- Kind Healthy Snacks is taking aim at rival Clif Bar with a campaign that questions the brand's claims about using healthy ingredients. Kind's latest 30-second spot dramatizes how much brown rice syrup is in Clif Bars while describing the ingredient as "just another name for sugar."
- The ad is part of Kind's new "Be Kind to Yourself" campaign that spotlights the nutritional content of snack bars, such as its dark chocolate, nuts and sea salt bar that has five grams of sugar. Kind claims its snack bars have 75% less sugar than its top competitors' products, according to a company announcement.
- The spot, created by agency Peanut Butter & Imagination, will run on national TV and digital channels including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Amazon.
Kind's latest salvo against Clif Bar is another sign that their ongoing rivalry for a bigger slice of the $5 billion snack bar market shows little sign of ending soon. The spat heated up in March, when Clif Bar took out ads in The New York Times calling for Kind to start using organic ingredients. Clif Bar also invited General Mills' Larabar and Kellogg's Rx Bar to join the movement toward sustainability. Of course, Clif Bar's ad wasn't purely altruistic, with its backhanded remarks about the organic shortcomings of competitors aiming to position itself as a leader in the space.
Kind's latest commercial seeks to point out a perceived weakness in Clif Bar's ingredients, specifically sugar that's disguised with a healthy-sounding moniker — brown rice syrup. While Clif Bar touts the organic ingredients of its products, its website appears neutral on sugar, describing it as "not inherently good or bad" as a source of energy from food. Clif Bar's claim about the lack of organic ingredients in Kind bars is rooted in truth, as Kind's website says the brand isn't pursuing an organic certification for its products.
Kind has found other ways to highlight its enlightened approach to snacking. The company in March urged the Food and Drug Administration to revise regulations about nutrient claims of foods. A month later, Kind ran a pop-up campaign to call attention to the more than 100 kinds of sweeteners found in popular snacks, and urged the food industry to improve its disclosures of sugar sources. Four years ago, the FDA warned Kind that some of its snack bars were misbranded as "healthy" when they didn't meet the agency's definition of the word. The following year, the FDA reversed its decision and said the brand could restore the term "healthy" to its packaging.
The Kind-Clif tiff is another example of brands that have become more adversarial in their marketing campaigns, which can be a risky strategy. Consumers may get confused by their competing claims and counterclaims, and ultimately decide to abandon both brands. Anheuser-Busch this year invited controversy with its Bud Light ad during the Super Bowl that said rival MillerCoors used corn syrup to make its light beers. Corn syrup has a negative perception among health-conscious consumers who are trying to cut down on their sugar intake. MillerCoors retaliated by suing Anheuser-Busch, and last month won a partial legal victory when a U.S. court barred Anheuser-Busch from repeating some of the corn syrup claims in its ads. The National Corn Growers Association also expressed disappointment with Anheuser-Busch, which had become a target for criticism among corn farmers who took to social media to complain about the ads.
While negative ads about competitors are risky, they can grab attention and get audiences talking. Burger chain Wendy's routinely uses Twitter to taunt bigger rivals like McDonald's over their use of frozen beef. Wendy's this year upped the ante on National Roast Day by going after nearly every other brand that asked for a snarky insult. While Wendy's serves up plenty of sass, the brand also is mindful about keeping its tweets tasteful and lighthearted to avoid crossing the line into offending the people it's trying to court.