By Mike Hughlett - Kenneth "Casey" Keller Jr., the man behind H.J. Heinz Co.'s famous foray into green and purple-colored ketchup, has been named Motorola Inc.'s new chief marketing officer.
Keller will fill the spot left open when Geoffrey Frost died at age 56 of a heart attack in November, a "huge loss" for Motorola, a branding expert said at the time.
Frost was pivotal in revitalizing Motorola's image, making the cell phone giant's brand hipper through edgy ad campaigns and youth-oriented marketing.
Keller, who worked at Procter & Gamble before his eight-year stint with Heinz, will oversee Schaumburg-based Motorola's global marketing efforts and report directly to Chief Executive Officer Edward Zander. He starts Oct. 23.
Keller, 45, had been chief executive of Heinz Italy from June 2004 through this spring. He led a successful turnaround of Heinz's infant feeding and medical food business in Italy, according to a Motorola press release.
Since May, Keller has been "in an interim position" with Heinz, said Michael Mullen, a Heinz spokesman. He has been assisting in the "hand over" of leadership of Heinz's Italian operations to Stefano Clini.
Mullen declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding Keller's departure from the Italy post.
Before going to Italy, Keller was Heinz's chief growth officer for 17 months, and prior to that he served as managing director of the firm's U.S Ketchup, Condiments & Sauces business.
Keller made a name for himself with "EZ Squirt," a specially-packaged ketchup aimed at kids. Through market research, Keller found that kids wanted a ketchup bottle that was easier to grip, and ketchup that came in different colors.
EZ Squirt debuted in red and green in 2000, and was followed a year later with purple. All three colors came in a bottle with a thin nozzle, allowing kids to creatively squirt their ketchup.
A blue version of EZ Squirt came out in 2003, but the concept was eventually retired. "It did very well, but there are only so many colors you can put out and keep it fresh," said Robin Teets, a Heinz spokesman.
EZ Squirt created a lot of buzz for Heinz, boosting overall ketchup sales in the process. "People started talking about ketchup again," Teets said. "It was good for the brand."
The EZ Squirt gambit led Brandweek magazine to name Keller its "grand marketer of the year" in 2001.
Motorola's Frost was named one of Brandweek's nine "marketers of the year" last year. The huge success of Motorola's Razr phone, in which Frost played a big role, was a key reason he was honored.
Since Frost's death, George Neill has been interim head of Motorola's marketing efforts. Neill, formerly a senior marketing executive at Apple, was hired earlier in 2005 and remains a corporate marketing vice president.
At Procter & Gamble, Keller managed the Pringles potato chip brand during its worldwide expansion.
He graduated from Cornell University and has an MBA from Harvard University's business school. Keller couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.