Its deal with NBC to incorporate Campbell's iconic tomato-soup cans and a teen essay contest for the brand into a story line of the series "American Dreams" this fall is the latest in a raft of efforts to embed Campbell products into programming. The company has long used celebrities to hawk its wares, but more recent efforts have gone far further toward disseminating its messages to key targets, in hopes of making the brands cool again.
"We're trying to be more culturally relevant...to get people to see us as more contemporary," said Paul Alexander, VP-global advertising for Campbell. With the marketplace increasingly fragmented, he said, Campbell has turned toward advertising that has a dramatic effect (no pun intended) to both sell more cases and build its brand equities.
Recently, the company coordinated with TV Guide to schedule an appearance for its Milanos cookies on the final episode of NBC's "Frasier," and it created a follow-up contest for consumers to determine which character ate the cookies. Although Mr. Alexander said the results from the "Frasier" tie-in have yet to be tallied, "we're very happy with the promotion." Sales of Milanos have skyrocketed recently, according to Information Resources Inc., despite declines in the overall cookie category. Mr. Alexander said that the goals of the effort were related more to "consumer engagement" rather than sales.
The new tack to engage consumers also drove Campbell to a recent tie-in with 20th Century Fox's "Garfield: The Movie" in June. The cartoon cat was shown consuming a fair amount of Campbell's kid-targeted Goldfish crackers. Ads and movie trailers featured the feline snacking on Goldfish and the product itself, in a somewhat cannibalistic twist, is being offered in a Garfield shape.
Now, to make its tomato soup relevant among teens, Campbell will launch an essay contest asking 13- to 18-year-olds to describe "How does your American Dream compare to that of your parents?" a contest that will be woven into episodes of "American Dreams" beginning Sept. 26. Campbell will also link with Scholastic to launch an in-school program teaching the history of the 1960s period in which the series is set.
In addition to looking at sales of Tomato Soup following the effort, Campbell will also conduct brand equity research that asks teens if they see the brand as more versatile and contemporary than before the promotion.