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KRAFT SINGLES talks to moms about kids and calcium.

The Memo

Kraft Singles dominated the dairy section for processed cheese slices, but the product wasn't keeping up with overall growth in the market. While category sales inched up 1.6 percent between 1988 and 1998, the brand's share declined 0.2 percent during the same time period. An ad that had been on the air since 1996 was losing its oomph. How could Kraft encourage more people to peel off that plastic wrapper and have a slice of cheese?

The Discovery

First, Kraft had to figure out what women, particularly mothers, felt about Kraft Singles. It sent out a group of ethnographers from Strategic Frameworking to talk to women aged 25 to 64 in their homes while they were making sandwiches (the ultimate cheese-slice moment). Moms told researchers that they were very aware of what their kids liked and what they thought was icky. They felt good giving Kraft Singles to their children because of its nutritional value. Mothers in focus groups repeated the same sentiments, but there was a hitch: While moms knew Kraft Singles were their kids' favorite, they could be persuaded to buy a competitive product if it were cheaper.

Kraft needed to dissuade moms from switching to a less-expensive brand, but how? A phone survey by Market Facts gave some clues. Among those polled who ate Kraft Singles, 78 percent considered the product a source of extra calcium. And 84 percent of women with kids under 12 said they would be motivated to buy the brand because of that added benefit. Synthesizing all of the research so far, Kraft researchers nailed down two key concepts that could stop mothers from defecting to competitors: show how much kids love the taste of Kraft Singles, and emphasize that the brand provides the calcium they need.

The Tactics

The creative team at J. Walter Thompson produced two spots and showed them to women for feedback. Two problems emerged from the start. For one, the idea that kids love the taste of Kraft Singles didn't come across strongly enough. And simply stating the fact that Kraft Singles is a valuable source for calcium didn't work. Of course it has calcium - it's cheese! The campaign needed to have a newsier element to grab the attention of its target audience.

The tweaking began. A new commercial was developed with two kids eating gooey, grilled-cheese sandwiches while a male voiceover stated that "two out of five kids don't get enough calcium." The visual of kids scarfing down grilled-cheese sandwiches communicated the great taste of Kraft Singles, moms in focus groups agreed. But some participants had issues with the "two out of five" statement, saying that it played too much on their guilt. To soften the message, Kraft switched to a female voiceover and used the Dairy Fairy, an animated character from a previous campaign, to lighten the overall tone. Copy testing by Millward Brown showed that the spot performed significantly above the norm on key measures such as branding and persuasion.

The Payoff

In the fourth quarter of 1998, Kraft aired "The Calcium They Need" ad in five test markets to evaluate its performance. After controlling for other drivers, it found that the ad contributed a 10.6 percent sales increase in these markets. Based on such a strong debut, the ad went national in January 1999 and continued to boost revenue. Base volume soared 14.5 percent and sales grew 11.8 percent. Roughly 65 percent of the growth in sales was attributed to the campaign.

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