Sara Lee's EarthGrains brand is advertising for the first time in at least a decade in order to tell its story about using Eco-Grain, a new type of wheat that it says supports sustainable farming practices.
The brand upped its marketing investment when it began to reformulate its products to 100% whole grain and "all natural" in 2007, and it has significantly expanded its geographic footprint (from distribution in 30% of the country to over 60%).
However, marketing has focused on channels such as in-store promotions, co-marketing with other Sara Lee brands and FSI coupons, not advertising, according to EarthGrains brand manager Kate Cosgrove.
Now, EarthGrains is jumping into social media for the first time, as well as doing some traditional media advertising.
Eco-Grain, produced by Cargill affiliate Horizon Milling, now makes up 20% of the whole grains in EarthGrains' wide-pan breads. Horizon Milling worked with a small group of Idaho-based family farmers to use "precision agriculture" techniques to grow the wheat. Satellite imagery and soil samples enable farmers to use fertilizer only where it's needed and reduce energy use and emissions, while increasing the wheat yield, according to Sara Lee.
EarthGrains is the first brand to partner with the miller to use the grain. "Eco-Grain is new not only to our brand, but to the whole bread aisle," notes Cosgrove.
The campaign, created by Ogilvy & Mather and dubbed "The Plot to Save the Earth, One Field at a Time," focuses on a few of the farmers who are growing Eco-Grain, in order to convey why buying EarthGrains bread containing the grain can help contribute to sustainable practices.
The core message is the value of taking small steps that add up, and the tone is "a bit tongue-in-cheek," says Cosgrove (copy example: "How your turkey sandwich can help preserve the earth").
Traditional media being used include print, radio, public relations and POS materials.
Print ads will appear in Better Homes and Gardens, Martha Stewart Living, Body & Soul and National Geographic through May, and a 15-second commercial will appear on PBS, according to Cosgrove. Radio, in-store promotions and PR are also in the plan.
On the digital side, a relaunched brand site (EarthGrains.com) features an interactive tool that lets consumers see the direct impact on the environment with every loaf of bread they purchase, such as the amount of reduced fertilizer and acres of farmland saved, and information on "what Eco-Grain is, and what it's not," says Cosgrove. "We want to provide the consumer with complete transparency," she adds, noting that the grain and EarthGrains products are not, for instance, organic.
The site also offers coupons and a free, reusable shopping bag.
To encourage people to sign up as fans on its new Facebook page, for each new fan, EarthGrains will set aside $1 (up to $15,000) to help farmers grow Eco-Grain. (The technology required is costly, according to Cosgrove.)
The brand is also building a Twitter following by encouraging followers to share their personal "plots to save the planet" and offering downloadable coupons. In addition, consumers can "meet" one of the Eco-Grain farmers at IdahoWheatFarmer.wordpress.com.
EarthGrains will expand use of the special grain to its Thin Buns later this year, and also wants to increase the percentages of the grain used in its products going forward. "We're at 20% because that's all we can source, currently," Cosgrove explains. "The more consumer demand there is, the more of the wheat farmers will be able to grow."