Jell-O Joins the 'Love'-fest as Part of Brand Overhaul

New Campaign From Leo Burnett Accompanied By New Products, Like Star Wars Molds

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For the second time in 17 months, Kraft Foods Group is rebooting its struggling Jell-O franchise with new positioning and a new campaign.

The effort, which is the first work for Jell-O by new agency Leo Burnett, is called "Made with JELL-O-V-E" and puts more focus on what the brand says are the emotional connections formed by families while making Jell-O creations.

"What we found is that Jell-O is a catalyst for these incredible bonding moments between parents and their kids and the experience in making the product is really where all the emotion exists," said Jell-O Brand Director Noelle O'Mara.

The campaign includes a new TV spot (above) debuting Monday that shows 35 Jell-O creations in an attempt to portray the endless variety possible with Jell-O products as the core ingredient. The soundtrack is "More Smiles" by The Jump Ups, a Los Angeles-based music duo. Ms. O'Mara declined to reveal the campaign's budget but said "we have strong support."

The previous campaign, which was by CP&B and debuted in late 2013, was called "Fun Things Up" and sought to re-establish Jell-O as "food for fun." That came after the brand spent years targeting adults with diet-related messaging like spotlighting sugar-free offerings and portraying Jell-O cups as giving the "wiggle room" every diet needs.

The 2013 campaign was a result of intensive consumer study and was backed by considerable spending, including nearly $50 million in estimated measured media spending that year, according to Kantar Media. But sales have remained sluggish. Total Jell-O brand sales in the U.S. have fallen from $815 million in 2012 to $746 million in 2013 and $692 million last year, according to Euromonitor International.

Kraft again conducted consumer studies on Jell-O during 2014. But this time, the company probed more and found that the marketing wasn't all that needed fixing. "We've recognized that we had to go deeper to really understand how we renovate all aspects of the brand from our overarching strategy, our marketing commutation, our product ingredients, our packaging, our innovation," Ms. O'Mara said. "Frankly, creating just the ad isn't enough. It really has to be a holistic renovation of the brand."

Changes will include removing high-fructose corn syrup from the remaining snack-cup flavors that still have it -- strawberry, orange, raspberry and blueberry -- while also adding fruit juices to those varieties. Also, Jell-O will market new seasonal flavors like pink lemonade in the summer and pumpkin spice in the fall. And the brand is growing its licensed mold-kit program by partnering with Star Wars and Minions on co-branded molds.

But Jell-O faces major hurdles as more consumers shun processed foods. Competitors include Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and smoothies, said Virginia Lee, a senior U.S. analyst at Euromonitor International, who covers food. "Consumers are looking today for clean labels, minimal ingredients and ideally no artificial anything," she said.

Even so, Jell-O's new positioning has potential, she said. For parents, "there does exist a lot of positive childhood memories of making Jell-O desserts with their moms," Ms. Lee said. She added that the "emotional connection could be huge," especially if the brand properly leverages social channels like Pinterest, which is a popular outlet to post customized, do-it-yourself food creations.

The 35 Jell-O creations shown in the TV ad were partly inspired by Pinterest postings, said Sarah Block, a Leo Burnett creative director who worked on the campaign. "Jell-O is improvisational," she said. It took 900 boxes to make the ad. The emphasis on "love" resembles ads Leo Burnett recently made for McDonald's that make "lovin'" a central theme. Asked about that, an agency spokeswoman said "it's a coincidence that 'love' rose to the top for both of these brands."

Jello's campaign includes the phrase "101 ways to make you smile," a reference to the variety the brand is pushing in its digital channels. For instance, the Jell-O website will display 101 simple recipes geared for kids, including "Circus Parade," made by mixing Jell-O pudding, animal crackers, and "Jupiter Fruit," made by topping a cantaloupe slice with cherry Jell-O gelatin.

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