Consumers may be familiar with the Impossible Foods' burger, one of the two leading products (alongside Beyond Meats' burger) that has helped turn plant-based meat alternatives into a $670 million sector. However, they are probably less familiar with Impossible Foods' larger mission: to take animals out of the food production chain by 2035 in order to save the Earth.
It's that mission — and not the Impossible Burger — that takes center stage in the company's latest campaign, which launched on Aug. 8. At the heart of the effort is "The Return," a 90-second short film depicting an astronaut walking around a generic American street, captivated by insects, animals and vegetation in an attempt to invoke the Overview Effect, the phenomenon where astronauts become obsessed with viewing the Earth from space and realizing the planet's beauty, interconnectedness and fragility. While purpose-based marketing is perhaps more widespread than ever, many brand marketers have more experience promoting a product than a mission.
"Pat Brown is the first CEO of a company that's ever said to me, 'Don't put the product in this [ad],'" Impossible Foods Executive Creative Director Sasha Markova told Marketing Dive.
The campaign will include paid media across YouTube, Hulu, Vevo, Instagram (both in-feed and in Stories) and VideoAmp, along with paid search and an experiential element: three "astronauts" will walk around New York City today, Aug. 9, rewarding people that share the experience on social media with brand merchandise and coupons.
Connecting consumers with a mission
While research shows that brands that consumers view as having a positive impact are growing at two times the rate of other brands, it's not as easy to market a purpose as it is to market a burger. The challenge for Impossible was getting consumers to connect with its mission on an emotional level, without resorting to using words like ecology, sustainability and climate change.
"When people hear those words, they switch off," Markova said.
For Impossible, basing the creative for the new campaign around the Overview Effect gave it a way to make an emotional connection.
Markova stressed that it was intuition and not research that drove the direction of the creative.
"The old stories just aren't working, they're not shifting the needle in any way," Markova said. "It was a top-down decision, and at the same time, we're all extremely aware of the cultural conversation happening around the world, especially with younger generations."
Markova's comments nod to a growing body of research that shows that Gen Z has a strong sense of purpose and feels connected to important causes.
Impossible has quickly become a player in the fast growing, $3.3 billion plant-based foods industry. Plant-based meat alternatives made up $670 million of that total and grew 24% in the past year, according to data from Nielsen and the Plant Based Foods Association. Impossible and Beyond have made plant-based proteins better tasting, evolving beyond the veggie burgers of yore thanks to food science. That palatability goes a long way to capturing the 70% of meat-eating consumers who substitute a non-meat protein in their meal at least once a week.
By focusing on the mission and not the product, Impossible hopes to set itself apart from the rest of the plant-based foods industry.
"The point of the film is not to get people to buy a burger, but to join the mission," Markova said.
The mission-based campaign will support the brand's broader marketing efforts, with Impossible planning "a much larger," product-focused campaign that will roll out next month — with the astronaut in tow.