A year and a half ago, the world's largest food company pitted the value of its primary brand against the meal-replacement market, a category experiencing more loss than the pounds it was designed to shed.
Nestle jumped into the market with a West Coast marketing blitz beginning New Year's Eve 1992.
"The results were so outstanding, we accelerated the national rollout," says Diane Kuyoomjian, a category manager at Nestle's adult nutrition products division who's now senior VP-management representative at McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Los Angeles, which handles the account.
She headed the group that developed the Sweet Success marketing plan and joined McCann just in time to oversee the agency's execution of it. Doreen Ida, recruited from Kraft General Foods, oversaw the national rollout at Nestle.
The results are clear. Not only has Nestle established itself in the category, it helped the entire business grow. For the 52 weeks ended April 24, the diet aids market expanded 20% to $644 million, according to Information Resources Inc. In less than one year in national distribution, Nestle's Sweet Success has earned a 10.8% share.
Nestle didn't enter the category lightly. Ms. Kuyoomjian's group at Nestle easily identified the diet market as attractive, but the leap of faith involved using a brand with a heritage in indulgent chocolate.
"It was the great contradiction behind the great idea," she says.
Through research and experience, Nestle knew that one of the biggest problems dieters face is "taste fatigue." What Nestle did successfully, she says, was "leverage what Nestle means to consumers ... great chocolate taste."