SXSW

Soylent Gets an AI Spokeswoman Courtesy of W&K Tech Shop Lodge

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Soylent's website introduces curious consumers to Trish.
Soylent's website introduces curious consumers to Trish. Credit: Courtesy of Soylent
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Soylent, the meal-replacement brand designed to eliminate the hassles of regular eating, is getting a (fictional) artificially intelligent spokeswoman in its first work from Wieden & Kennedy's tech-focused Lodge group.

The character, Trish, will appear to run a virtual store on Soylent's website and play a part in a mix of broadcast, digital, social and other marketing as the brand sets out to broaden its consumer base, according to the company.

Still, the company is not abandoning its tech-savvy followers. Trish has a Bitcoin-based store, Soy Route, on the dark web, where Soylent aims to sell rare products including mystery-flavor Soylent, a beef-flavor kit and golden Soylent signed by the CEO. Trish is also set to make an appearance at the upcoming SXSW Conference.

Soylent, as the story goes, was started by CEO Rob Rhinehart and others who were frustrated with buying, preparing and eating not-so-healthy foods while busy working at startups. It began with crowdfunding in 2013 and started shipping products in 2014.

The Los Angeles-based company proclaims its mission is "to expand access to quality nutrition through food system innovation." So far, the biggest following it appears to have is among tech-savvy startup workers and others looking to streamline their daily grind. Drinking a pre-mixed bottle of Soylent drink, sipping Soylent coffiest or mixing Soylent powder with water frees up the time it takes to buy and prepare food or go out to eat.

Soylent hired W&K's Lodge in October after looking at multiple large and small agencies, Chief Marketing Officer Adam Grablick said via email.

"The W&K Lodge team's focus on emerging areas of tech and its ability to develop experiences that bring brands to life in unexpected ways appealed to our own team's innovative spirit and mission," said Mr. Grablick, who joined Soylent in 2016. "The type of work that the Lodge does is exactly what we need to attract this difficult to reach consumer."

Mr. Grablick was familiar with W&K, having worked with the agency during his tenure at Kraft, which he left in 2015.

Much of Soylent's marketing until now has centered around early adopters with experiential events, sampling, and social marketing, Mr. Grablick said. Now Soylent aims to broaden its appeal through a wider variety of channels.

Some may recall the name Soylent from the 1973 sci-fi movie "Soylent Green," in which a food replacement was made out of people. The brand name was selected based on the 1966 Harry Harrison sci-fi novel, "Make Room! Make Room!," on which "Soylent Green" was based.

Soylent intends to "significantly" ramp up its consumer-facing marketing, Mr. Grablick said, declining to be more specific about spending plans.

The Lodge will work with Soylent's in-house team on brand development, marketing strategy and product campaigns, including everything from website and package design to media planning and creative direction, Soylent said.

Last year, some people fell ill with stomach issues after consuming the brand's Soylent Bar and a certain version of its powder. The company's tests came back negative for food pathogens, toxins or outside contamination, but it decided to suspend sales of the bar anyway.

"Last fall's concerns had no effect on our overall marketing strategy," Mr. Grablick said.

Along with the Lodge, Soylent works with public relations, marketing and communications agency Autumn Communications on in-house communications and publicity, and with entertainment marketing agency Signal Entertainment Marketing on brand integration across film, television and digital content. Allied Integrated Marketing, an entertainment, culture and lifestyle agency, will work with Soylent on the activation at SXSW.