CANNES, France – Three weeks ago, Kraft Heinz brand Country Time launched Legal-Ade, a program to reimburse fines levied against kids for operating lemonade stands without a permit — something that actually happens. With a supporting campaign on Twitter and Instagram driving close to 1 billion impressions, it is just the latest example of how the consumer packaged goods marketer is boosting its brands through social conversation.
In an interview over iced coffee at Cannes Lions this week, SVP and head of brand and R&D Michelle St. Jacques talked about how Kraft Heinz complements its investment in media that talks about a specific product with social conversations designed to resonate. The two together is what helps brands like Heinz Ketchup — which has been around for almost 150 years — remain both relevant and top of mind.
"We don’t just want to create noise," St. Jacques said. "We want to create noise that furthers our brands."
Owning the conversation
With summer approaching — a season lemonade is often associated with — the Country Time team was looking for a way to put the brand in a conversation that would be topical and important enough to get people talking. By taking a stand on lemonade stands, the brand generated widespread positive conversations from consumers who have a strong attachment to lemonade stands from their own childhoods and because of their connection to teaching entrepreneurship to kids.
Based on the strong response, Kraft Heinz decided to take the effort forward and will have news about the next stage soon.
Recognizing the power of tapping into a conversation in a brand-relevant way and getting people talking about the brand, Kraft Heinz will look to do more of these types of campaigns across its portfolio.
The Kraft Heinz strategy for inserting itself into the conversation includes first having a clear idea of what a brand stands for, then finding things that people want to talk about and tapping into those conversations with the potential to really take off.
The right conversations
Identifying the right conversations to invest in requires a mix of both art and science, St. Jacques said. The science part is monitoring data to see what’s trending.
“It starts with really strong listening,” said St. Jacques.
The art is choosing which one to enter out of all the conversations happening and having a good creative idea for how to enter. Kraft Heinz often sends its agencies one-line briefs about conversations it is thinking about entering. Earlier this year, the marketer also started working more closely with agency VML, developing a daily process where they collaborate to decide whether or not activate on a conversation.
One challenge is moving quickly. When the team saw that consumers in the U.K. were talking about its MayoChup product at the same time that the company was getting ready to launch Heinz Mayo in the U.S., they decided to bring the conversation across the ocean. Within three hours, they had created a simple social media post depicting that Heinz Mayo plus Heinz Ketchup equals MayoChup. The post said that if at least 500,000 people voted yes, the company would bring MayoChup to the U.S. That number was handily beat and the product will launch here in the fall. The effort resulted in 2.4 billion impressions with minimal spend.
Walking the talk
Joining conversations also requires being able to pivot quickly, St. Jacques said. For MayoChup, the team noticed chatter around what name the product should have in the U.S. In response, they created a website where consumers could vote on name suggestions.
“You need to walk the talk,” said St. Jacques. “If you ignite a conversation you have to follow up and bring it to life.”
The biggest learnings Kraft Heinz had so far with its approach to social conversations have been around how to go to market. For example, what are the right platforms and how to ensure investment happens at the right time and at the optimal amounts.
Is it working? The company has clear objectives for each effort and measures against those for impact and brand perception, among other objectives.
Like many marketers, Kraft Heinz is trying to figure out how these efforts translate to long-term sales for brands, but believes it is seeing some positive signals. Heinz Ketchup, for example, is growing 5% year-over-year, an impressive number considering its longevity in the marketplace.
“The reason is we spend money talking about the product but complement it with these conversations that resonate,” St. Jacques said.
“We believe being relevant and top of mind is critical for growth.”