Multiple Dynamics Drive Hormel Umbrella Campaign


When a major CPG launches the first umbrella advertising campaign in its 119-year history, as Hormel Foods is doing, the obvious question is: Why now?

Certainly, with growing consumer demand for convenient, nutritious eat-at-home meal solutions -- as well as consumers' yen for familiar, homey, "comfort" fare -- the time would seem ripe for a corporate brand with a portfolio of products with a story to tell on all of those fronts to leverage these unifying themes for cross-product synergy.

Indeed, Hormel cited the opportunity to increase consumer awareness of its lesser-known brands/products as the core driver behind its new, multi-brand "Life Better Served" campaign, which will span print, TV and digital advertising, PR and in-store elements.

Hormel's research confirmed that consumers "know and love the Hormel brand, as evidenced by top-performing products in several categories, but they do not realize the depth of the product offering and its ability to fulfill the full range of meal needs," the company summed up in its campaign launch announcement.



The integrated campaign's core message for the target female "family caregiver" is direct: Hormel has a variety of brands that together offer many options for providing "simple, wholesome" and protein-rich family meal solutions "despite the frantic pace of modern life," in the words of Scott Weisenbeck, Hormel Foods group product manager, integrated marketing.

Hormel Foods -- whose brands span Jennie-O, Dinty Moore, Spam, Lloyds and many others in addition to directly Hormel-named lines -- has launched a number of new, updated products/lines in recent times, including its Hormel Compleats microwaveable meals, but its top-selling products continue to be its chili, bacon and pepperoni offerings. The campaign emphasizes Hormel's Compleats, pepperoni, Natural Choice meat and refrigerated entrées, while also encompassing chili, bacon, chunk meat and other products spanning 15 categories.

At the same time, the campaign's emphasis on the quality/trust factors of products under the Hormel umbrella -- sans direct references to the "value" message so prevalent in most CPG advertising now -- may speak to an additional underlying strategic goal, points out Michael Stone, president/CEO of The Beanstalk Group brand licensing and consulting agency.

"With food stores pushing to increase private-label brands to capitalize on consumers' budget-consciousness, national brands in general must find differentiators," says Stone. "Emphasizing the quality and reputation of the Hormel corporate brand and making consumers aware that Hormel makes these various brands and products seems a smart way to counteract that private-label pressure."

The campaign's print components include multiple, half-page spreads and fractional units showing dinner, lunch and entertaining scenarios. Each ad poses a meal-time question faced daily by consumers and suggests a Hormel-branded product as the solution.

To capitalize on the Oscar Awards, Entertainment Weekly is a prime vehicle: the magazine is carrying a four-page Oscars ballot gatefold featuring Hormel branded products depicted as "nominees." In addition, a two-page insert in the magazine employs peel-away plates featuring Hormel-based meal ideas and "conversation starters" -- both positioned as suggestions for using family meals to foster engagement among family members.

Television spots will debut this month during the Winter Olympic Games on NBC and run in 71 markets during four of the year's most-viewed TV events, including the Academy Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards and the Emmy Awards. The television ads' creative presents three different Hormel products/lines as the solutions to common mealtime dilemmas, such as how to "eat all-natural" without going "all-out" (Hormel Natural Choice products); how to serve a meal for the whole family that's easy, fun and welcomed by all (Hormel pepperoni); and how to eat a satisfying lunch during a rushed work day (Hormel Compleats).

Looking at the overall strategy, Hormel seems to be on the mark, in Stone's estimation. "When you're assessing the potential success of an umbrella campaign, the first important factors are that consumers must not only recognize the corporate name, but have an emotional attachment to it," Stone says. "Second, there has to be a meaningful reason for lumping brands together -- you can't put brands or product types together that create a 'disconnect' in the consumer's mind."

Hormel has these two factors in place and, importantly, seems to be on top of the need to continue to support simultaneously individual products/brands with advertising, Stone observes. "The biggest danger with any umbrella campaign is letting the individual brands' established identities get diluted," he says.

Stone offers SC Johnson's umbrella campaign that focused on the environmental friendliness of its household products as a successful example. "They established a meaningful connection among the brands with TV and other efforts with the environmental theme, but continued to support individual brands with advertising, always including the 'SC Johnson: A Family Company' tagline and theme," he notes.

The new Hormel campaign's ads were created and produced by BBDO Minneapolis. PHD-Minneapolis handled the media buying, Burson-Marsteller is handling PR, and Nsight Connect is handling consumer promotions.

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