was one of my favorites. We would arrive at eight o’clock in the
morning and get a cup of coffee and about five candy bars every
day. I would put them on my desk and by the end of the day they
would miraculously be gone!