In early February 2000, Chicago-based Dome Communications Inc (Dome) was retained by Sara Lee Bakery to introduce a new line of hand-held sandwiches, Calzone Creations. Dome strategically developed a three-stage national introductory program to generate national media coverage, assist the sell-in process and ultimately pique the curiosity of consumers prior to an on-shelf presence. The overwhelming media coverage garnered by this low-budget initiative was the result of strategic thinking, impeccable timing and all-around hustle.
Dome’s primary challenge was to create a smart, strategic and timely plan that could stretch every dollar to exceed expectations. To garner the extensive national media coverage and vast consumer interest Sara Lee desired, Dome chose a high-profile venue with national scope for the product launch – the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). FMI, the single-most competitive trade show in the consumer goods industry, served as a springboard to reveal Calzone Creations. Still, Dome was charged with differentiating the product among tens of thousands of others – all vying for equal media attention.
Another amazing story unfolded behind the scenes as Dome attempted to secure major national media coverage. In line with the original media strategy, after initial print and broadcast coverage broke, Dome immediately pitched national programs, earning a new product segment on the next-day’s edition of “Good Morning America.” However, producers wanted Calzone Creations in hand by 6 p.m. that night. Because the product was not yet in stores, Dome needed to get frozen Calzone Creations to ABC’s New York studio in under six hours. The product, safely packed and placed on ice, was hand-delivered by an intern who jumped a plane on her first day to secure coverage.
In preparation for the product introduction, Dome researched competing brands to determine a point of difference for Sara Lee’s new line of hand-held sandwiches. Studying similar new product launches to identify premier media opportunities and platforms, Dome found that flavor was the most important factor in determining what people wanted in a new frozen food product. Dome’s informal research also revealed that Americans are less concerned with fat than in years past. Today’s busy professionals are willing to indulge in moderation and are searching for dinner options that look and taste homemade, despite fat content.
Dome identified FMI as the ideal location to announce the new product introduction. Understanding the highly competitive nature of this event, Dome developed a five-month media relations strategy to ensure media coverage at all outlets to reach all targeted audiences. Prior to any media relations efforts, however, Dome instituted an extensive media-training program with Sara Lee Bakery spokespeople to guarantee clear and consistent messaging. Dome utilized food trend research to create press materials that highlighted consumers’ changing demands for taste over low fat.
Dome’s primary objective was to generate national media coverage, interest and a buzz surrounding the introduction of Calzone Creations. Dome was charged with differentiating this product in the competitive hand-held sandwich category, in addition to the frozen food and take-out industries. Secondarily, Dome sought to establish Sara Lee as a leader in the baked-goods industry, bringing consumers innovative new products to match their changing tastes and needs.
Calzone Creations’ first key target audience included on-the-go women, ages 24-35 who enjoy higher quality foods for themselves and their families. In addition, a second key target audience was the media, specifically national consumer print and broadcast outlets and relevant trade publications.
In order to generate blanket consumer interest, Dome created a multi-phased media relations strategy to secure comprehensive media coverage surrounding the introduction of Calzone Creations. The overall media strategy consisted of securing vertical trade media coverage of the Calzone Creations prior to FMI. Dome leveraged this trade coverage to position Sara Lee Bakery as an industry leader delivering innovative new products to match consumers’ changing tastes and needs. Dome would then use that coverage to secure an Associated Press (AP) story focusing on the new trend in food offerings – “Fat is Back.” The AP story could then be merchandised to validate national relevance and spark broadcast coverage nationwide.
Stage I: Trade Offensive – Dome utilized extensive competitive and industry research to identify key points of difference for Calzone Creations. Dome created a media relations strategy that positioned the product as an emerging trend in the frozen-food industry, highlighting the product’s contemporary flavors and convenient usage. Calzone Creations were also positioned as examples of overall corporate innovation. This trade strategy allowed Dome to control and reinforce the key message that Calzone Creations are an adult/gourmet option in a convenience-based category.
Stage II: FMI Offensive – Dome sought to create a consumer media “buzz” for Calzone Creations surrounding the FMI Show. Dome then utilized extensive research to identify timely trends in the food industry. Calzone Creations were positioned as the product that epitomizes consumers’ changing tastes and lifestyle demands. Calzones were tied to this consumer-eating trend, exemplifying Americans’ willingness to sacrifice lower calories for flavor.
Stage III: Consumer Offensive – Following the FMI show, Dome continued to leverage the national publicity garnered prior to and throughout the show to motivate internal and external employees while securing additional high-profile media placements. The success of the product launch was then merchandised to position Sara Lee Bakery as a leader in the baked goods industry, delivering innovative new products solutions to meet consumers’ changing tastes and lifestyles.
Stage I: Dome created press materials that positioned Calzone Creations as in a category of their own, demonstrating adult flavors and portions not available in the marketplace. These key messages were used to pitch and secure trade coverage prior to FMI. Trade articles were merchandised with Sara Lee’s sales staff to encourage product sell-in and to “seed” the consumer media for future exposure.
Stage II: Dome identified a list of guest speakers and key media attending FMI. Dome delivered press materials and product samples to all decision-makers to secure inclusion in any “hot product” previews created for the show. In an effort to secure an AP story, Dome merchandised the trade coverage received prior to the FMI show. Once secured, the AP story, in turn, sparked national broadcast and radio coverage.
Stage III: Dome leveraged the extensive media coverage to merchandise the success to internal and external employees, facilitating the sell-in process. After the product launch, Dome targeted business reporters to secure corporate stories citing Calzone Creations as one example of the company’s progressive ideas and consumer-driven innovation. Dome also continued to pitch relevant national food columns for additional coverage.
Sara Lee received extensive media coverage from the AP story secured during FMI. In approximately three short months, the Calzone Creations program garnered more than 250 million consumer impressions, including print and radio coverage in Canada and London. Of those consumer impressions, 64 million came from broadcast/radio and nearly 190 million from print. The “Fat is Back” craze generated by the AP story extended world-wide, prompting an appearance on BBC Radio for Sara Lee Bakery representatives and multiple segments on “Good Morning America” and the “CBS Evening News.” Dome secured the ultimate national placement in the food industry for Calzone Creations in Parade Magazine’s “What America Eats” section. Subsequent corporate stories have resulted from the Calzone Creations buzz. In the midst of corporate reorganization, Dome ensured that Calzone Creations were cited as an example of the company’s progressive direction and innovative ideas.
Overall impressions to date: 255,637,535 – CPM $0.29