For most of its history, Swanson has put convenience at the core of its marketing, from launching the nation's first frozen "TV Dinner" in 1953 to positioning its broths as an alternative to homemade stock beginning in the 1960s.
But in its newest campaign the brand is playing up the cooking process rather than the end result, as it seeks to appeal to the growing number of consumers who actually like spending time in the kitchen. The campaign, called "Why I Cook," plugs the brand's lineup of broths and stocks with ads that compare an empty pan to a "blank canvas," while showing plenty of chopping, mashing and pouring scenes.
The ads, by Omnicom Group's BBDO, New York, are a departure from the brand's "Secret is Swanson" campaign, which typically showed smiling faces enjoying dishes prepared with Swanson as the secret ingredient.
The old campaign, which had been on air since 2006, hit on the "satisfaction that [the consumer] garnered from feeding her family," said Dale Clemiss, North American VP-marketing for simple meals at Campbell Soup Co., which owns Swanson. But these days, consumers get "self-satisfaction from the entire process, not just the end meal," he said.
Brands across the packaged-food spectrum are making similar adjustments as they seek to appeal to consumers who increasingly want a hand in cooking, rather than relying on a one-box solution. This explains the plethora of "meal-starter" products hitting the market, such as Kraft Recipe Makers, which includes sauces, leaving consumers to add their own meat and veggies.
Swanson broths, of course, have always been marketed as an ingredient to larger meals. But earlier ads downplayed the cooking process, including a 1976 print ad for a turkey recipe that plugged the Swanson as providing "all of the flavor … none of the fuss." (Campbell sold the Swanson frozen-food division in 1998, and the current owner, Pinnacle Foods, discontinued Swanson frozen meals in the U.S. in 2010.)
The cooking renaissance, which has been driven by TV food shows and celebrity chefs, has helped fuel growth in the stock and broth category. Sales increased by 3.85% in the 52 weeks ending Aug. 11 to $897 million in sales, according to IRI. Swanson, which has nearly 45% share of the category, grew by 3.83% in that period.
As part of the new campaign, Swanson has struck digital partnerships with Food & Wine, Epicurious.com and Bon Appetit that will include branded cooking videos hosted on the tablet applications of each media property. Swanson is also trying to tap into the rising interest in ethnic foods with its new "flavor-infused broths," which come in varieties such as Thai Ginger, Mexican Tortilla and Chinese Hot & Sour.