Outrunning Giants to Take Silk Mainstream
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Holmes Report
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Outrunning Giants to Take Silk Mainstream

In October 1999 the FDA announced that soy can be marketed as a “cholesterol-reducing food.” Suddenly, a slew of soyfoods introduced by big-name food and dairy companies flooded the market, including new brands of refrigerated soymilk marketed to mainstr

Paul Holmes

White Wave, Inc. is America’s largest soyfoods manufacturer.  In 1996, White Wave launched Silk, the first soymilk available in the refrigerated case at conventional grocery stores.  

In October 1999 the FDA announced that soy can be marketed as a “cholesterol-reducing food.”  Suddenly, a slew of soyfoods introduced by big-name food and dairy companies flooded the market, including new brands of refrigerated soymilk marketed to mainstream consumers.

White Wave enlisted Carmichael Lynch Spong to develop and execute a marketing campaign to maintain Silk’s position as America’s number one brand of refrigerated soymilk and increase sales among mainstream consumers.  

RESEARCH 

  • Conducted one-on-one interviews with “gatekeeper moms” to determine what is most important when making food choices and understand their perception of soyfoods.  
  • Conducted informal interviews with potential customers to determine barriers and motivations for trying soymilk.  
  • Used consumer volumetrics to identify the market segments most likely to incorporate soymilk into their eating and nutrition plans.  
  • Used analyzer reports to identify Silk’s top potential sales markets. 
  • Researched FDA announcement that soyfoods can be marketed as “cholesterol-reducing.” 
  • Performed a competitive media analysis via the Internet. 
  • Researched soyfoods industry.

Key Learnings

The soyfoods industry is poised for growth; an estimated 15 to 20 percent compound rate over the next five years

The biggest barriers for consumers who haven’t yet tried soymilk are taste, convenience and education

A number of new soymilk products were introduced since the FDA announcement, including refrigerated varieties.  

The general story of soy has been covered a great deal since the FDA announcement; new, fresh story angles were imperative to a successful campaign

PLANNING

Objectives

  • Increase awareness of Silk and the benefits of soy among target audiences. 
  • Make Silk the undisputed brand of choice among mainstream consumers.

Positioning

  • In response to research findings that mainstream consumers perceive soyfoods to be bad tasting and inconvenient, Silk was positioned as a simple and great-tasting way to get soy into their family diet – everyday.

Target Media

  • Women Gatekeepers – responsible for making healthy food choices for their families and themselves. 
  • HHI $40,000+ 
  • Median age 48 
  • College educated 
  • Married 
  • Full time professionals

STRATEGIES

1) Build a dominant share of voice and differentiate Silk from other soymilks with a national media relations campaign.

2) Leverage interactive technology to build awareness and educate consumers on soy products and their benefits. 

3) Develop a national print campaign to entrench Silk’s position as the convenient and brand of soymilk

EXECUTION

Strategy One: Build a dominant share of voice and differentiate Silk from other soymilks with a national media relations campaign.

Media Campaign  Developed a comprehensive schedule of proactive and reactive news including easy-to-follow recipes, tips and advice on incorporating soymilk into the diet.  All media materials highlighted the health benefits of soymilk including the FDA announcement, and reinforced Silk’s convenient availability and great taste.

National and Local Market TV  Developed an “Easy Soy Breakfast” story platform and pitched to television newscasts in Silk’s priority markets.  The segments featured local chefs as third-party experts demonstrating recipes and offering soy cooking and nutrition tips.

New Soy Times  Created and produced a four-color newsletter including news and information about the benefits of soy and how to incorporate it into the diet. Distributed it to media and key soyfoods industry influencers.

Consumer Survey  Conducted a national consumer survey to asses Americans’ healthy eating habits and awareness of soyfoods.  Findings were featured in news releases and media mailings.

Trade Shows  Scheduled one-on-one media interviews at the Food Marketing Industry (FMI show), the largest mainstream grocery show in the country.  Conducted in-booth sampling and interviews at Expo East (the leading natural foods show).

Creative Tactics  Created “old-fashioned lunch boxes” with Silk’s log and signature color for use as media mailers and handouts at trade shows.  The boxes were filled with a complete Silk breakfast and a copy of the New Soy Times. 

Advertising Campaign Postcards  Postcards depicting Silk’s consumer print ad campaign were produced for mailings to key editors.  Personal notes offering recipes and nutrition information were handwritten on each postcard and mailed to long lead women’s publications and the top 100 food and health editors.

Business Pitching  The White Wave business and corporate culture story and interviews with the company president were pitched to high profile business publications and broadcast outlets. 

Strategy Two:  Leverage interactive technology to build awareness and educate consumers on soy products and their benefits. 

Web Site  CLS redesigned the White Wave Web site to reflect Silk’s positioning and provide resources for consumers including soy product and nutrition information, tips on incorporating soy into the diet, soy recipes and a grocery store locator.

Strategy Three:  Develop a national print campaign to entrench Silk’s position as the convenient and brand of soymilk

Print Ads  Print ads promoting Silk on cereal were created and placed in health and well being, family and parenting, and women’s general interest publications.

Spot Market  Spot market radio was implemented to build awareness with consumers in Silk’s top markets to support sampling efforts.

RESULTS

Objective 1:  Increase awareness of Silk and the benefits of soy among target audiences

The national media campaign for 2000 generated 722 print placements with a total circulation of 68 million and gross impressions totaling 170 million.  Highlights included Forbes, Good Housekeeping, SELF and Bon Appetit.

Broadcast TV placements reached a total audience of over 24 million. National highlights include CNN-FN’s “Business Unusual,” ABC’s 20/20 “Gimme A Break” and Good Morning America.  Local market efforts generated coverage in seven of White Wave’s top markets.

The US Soyfoods market study concluded that 81 percent of Americans understand “soy protein” and 76 percent perceive soy as “very healthy.”

Two-thirds of Americans say they are willing to add soy to their diets.

Most of those ‘in the know” got their information via media.  46 percent read it in a magazine or newspaper and 29 percent on the news.

Objective 2:  Make Silk the undisputed soymilk brand of choice among mainstream consumers

Availability of Silk has grown from 3,000 to over 24,000 grocery stores in the last year

White Wave Silk soymilk now has a 30 percent market share among all soymilk products and has a 90 percent share of the refrigerated category.
White Wave sales grew from $30 million in 1999 to a projected $75 million in 2000.

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