To register, get added benefits and unlimited access to articles, Become a Member. Already a Member? Sign in.

Campbell Soup Co.

Published on . 0

Campbell Soup Co. traces its roots to 1869 and a partnership between Joseph Campbell, a fruit merchant, and Abraham Anderson, a manufacturer of iceboxes. Soup was originally only one of many products the partners marketed; Messrs. Campbell and Anderson also sold canned vegetables, minced meats, jellies and condiments. Canned goods were a relatively recent innovation at the time, and Messrs. Campbell and Anderson entered the market very slowly, packaging cans by hand and selling them from the back of a horse-drawn wagon in the Camden, N.J., area where the company was located.

In 1876, Messrs. Campbell and Anderson entered some of their foods, including their soup, into competition at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The soup won a medal for quality, and the award inspired Mr. Campbell to try selling his products nationwide. He bought out Mr. Anderson's share of the company and took on Arthur Dorrance as a new partner in Joseph Campbell & Co., which later became Joseph Campbell Preserve Co.

Mr. Campbell retired in 1894 and died six years later, but by then the Campbell name was so recognizable that Mr. Dorrance, who had become president and general manager of the company, retained it. In 1895, he established a company advertising committee and launched Campbell's first ad campaign. It was a simple one, consisting only of signs and billboards in New York, Philadelphia and St. Louis, but it was effective.

Exclusively soup

Joseph Campbell Preserve Co. began moving toward the production of soup exclusively in 1897, when Mr. Dorrance hired his 24-year-old nephew, John T. Dorrance, an unemployed chemist. John Dorrance discovered a way to prepare commercially condensed soup, eliminating water from the contents. That made it possible to put more soup in a smaller package, and the costs of packaging, shipping and storage all dropped.

The company moved five varieties of condensed soup—chicken, consommé, oxtail, tomato and vegetable—into stores nationwide. John Dorrance also oversaw a program to present free samples of Campbell's soup to housewives in major metropolitan areas.

John Dorrance's most significant advertising creation, however, came in 1904, when he introduced the Campbell's Kids characters. Designed by artist Grace Wiederseim, the Kids were first used in a series of advertisements placed on trolley cars across the U.S. that specifically targeted working mothers. The chubby, red-cheeked Kids became advertising icons.

Campbell's first magazine ad appeared in Good Housekeeping in 1905. The ad emphasized variety, noting that there were "21 kinds of Campbell's soup—16 million cans sold in 1904." In keeping with the variety theme, the company introduced new varieties of soup throughout the decade, including chicken with rice and cream of celery. John Dorrance, who by then was a director and VP of Campbell, phased out preserves, condiments, jellies and minced meats, but did approve one new product: Campbell's pork and beans.

John Dorrance became president of the company in 1914 and owner in 1915 after buying out his uncle, Arthur. He increased magazine ad spending, demanding of all periodicals that the Campbell's ad be the first in the publication, that it appear on a right-hand page and that it face a full page of text. Today the placement is still called "the Campbell's Soup position."

During the 1920s, John Dorrance changed the business' name to the Campbell Soup Co. and authorized Campbell's first color magazine ads. It was the last campaign led by John Dorrance; he died in 1930 and was succeeded as president by his brother, Arthur C. Dorrance.

First agencies

Campbell also began to use agencies to create its advertising in the 1920s. The company's first agencies were based in Philadelphia, including the F. Wallis Armstrong agency, which worked with Campbell in the early part of the decade, and its successor shop, Ward Wheelock Co., with which Campbell worked into the 1950s.

Campbell first entered network radio in 1934 with a modest budget of $205,000. By 1936, the company had become the No 11 network radio advertiser and was spending more than $1.3 million a year in that medium. Campbell's most notable radio coup came in December 1938 when, three weeks after Orson Welles' "Mercury Theater on the Air" startled the U.S. with its "War of the Worlds" dramatization. Campbell bought the show, sponsoring it under the name "The Campbell Playhouse."

The most significant development in Campbell advertising in the 1930s—perhaps the most significant in the history of the company—came with its first radio ads, which introduced the "M'm! M'm! Good!" jingle. It became a national catchphrase by the end of the decade and, while Campbell has used other slogans and campaigns, the "M'm! M'm! Good!" jingle has continued to be used regularly since its inception.

In the 1950s, the company moved heavily into TV sponsorship. The medium allowed Campbell to combine its two most successful advertising creations, the "M'm! M'm! Good!" jingle and the Campbell's Kids, who were depicted in animated form, eating soup and singing. Campbell used both in its first-ever TV spot in 1950. The company also advertised on several family-oriented programs, including "Lassie" and "The Donna Reed Show" (whose star also appeared in spots for Campbell).

In 1954, Campbell undertook a major restructuring of its agency affiliations. After ending its long association with Ward Wheelock, Campbell appointed a search committee to survey 15 agencies. The major winners were Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn and Leo Burnett Co.

Campbell introduced two new lines of soup in the 1960s and 1970s. Manhandler soups, created in response to requests from homemakers for more substantial foods for their spouses, were introduced in 1968. The jingle "How do you handle a hungry man? The Manhandlers!" was used to foster the image of soup as a satisfying main course. Chunky soups, which featured larger-than-usual pieces of meat and vegetables, were introduced in 1970 and promoted with the slogan "So chunky you could eat it with a fork."

In the 1970s, McCann-Erickson introduced a new jingle for Campbell: "Bring on the Campbell's. Soup is good food." Created by Bill Backer, the ads created a slightly more adult, more modern image for Campbell. In the 1980s, Campbell added the Home Cookin' line under the umbrella of the "Soup is good food" campaign.

Media buying and planning

In 1995, Campbell created the Campbell Media Alliance (housed at True North's New York office), which consolidated media buying and planning with a client-dedicated team. Campbell was the first packaged-goods marketer to adopt such a strategy, which effectively moved decision-making on media to an earlier point in the process of determining strategy.

In 1996, Campbell introduced 19 new soups, including two new Chunky soups, one new Home Cookin' product, seven ramen noodle soups and four soups in the Creative Chef line, which were primarily used in recipes. A campaign for Campbell's Healthy Choice brand was handled by Campbell-Mithun-Esty, Minneapolis, while the Chunky soups were promoted by FCB/Leber Katz Partners, New York. All the others were handled by BBDO Worldwide, New York, which by that time was Campbell's primary agency. In 1999, Campbell shifted its media account to Young & Rubicam's Media Edge, effectively shuttering the Media Alliance.

On occasion, Campbell has had problems with government regulators. In 1969, rival H.J. Heinz Co., tipped off the Federal Trade Commission that Campbell and its agency, BBDO, had placed clear glass marbles in bowls of its soup used in its TV commercials to make them look thicker. Later, in 1989, the FTC charged that Campbell misrepresented many of its soups by claiming that they were linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, when, in fact, Campbell's soups were high in sodium. In 1992, Campbell agreed to change its advertising.

Campbell has purchased many other corporations over the years, beginning in 1915 with its acquisition of Franco-American. Other Campbell acquisitions have been intended to diversify the company, including V-8 in 1948, Swanson in 1955, Pepperidge Farm in 1960, Godiva Chocolate in 1966, Vlasic Foods International in 1978 and Pace in 1995. Most of these brands were spun off into a separate corporate entity in 1997.

Although it has competitors, Campbell's recognizable logo and familiar advertising slogans and jingles have made it the best-selling soup maker in the world for more than a century. The company estimates that 99% of U.S. homes have at least one can of Campbell's soup in their kitchens.

In May 2002, Campbell introduced a line of portable heat-and-eat soups called Soup at Hand in an attempt to regain sales among consumers on the go. In August 2003, Campbell launched an ad campaign similarly pushing the idea that its soups could fit into consumer's modern lifestyles with Food Network personality Gordon Elliott reaching into consumer's homes and cars to convince them to "Choose Campbell's instead."

In this article:

Read These Next