Ancient Nutrition Super-Feeds Underserved Gen-X

Ok, Boomer! Move over. Time to make room for another aging segment to obsess about their health. Given their sheer numbers and buying power, you would think that Generation-X would be overexposed in media.

Just the opposite, says Amelia Thorn, vice president of marketing at supplements brand, Ancient Nutrition. Her marketing research showed that their brand’s target market is woefully underrepresented in commercial images.

And so the company’s first major brand awareness campaign around the “Superfoods So You Can” tagline lets X-er customers tell their own stories of physical achievement and well-being. But this is a brand lift strategy that has its feet planted in Ancient Nutrition’s performance marketing roots. Its founders have enviable YouTube and social media followings, bestseller status on Amazon and deep experience driving sales via DRTV. But can they break out of the wellness clutter?



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MediaPost: Before the campaign rollout we are going to discuss, what was Ancient Nutrition’s typical messaging and targeting plan?

Amelia Thorn: Until 2021, you'd likely have seen Ancient Nutrition for The Modern World,” which was the tagline of the brand. And up until recently, the brand has been really heavily focused on product-level messaging as well as retention efforts, so focusing less on that higher brand value and focusing less on, I guess, top of funnel creative.

For a highly competitive category, where there’s so much innovation, we needed to reassess our balance  to get it closer to a 50/50 brands-sales promotion balance.

MP: You have at least one or two signature products you market against.

Thorn: The first product that put Ancient Nutrition on the map was bone broth protein. Following that, our number-one focus was multi-collagen protein. We have a series of products – powders, capsules as well. Functional extensions of that line that are our number-one products right now.

MP: Who have been your core consumers,until now?

Thorn: This might surprise some people, but our demographic is Gen X. 81% of our consumers are over the age of 35, tend to skew suburban-urban, married, educated, relatively high income.

So we've done a lot of consumer work this year. We know they're very comfortable on Amazon, but they shop the full retail landscape, mass and natural. Also specific to our category, they index pretty high in seeking natural, as well as organic foods. They skew high on reading labels -- and then, of course, seeking local products. And we absolutely look at demographics for this brand campaign. Specifically, we really focus on psychographics.

MP: What have been your most impactful media channels? 

Thorn: All major channels, specifically, though, on TV. We've a big DRTV presence on social, especially under the Doctor Axe brand.

Collectively, with Dr Axe and Ancient Nutrition, we're on track to hit just about 9 million followers this year. And paid programmatic has been big for us. Content marketing has also been a really fundamental pillar in our communication strategy. And really leveraging Dr Axe, a trusted professional, has been really fundamental to bringing in new users. 

MP: Walk us through the new brand campaign’s core concept through execution. 

Thorn: The insight really driving this campaign is a realization that each consumer, especially this Gen X consumer, has their own unique needs and is on their own health journey. Health is very much an individual lived experience, and right now this landscape is completely overwhelming.

Fundamental to the campaign was the development of a super-easy three-, four-minute personal survey which asks key health details in order to provide personalized product recommendation, and those recommendations are across our entire portfolio.

So if your concern is joint health, gut health, if it’s beauty, sleep, hormone balance, prenatal, you name it, we can direct you to that right product, as well as provide the education of why that's the product that we're recommending.

And connected to that is “Superfoods So You Can,” the tagline of the campaign. And what inspired that was this intangible feeling that comes with feeling good. It's a sense of confidence in our health and our bodies and our abilities. And critical to that was showing real Gen X women with their own passions.

Dana is a kickboxer, a real kickboxer. Suzanne, an incredible woman, has built her dream home so impressively [that] she built this home from scratch. We have a triathlete who was originally just a runner and then moved to the coast and became a swimmer as well as a cyclist.

It was really important for us to to show real women’s stories. This is a big part of what came up in the original consumer work: 49% of U.S. adults are over 45, yet 15% of media imagery reflects this cohort. Even worse, 74% of Gen-X women feel that older adults themselves are underrepresented in product advertising. It was a big opportunity for us to be able to show real Gen-X women who are healthy and thriving, and what that looks like.

MP: What's the new media plan and how is it different say from what you've done before?

Thorn: The big part of it is relying on video. Throughout the six weeks branding campaign we produce about 20 plus video variations telling these women’s stories as well as driving them, of course, to the superfoods supplement quiz.

We also have a ton of influencer partners telling their own stories, and then it's across the landing pages, across Amazon, it's across a number of our retail partners as well.

MP: What kinds of performance TV channels are you using and how are you measuring it?

Thorn: We see great success on channels like HDTV, TLC, even CW to an extent. And, obviously, how performance TV works is, it’d be a 15 second commercial 
that's followed up with a retargeting component. So you see the video on a streaming platform, whether it's your tablet or your TV, and then because it's performance TV you get served a retargeting ad following. 

Through our performance TV we’re actually able to track our order IDs, so we've definitely been able to tell a bit of an interesting retargeting story. And yes performance TV can help bring in new consumers, but it can also be a subtle reminder to consumers who purchased before to purchase again.

MP: What is your approach to differentiating to the supplement buyer who very often is looking for the cheapest variant on Amazon? 

Thorn: The trust and the integrity of our founders is a really big part of our differentiation. Our differentiation really comes down to the formulas themselves. For us superfoods as a term is not a trend. It's really fundamental to how we formulate. What I'm getting at is we are aggressively focused on the clinical. We are aggressively focused on what claims that we can make. And, as a result, we are the only brand that can claim results in as little as one day, and that's a claim that we can now make with our new collagen peptides product.

So we are aggressively focused on supporting by proven research, backing by peer-reviewed studies, testing for advocacy, testing for safety and transparency. Those are kind of fundamental to us. We do skew premium, more premium priced products, but that's because of our non-negotiable focus on real ingredients.

MP: You're also unlike a lot of supplement companies since you're growing your own. I mean, as a consumer, that's probably something that would stand out to me, that you have your own regenerative farming techniques that are sustainable and under your total control. How are these attributes part of the brand message? 

Thorn: Regenerative agriculture, animal welfare, those are fundamental to this brand. Like these are practices that have been in place since the brand's inception. Both Jordan Rubin and Dr. Axe own three organic farms since beginning. However, only this year did we start to really pull back the curtains to show how we source, how we formulate, and how we produce. We're really excited about continuing to communicate that, and I think you'll see it, especially in the beginning of 2022 as we ramp up that focus.

MP: Six months down when the campaign is wrapping up, what KPIs are you looking at to measure success? 

Thorn: Household penetration and aided and unaided. Of course, those are like lagging indicators. What we look at immediately is our engaged traffic. So because it's top of funnel, of course, how much new quality traffic are we sending to the quiz, are we sending to the site? That's almost an immediate way that we can measure. Like, is that message resonating, are people watching, are people connecting with the videos, connecting with the message and coming through to learn more?

MP: And then, finally, what have been the biggest challenges along the way in launching a new campaign, in rethinking your brand? 

Thorn: We have a lot to say, and we have a really significant portfolio, as it stands, across collagen, proteins, probiotics, vitamins, minerals, CBD, essential oils. So being able to, say, have a message that connects to all of those and delivers on all of those is significant.

And then, also, we always want to be able to talk about our regenerative agriculture, we always want to tell that story, but it's kind of hard to include that all in one succinct three-second video. So the hardest part was really homing in on what differentiates us, and I think we've done a good job of putting a stake in the ground and saying superfood as a term is not a trend. It's something that we fundamentally stand for and know can have a positive impact on your health journey. So I think we've solved that, but that was absolutely the hardest part of how do we tackle this head on.

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