Best Commercial - August 2021 Edition
Hello A.J. Kamdar, thank you for having us. Would you like to tell our readers about your career until you made your first film as writer and director?
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss my background, my interest in film and the future of my company Kitchen Crafted with your readers. My career spans over 25 years working primarily in the areas of brand management, consumer insights and marketing analytics.
I was fortunate to fine tune my skills working at global multinational companies including: Mondelez, Capital One and Essilor/ Luxottica and later created my own consultancy firm, Summitry Global.
My expertise is understanding the consumer attitudes, behaviors and psychology in identifying the critical levers that drive a purchase. The approaches I use are rooted in advanced analytics and we pioneered a predictive software that could simulate with great accuracy what the revenue potential of a new product can attain, based on a diverse set of variables. It’s very quantitative/analytical and that’s what my expertise resided in.
This technical background actually was instrumental in the creation of my first exploration into film, A Day In The Life Of Nadia Mejia.
What do you think of the impact of technology on consumer habits?
I believe that technology has a monumental impact on how consumers shop in today’s global economy. Consumers are more connected to brands then ever before. There is a certain level of empowerment and consumers have unlimited access to information.
Social/Digital media have given people a bigger voice and new channels to speak to brands and share their opinions with their peers. Everything is on-demand, and everyone is looking for easy and convenient. Mobile/E-Commerce shopping is growing exponentially, and consumers are flooded with an incredible excess of products to select from.
We are seeing more immersive virtual shopping experiences through the advent of AR/AI technology. Consumers are doing their due diligence through their own market research and comparison shopping is the norm. As a result, the job of a marketer has become increasingly more challenging.
Tell us a little about the creation of your brand Kitchen Crafted?
Absolutely! The idea of Kitchen Crafted was hatched back in 2018 and it was a family affair. As mentioned, I have been fortunate to consult to some of the largest food companies in the world, such as Kraft, Nestle, Nabisco…
My dad was retired and for as long as I can remember, he was always cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. He was born in India and has an incredible knowledge of spices and their medicinal benefits. He created a number of custom spice blends/rubs that were globally inspired, right in his own kitchen.
He always received great feedback from family and friends and five years ago, a light bulb went off in my head. I had all this knowledge base about the food industry and wanted to create my own food brand and get it to market. The trends in the US were ideal, as there was an influx of flavor seekers and mindful eaters emerging. We created four spice blends and worked with a co-packer to produce a small sample batch. We did extensive product-testing, received excellent feedback, and moved to launch.
We worked with a well-known ad agency on the branding and voila! We had our first product launch! Having virtually no experience on the retail-side and trying to achieve store distribution, I just hustled and spoke to as many people as possible. We had a first big break with a local retailer in our home state of Florida and it just snowballed.
We officially launched in 2019, and three years later we have a US national footprint of over 2,000 stores with the biggest and most popular grocers in the country. We also invested in E-Com, primarily on Amazon/Kitchen Crafted website, and have done very well in this space as well. We are up to 12 globally inspired spice blends and planning more.
This passion has been the hardest and most challenging endeavor I have undertaken. At the same time, it has been the most intrinsically rewarding.
How do you think that interactive advertisement can affect the way a consumer relates to a brand? Have you been approached by other brands about creating interactive campaigns?
As mentioned, I am very schooled in consumer research and that was the genesis for the creation of our film. That we know of, an interactive and shoppable food film did not exist prior to ours. Certainly no one was using AI cloud-based platforms to create shoppable films. We were seeing a lot of traditional social/digital approaches to brand/product advertising. Lots of Tasty/Buzzfeed video-style recipes.
In today’s society, harnessing and leveraging immersive technology puts you at the forefront of creating engaging experiences for your audience, especially the Gen Z/Millennial audiences. Our partners, DCCAPTL, are at the forefront of this technology working with many musicians and high-end fashion brands. Which is further proof point this medium is helping to shape future shopping. It also reinforces how Nadia, who plays in many adjacent and complementary spaces to food (fashion, music, fitness), allows us to build storylines around her and move in many directions.
We went counter to popular culture that focuses on quick, 15 to 30 second-spots, tries to consolidate a wealth of visuals/product benefits and push it out on social/digital/tv and other channels. This film is based on System 1 Research – which is rooted in Nobel Prize psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s book, "Thinking. Fast and Slow". Its premise focuses on the instinctual, intuitive and spontaneous decision making of the human mind. That’s why I built an interactive and shoppable film!
I am the founder of Kitchen Crafted and exclusive to our company, so competitive advantage in a sea of noise and clutter is paramount. I am sure we will see variations/iterations on shoppable films to come without my consultation. It’s the wave of the future.
After the effects of Covid on lifestyle in the Global West wear out, don’t you think people will want to get back to more community and “real life” (vs. “virtual”) oriented ways to shop for food?
Without a doubt. McKinsey reported that Americans are beginning to spend again, with some 51% of consumers reporting a desire to splurge and indulge in a fit of post-pandemic revenge spending. The pandemic ushered in an unprecedented level of channel switching and brand loyalty disruption, creating opportunities for us.
In the last few months, Kitchen Crafted has seen a surge of in-store purchases across the US. We were fortunate that our business thrived in the pandemic, as we saw more consumers turn to experimenting in the kitchen and “inspiring their inner chef”.
Online shopping/delivery increased significantly during the pandemic for us and we expect to see that trend sustain. It’s critical to maximize our omni-channel presence as we are seeing “hybrid” shoppers looking for seamless experiences when shopping in-store or online and engaging in both.
Is Kitchen Crafted going to expand its market outside the US? Do you plan on developing new lines, other than Seasonings?
We are looking at potential markets to enter and that is an on-going discussion internally. Our IG feed is comprised of close to 60% audience from all corners of the globe, so we do know we have international brand awareness already. The global media attention we have garnered for the film has elevated this opportunity as an expansionary strategy. I’ve also had the benefit of working in global marketing roles, so I have a solid understanding of how to execute a new international product launch.
Our core competency is in spices/seasonings; we are planning to launch more flavors and working on a game-changing concept that would be 1st to market in the US. We also have a line of healthy, gourmet condiments/ dips called “SPRD” that leverages our spice expertise; each flavor contains our proprietary 8 signature spices and herbs. I did launch a 2nd food company that focuses on sports nutrition. A former athlete, I was always looking for products that could sustain my energy levels pre- and post-workout in a healthy manner. I launched an Energy Bar called “AMPower” which has the highest combination of protein/caffeine on the market. We are in version 2.0 and will be adding more functional ingredients including MCT Oil and electrolytes.
How did it feel to make a film? Do you want to make more? If so, will you stay focused on your field of expertise, namely marketing?
It was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life! I have been a HUGE fan of cinema since a very young age. I was born and raised in New York and growing up there in the 1970s and 80s, I was a big fan of NYU Film Alumni – Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee. These two directors (whose cinematic styles are at the opposite ends of the film spectrum) captured the realism of NYC through in-depth layers of character development and deeply penetrating content that struck a nerve. I am also impacted by other visionary directors: Chris Nolan, Denis Villeneuve, Ang and Spike Lee, Wes Anderson, the Coen Brothers, David Fincher and many more.
I look forward to making more; my focus will be on the art and science of blending marketing and technology. There are a few Directors who made the crossover into advertising. I managed to do the reverse and I’m grateful to all those who supported me along the journey. Three inspirational directors were Spike Lee, David Lynch and Wes Anderson. Lee’s commercials with Michael Jordan were raw, gritty and captured the street essence of NYC that I remember. Lynch and the late 80s’ B&W Calvin Klein Obsession commercials were visionary. Both the Prada and Stella Artois commercials that Wes did were pure brilliance. From the framing, symmetry, typography, color palettes, fashion, music, storytelling, it’s completely brilliant.
I did complete my 2nd short film that was an emotive film, starring our magnificent and uber-talented Brand Ambassador Nadia Mejia and her friends. It’s a celebration of Food. Love. Family. I veered away from the shoppable component, because I really wanted the audience to absorb the human emotion of sadness and how Nadia, through using food as a universal connection, juxtaposes this emotion into pure elation and happiness. It’s showing on our website and it involved my gifted film team – Jules Newmark and Joey Newell – who worked their magic again. I already have a few more short film screenplays/ storyboards completed, so stay tuned!
Short statement describing your vision of the post-covid cinema
I do believe notable changes will emerge from the pandemic, and we will see a new cinematic paradigm. In the US, movie theaters/chains were hit hard by Covid-19 and some actually had to shut down or file for bankruptcy. Coupled with the monumental increase in streaming services, that provide convenience and high-quality content. This will always create that battle for cinemas to bring back people into the seats. But then again, there is something magical and existential about watching a film in a theater that brings some level of nostalgia. I also think that producers and distributors will be challenged as many of these streaming services, like Netflix and Hulu, are creating their own content and not buying from independents. But in the end, it’s a win-win for the Film industry as the barriers and devastation caused by the pandemic will no longer be in play.
We were fortunate to be able and shoot two films in the US during the pandemic and provide work to some of the folks hit hardest in the industry. And specially grateful to Karolina for showcasing the heartwarming festival and highlighting a new wave of passionate and talented filmmakers.
DIRECTOR, PRODUCER & WRITER
A.J. Kamdar is a 25+ year veteran in the world of Marketing/ Advertising, recognized for his pioneering work in the Field of Marketing Technology, and for the highly prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of The Year Award for his AI Driven Marketing Software Company, used by some of the biggest consumer brands in the world. While he carved out a niche in the Advertising & Tech world, his passion always lied in the Visual Arts & science of storytelling.
Born and raised in New York and growing up in the 1970s and 80s, he was a fan of NYU Film Alumni Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee. These two directors (whose cinematic styles are at the opposite ends of the film spectrum) captured the realism of NYC, through in-depth layers of character development and deeply penetrating content, and struck a nerve. He is also heavily influenced by other visionary NYU Filmmakers, including the Coen Bros, Ang Lee, M. Night Shyamalan and Oliver Stone. He went as far to apply to NYU in 1987, but decided that it was not the right timing.
35 years later and after launching two US-based food companies, A.J. really wanted to integrate and meld his cinematic and technology passions by creating Industry First – the first AI interactive shoppable food film that integrated the art of visual storytelling with the science of behavioral psychology. The film, “A Day In The Life Of Nadia Mejia”, garnered global recognition and praise resulting in 11 Grand Jury Awards including, “Best Experimental Media”, “Best Commercial Short Film” and “Best Branded Video”.
He followed this up with an emotive short film, “The Spice Girls. Food. Love. Family”, an emotional narrative that unifies people through the love of food. Both films star Kitchen Crafted brand Ambassador Nadia Mejia, former Miss USA Runner-up, fashion model, musician, foodie and mental health advocate.
Writer / Producer / Director
. 2022 The Spice Girls. Food. Love. Family. (Emotive Short Film)
. 2021 A Day In The Life Of Nadia Mejia (Interactive Short Film)