I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! Spreads GIPHY Mirth

If you missed I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! Day on Nov. 18, mark your calendar for next year.

It’s not that you watched the wrong television shows and didn’t see commercials celebrating the occasion. 

There weren’t any.

Dating to 1981, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! was an early mover in plant-based spreads—a category in which parent Upfield is now a major global player. 

As I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! approaches age 40, Upfield North America has shifted to a digital-first approach to marketing, led by an activation for the inaugural Nov. 18 namesake event.

Unlike a few years ago, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! bypassed TV and other traditional advertising media to partner with GIPHY—the online platform where people find and share short, silent videos that resemble animated GIF files. 

The brand’s in-house creative team worked with noted artists Bianca Bosso and Chris Timmons to design zany digital stickers, GIFs and memes to help “lighten up the mood” in a challenging year for society, in the words of brand director Hesham Aboul-Hassan at Upfield North America. 

As part of the activation, each new follower of @ICantBelieveItsNotButter on Instagram resulted in a $1 donation to nonprofit hunger-relief organizations. Recipes and cooking suggestions were also part of the mix.

This interview with Aboul-Hassan has been edited for brevity.

CPG FYI: Why are you leaving TV and other traditional advertising media behind?

Aboul-Hassan: The marketing landscape has been going through massive transformation, and everybody needs to keep up in order to stay relevant. This year, in particular, our plan was to become a digital-first brand and approach our marketing from that lens. 

Working with digital marketing allows us to tailor our content to individual groups rather than a blanket, one-size-fits-all advertising method like we used to do in traditional TV or print advertising. 

CPG FYI: Would you have made such a shift in the absence of COVID-19?

Aboul-Hassan: Absolutely. Our intent was always to move to digital and keep it in the forefront of our marketing strategy. We have been increasing that investment year on year over the last three years. 

CPG FYI: How would you describe the target audience for the brand?

Aboul-Hassan: Mainly we focus on females 35-plus…like empty nesters who have just converted their son’s room into a Zumba studio. Our brand promise is to empower women to live life unapologetically.

CPG FYI: What was the goal of the GIPHY partnership?

Aboul-Hassan: It’s been a heck of a year for all of us. We wanted to lighten up the mood. With our activation, we touched on consumer expression and were able to be a part of the consumer experience in a very authentic way. When thinking of ways to amplify that message, we wanted to go beyond the role of a traditional advertiser. 

CPG FYI: What key performance indicators are you using to measure results?

Aboul-Hassan: We didn’t want to overcomplicate it and have multiple sets of KPIs. We basically are measuring the number of views of our stickers, of which we have delivered north of 200 million—and actually three of our stickers were trending and on top of search [on GIPHY]. So even before you searched, once you clicked on the GIPHY app, our stickers were featured on top. 

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