Pop-Tarts Bites, the snack-sized version of the popular toaster pastry, is striking a finer balance between emotionally led and functional messaging with help from data-driven solutions. The brand, launched in 2018, enlisted the help of partner VidMob for an effort that ran on Meta’s Instagram and Facebook earlier this year and sought to uncover what types of ads resonated best with three different consumer groups — existing buyers, lapsed ones and new customers — at various stages of the marketing funnel.
Like many legacy CPG marketers, Pop-Tarts Bites is attempting to refine its approach to performance marketing to draw a clearer line between online ads and buying behavior, as brand-building is less of an issue for established names in the category. At the same time, the brand is trying to unlock its next big audience in Gen Z, eyeing technology as a way to deliver the needed level of personalization to engage the young cohort.
“We have many brands in our portfolio that have great awareness and unaided awareness,” said Nicole Vinson, vice president of global digital, media and omni-shopper experience at Kellanova, the snacking company that was formed when the Kellogg Company formally split into two businesses in October.
“You’ve got to start to think about … balancing the short and long term of your investments and how you’re driving that conversion because it’s not all just about awareness and it’s not all about purchase,” added Vinson. “There is a middle [ground] in there.”
Pop-Tarts Bites’ collaboration with VidMob was less of a comprehensive overhaul of the brand’s strategy than an attempt at conducting a bit of marketing hygiene, assuring its best practices aligned with ever-changing platform mandates to create what Vinson described as an “iterative feedback loop.” Insights gleaned from the VidMob pilot could then be scaled and potentially adopted by other offerings in the Kellanova portfolio. Kellanova’s snack portfolio includes Cheez-It, Eggo, Rice Krispies Treats and Pringles.
“Every program, every campaign, every piece of creative, ideally, would start to go through a similar process,” said Vinson. “It’s not that we’re trying to get to a paint-by-numbers … It’s to really understand what pieces of creative are working the hardest to drive that business outcome.”
The tweaks to Pop-Tarts Bites’ ads, which appeared in Instagram Feeds and Stories and Facebook In-Feed placements between April and June, were relatively subtle but made a difference results-wise. One ad was tested with an emotional theme, promoting Pop-Tarts Bites as a morning snack with a “grab your bites” call to action (CTA). The same image with a more functional message centered on flavor and texture, including an emphasis on the pastry product’s “soft-baked” quality and a sharper “Get snackin’ today!” CTA, delivered superior ad recall, engagement rates and in-view impressions. The company declined to share more specific results.
“Once you identify an insight, it’s about then validating that and putting it back into the ecosystem again,” said Vinson. “It definitely met the expectations and it helped to give us more data to support the hypotheses that we had. The whole idea behind data-driven marketing is that you're using the data to remove the subjectivity.”
Eye on AI
Pop-Tarts Bites’ experiment with VidMob aligns with Kellanova’s ongoing bets around data, machine learning and artificial intelligence, areas that have boomed in the wake of ChatGPT and as marketers face down the deprecation of third-party cookies next year. AI and ML helped the companies better isolate and assess specific elements of the Pop-Tart Bites’ advertisements, including the CTAs, to provide “optimal treatments,” according to Vinson.
“All of this is about [getting] to more personalized types of messaging so that we can better connect with our consumers so that they can feel unique, they’re individual — we’re not talking to them as if they’re one homogenous group,” said Vinson. “This is where personalization comes into play. It’s not that we’re trying to get to one-to-one [marketing].”
Kellanova is also attempting to build a stronger bridge with Gen Z consumers, a notoriously picky consumer group. That demographic represented some of the new customers that Pop-Tarts Bites was vying to gain a deeper understanding of through the VidMob pilot and refinements to its messaging.
“Gen Z is another audience group that we can’t ignore. We can’t talk to every group the same,” said Vinson. “You can drive mass reach but then you also need to blend that with personalization and really understanding your different audience cohorts.”