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STOVE TOP OVEN CLASSICS proves it can dish out the real thing.

The Memo

Time-crunched consumers have long turned to meal-in-a-box products that help them prepare quick and easy dinners. Still, few of these "just add meat" options have won over the taste buds of consumers, especially women. How could Kraft effectively introduce Stove Top Oven Classics, a new dinner kit for a fast and tasty chicken dish?

The Discovery

In 1996, Kraft researchers sat down to chat with working moms about their ideal home-cooked dinner. The women were frank: Yes, they were busy people who didn't have time to prepare a meal from scratch every night, but they weren't willing to sacrifice taste for convenience. They wanted to prepare wholesome dishes that their families would enjoy. Maybe their kids would even ask for seconds.

Kraft also asked 1,000 women to evaluate five alternate brand names for the company's new product, using measures such as appeal and uniqueness. Stove Top Oven Classics, which enjoyed a halo effect from the success of Stove Top stuffing, scored the highest marks. Women associated good taste with Stove Top stuffing and expected the same from something called Stove Top Oven Classics. And there didn't seem to be any confusion over what the product was for - even though its name included both "stove" and "oven."

The Tactics

Kraft had a lot of ground to cover. How could it cram into a 30-second spot that Stove Top Oven Classics was convenient, tasty, and new? Foote Cone & Belding developed a set of campaigns and showed them to moms who prepare dinner for their families several times a week and who use convenience foods. Bad news: The moms didn't get the message. None of the campaigns grabbed their attention and adequately conveyed the idea that Oven Classics provided a traditional family meal. Still, there was hope: Many respondents recalled from the spots that Oven Classics involved five minutes of preparation and 30 minutes of baking time. The finding was key. With that one simple phrase, people understood that Oven Classics could make their lives easier.

The creative team went back to the drawing board, designed four new campaigns and showed them to focus groups. This time, the feedback was more encouraging. People liked the use of an oven in the commercials - it conjured up warm images of families getting together for big Sunday dinners. And the tagline "Sunday taste. Tuesday effort" reinforced the idea that Oven Classics tasted good but was also quick and simple.

Focus groups also approved of seeing real people in the spots, but there was a potential problem: Celebrity characters with their own distinct personalities could draw attention away from the commercial's main message. Kraft tested one commercial featuring Cosmo Kramer and found that the Seinfeld character came with his own set of baggage. Stove Top Oven Classics needed a spokesperson who could be viewed as an authority in the kitchen, someone people associated with big family feasts. Consumers led Kraft directly to grandmothers.

Again, Foote Cone & Belding created two new campaigns, one featuring two feisty grannies who were upset that Stove Top Oven Classics had usurped their role as preparers of family meals. Focus groups loved the granny commercial and copy testing by Ipsos-ASI showed that key product benefits such as "easy to prepare," "good for you," and "new product" were recalled at high levels.

Stove Top Oven Classics debuted in September 1998 in Kansas City and Minneapolis, markets with high incidence rates of dinner-kit products. The Grannies ads kicked off at the same time, running during primetime shows and on the Lifetime channel. By January 1999, the product was available nationally.

The Payoff

Nine months into the launch, brand awareness had reached 64 percent; ad awareness, 28 percent. In the introductory markets, Stove Top Oven Classics exceeded sales goals by 11 percent and captured a 17 percent share in its segment. Kraft expects the brand to become a $100 million business this year. You go, granny!

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