Fussner climbs food chain to Culvers’ VP of marketing

Julie Fussner 2Julie Fussner (BADM, ’96) never thought she’d spend her career in the food industry, but she’s clearly found her niche and risen to the top of her profession. Fussner worked as a marketing manager at ConAgra Foods for nearly four years before moving over to Kraft/Oscar Mayer. There she worked nine different jobs in ten years, eventually working her way up to senior director of marketing. After two years at American Family Insurance, Fussner jumped back into the food industry in 2017 when she landed a job as vice president of marketing for Culvers.

Q. What are your main responsibilities as VP of Marketing?
A. I have four primary goals (with lots of activities under each!): Set brand strategy for the Culver’s brand to ensure we deliver on our marketing objectives. Partner with our creative agency to create world-class creative that attracts guests to our brand. Lead the menu team to ensure our menu is of the highest quality and taste as well as delivering innovative new ideas to our restaurants. Lead and develop a team of marketers to eventually be prepared to take my job!

Q. What is your favorite thing to eat at Culver’s?
A. My favorite thing to eat is the good ol’ Butterburger with cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickles and sometimes onions!

Q. You’ve worked in the food/restaurant industry for almost 16 years. Was that by design? Or just coincidentally the way things have worked out?
A. I was fortunate early on to get a job with ConAgra foods which started my love of the food industry. As a marketer, it is a gift to get to work on products or categories that people are passionate about, and there are few categories people need or care about as much as food, so getting to work on products that have the possibility of making deep, emotional connections with people is thrilling.

Q. When you graduated from Illinois in 1996, what did you think you wanted to do?
A. I majored in Business/Organizational Behavior – I thought I would work in Human Resources (hilarious). The classes I loved centered around human behavior, so I think marketing – which is really understanding what motivates people and connecting that with what your brand has to offer in an emotional and rational way was a more natural fit for me. Organizational Behavior opened me up to concepts around human behavior, and I just applied those in a field not directly related to looking internally at an organization.

Q. How did your Gies College of Business education prepare you for your career today?
A. I think the key to any academic or professional education is exposing yourself to as many experiences as possible so you have a wide breadth of knowledge. At Illinois, I was exposed to classes in economics and law and computer science and marketing and psychology, and I am able to take pieces of all of those to help solve new challenges that I am faced with.