Launch of Beech-Nut First Advantage
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Launch of Beech-Nut First Advantage

The Beech-Nut Nutrition Corporation challenged Rowland to create a favorable environment for the introduction of a new line of first-in-class baby food with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Paul Holmes

The Beech-Nut Nutrition Corporation challenged Rowland to create a favorable environment for the introduction of a new line of first-in-class baby food with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). To launch the new product - Beech-Nut First Advantage - the team needed to bring the science of DHA in a consumer friendly format to parents, while positioning Beech-Nut as a parenting resource and leader in infant nutrition.
Beech-Nut has traditionally struggled to maintain about 13 percent of the market in an industry dominated by one major player, Gerber, who owns 60 percent of the market share. Rowland’s charge was to execute a campaign that would create a niché category, where one did not already exist, without cannibalizing the base brand’s market share.
Rowland was uniquely challenged in publicizing a product that was first-of-its-kind in the baby food industry. The key ingredient, DHA, was new to most consumers and required a certain level of scientific understanding. Creating general awareness of DHA proved to be a challenge, because the fatty acid’s benefit to infants is currently under debate in the medical and nutritional communities. This limited Rowland’s ability to “hype” the product benefits due to legal and scientific restrictions.
Another challenge emerged when infant formulas with DHA were launched only two months before First Advantage’s scheduled media launch. While expanding on the media’s knowledge of infant products with DHA, Rowland also included messaging on the importance of breastfeeding in First Advantage pitches and press materials. This placed the Brand in good graces with the La Leche League and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), two organizations at odds with infant formula manufacturers.
 In order to address potential challenges from competitors, the media and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Rowland conducted extensive research on DHA prior to the First Advantage launch. Rowland created a binder with topline summaries of available clinical data for use in creating messages and fielding press and professional queries. The binder was also used by the Brand internally.
Market research conducted indicated that consumers wanted to receive more benefits for themselves and their children naturally from foods, rather than supplements. Beech-Nut, a pioneer in the removal of undesirable ingredients, such as sugar, starch and salt, was interested in including beneficial ingredients. Rowland concluded that Beech-Nut should capitalize on this heritage of nutritional firsts and position themselves as leaders in the healthful evolution of baby food, while driving awareness of DHA, and positioning First Advantage as a breakthrough in infant nutrition.
First Advantage was launched on March 26 with an aggressive media campaign that would maximize brand awareness and carry momentum throughout year.
 Through market research, Rowland determined that the Brand’s target audience – mom enthusiasts – would best be reached via electronic media coverage. Rowland sought to disseminate messaging through coverage of the Times Square launch event as well as through controlled media vehicles with medical professionals. Rowland identified
Dr. Christine Wood, a pediatrician, mother and author of a book on the importance of good nutrition, How to Get Kids to Eat Great and Love It!, as well as the author of numerous articles and her own Web site (www.kidseatgreat.com), as the ideal media emissary.
In addition to traditional PR vehicles, Rowland created a new Brand web site www.beech-nut.com/FA, which was intended to serve as a general baby care resource for new and expectant moms while touting the benefits of DHA. Site visitors were seized by a “bouncing” Flash introduction, coupled with baby sounds and music that heralded First Advantage’s difference from other baby food. The navigational home page following the intro allows users to focus directly on their interests including developmental “Activities” for baby, “DHA in the News”, “FAQ” on DHA, a free subscription to American Baby and First Advantage product information.
Rowland’s media platform included an unofficial credo for the product, “Tasting is believing”. Taste test parties proved to be a great media draw and platform for message dissemination. Local babies participating in both the inaugural shipment celebration and the Times Square launch party provided great photo-ops and first-hand testimony of the product’s great taste. Moms, thrilled by their little ones’ enthusiasm, offered fabulous quotes on both the great taste and added benefits of First Advantage. Representatives from American Baby, Parents, Baby Talk, Progressive Grocer, WWOR-TV (UPN) and CNN, among others, turned out to witness the Times Square tasting, join a discussion on DHA and infant nutrition, and enjoy a DHA-enriched lunch. In addition to the local event coverage, Rowland’s complementary radio news release and b-roll packages received great pick-up throughout the country.
The First Advantage satellite media tour conducted in July with Dr. Wood from her hometown in San Diego, offered useful parenting tips on feeding baby, infant/child nutrition and child behavior. During the course of 30 interviews, 1-800-Beech-Nut or www.beech-nut.com were referenced. In September, Dr. Wood hosted a Web chat with our partner BabyCenter.com on similar topics that garnered twice the usual number of online participants.
Finally, in order to reach the suburban areas where Beech-Nut targeted moms reside, Rowland released another matte feature on good nutrition from birth through childhood. The story continues to receive pick-up.
 Rowland exceeded expectations in every First Advantage initiative. With the help of Rowland’s public relations work, Beech-Nut met 2002 sales goals. Overall, the First Advantage campaign exceeded 154,000,000 impressions to date. As anticipated, the campaign dominated television coverage securing segments on 258 stations within the 6-month campaign timeframe. Radio initiatives reached 4,082,225 listeners, while print coverage (excluding the matte feature) has appeared in 53 newspapers with 12,289,657 readers.
Pre-launch DHA Awareness efforts garnered significant coverage, including a nationally syndicated feature in the New York Times and an Associated Press newswire story, as well as two segments on the CBS Early Show. Total media impressions achieved: 88,672,316.
Originally, the inaugural shipment event was to be a mere celebration with plant employees upstate. Instead, Rowland suggested a baby taste test using plant employees’ family members and invited local politicians, including Congressman McNulty, who brought his daughter and granddaughter, both loyal Beech-Nut customers. The event netted on-site coverage from five local print outlets, which included most of the prominent New York Capitol District press, and television coverage that reached nearly four million viewers on 22 stations for a total of 48 airings. The local NBC story was aired on the NBC Newschannel feed. Total media impressions generated: 5,327,313.
The Times Square launch event was a resounding success with television broadcast media appearing on two newsfeeds, Fox Edge News and Conus Communications, with a total of 351 affiliate stations. B-roll footage also received tremendous pick-up in major markets nationwide including coverage in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Rowland released an audio news release, with nutrition expert Barbara Levine, PhD, that aired 657 times on 642 stations and network affiliates. Stories also appeared on the Associated Press newswire, the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (corporate headquarters for Beech-Nut), Web MD, American Baby and three times in Baby Talk. All told, the event generated 50,415,927 impressions.
Dr. Wood conducted 30 segments for the First Advantage satellite media tour garnering over 2.3 million impressions. Top market stations participating included the regional Ohio News Network, which aired the segment three times reaching 600,000 viewers, and local stations in key Brand markets including Philadelphia WCAU (NBC), Detroit WDIV (NBC), Sacramento KMAX (IND) and two stations in the Orlando-Daytona market [WOFL (FOX) and WKMG (CBS)]. Importantly, the tour also aired in St. Louis, where Beech-Nut is headquartered, on KSDK (NBC), and KFMB (CBS) and KNSD (NBC) in San Diego, another target market for the brand.
During the BabyCenter Web Chat, which boasted twice the normal participation, Dr. Wood was engaged by thirty participants covering off on a plethora of topics from breastfeeding to introducing solids. The venue, a leading site for new and expectant parents, boasts 2,700,000 unique visitors a month.
The matte feature continues to generate media throughout key demographic areas (i.e. wealthy, suburban communities). The wealthiest 20 percent of the United States, including Beech-Nut target audience, the mom enthusiasts, has accounted for 51.6 percent of the placements. Thus far, 71 percent of coverage has occurred in the top 100 markets. Readership has reached 8,188,464 as of January 3, 2003.
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