It seems every food brand on the planet wants to be “100% natural” these days. In the face of rising ethical consumption, even the unlikeliest of brands – McDonald’s, Muller and Walkers crisps to name a few – are responding and staking a claim. Always outspent in marketing terms, organic food producers – just at the point they should be claiming their day in the sun – face being outpositioned too. If you care about it enough, you only have to Google the term to find out that there are real and significant benefits to sustainably produced organic food, but why bother when even a celebrity chef tells us conventional foods are good enough?
Ask a mainstream UK audience in a recession-hit early 2010 what they had to say about organic food and the impact of all this showed: top responses included increased scores against “expensive”, “worthy” and “a bit dull”.
By contrast, when a team of us met Tim Mead (whose family started making dairy products under the Yeo Valley name in 1974) in March this year, two things were striking:
1. His approach: an unapologetic marriage of entrepreneurialism and down-to-earth common sense. An organic farmer for the 21st century if there ever was one.
2. Their vision: Tim and his mother, Mary Mead, believe organic, sustainably produced food should be accessible to everyone. Philosophically and practically it’s a virtuous circle: the more people eat sustainably produced food, the better it is for all of us and the planet. But “accessible to everyone” demands prices that are competitive to conventional products and that in turn makes a volume-based strategy for Yeo Valley both an economic possibility AND an absolute necessity, if the company is to prosper.
Which was where they saw a role for marketing: to drive demand amongst a necessarily broader, more mainstream audience, along the way helping people to remember Yeo Valley’s name and what it stands for – not least the fact it’s a real place in the West Country.
Our strategy was simple: tackle the perception issue head-on by reversing the expectations of how an organic brand should behave amongst a mainstream UK audience. Goodbye: worthy and earnest. Hello: open and social, populist and proud.
For more on the anatomy of our approach take a look below. First up, some results and what we’ve learned so far. It’s still very early days and we’ve resisted writing about this until we had some (hot off the press) commercial data. We’ll have more substantive conclusions once we’re further in, but here’s what we know for now:
– Furthermore, Yeo Valley spontaneous awareness as a dairy brand had more than doubled just 2 weekends in to the campaign (7% to 15%). Source: Nursery brand tracker
– Of the online mentions since launch in October an average week records a 94.9% favourable sentiment score – fuelled no doubt by over 550 blogposts and the odd celebrity tweet. Source: Sysomos sentiment analysis
10 THINGS WE’VE LEARNT
Perhaps few surprises here, but at the very least a strong reinforcement of some evolutionary truths about modern fmcg marketing:
- Be true to the people who live the brand, not the perception. In this case, organic brands don’t have to wear sandals.
- Broadcast can still play a crucial role. If you want to reach a discrete audience (cf Marmarati or Stella Artois Black’s Night Chauffeur) it may be far from necessary, however if your task is mass appeal and you deliberately want to make a public statement about your brand, then broadcast is hard to beat. The trick for Yeo Valley in this respect was three-fold (points 3, 4 and 5 below):
- Strategy is the art of sacrifice. There wasn’t a huge marketing budget to blow. In terms of bought media, instead of attempting to be everywhere, we brokered an exclusive deal with ITV and Fremantle around X Factor and went big with it. One 2 minute spot, first ad in the first break of the UK’s TV biggest show would, we hoped, act as a rocket launcher for the brand. Subsequently, an on-pack promotion and a mix of shorter time length ads appeared, only ever in X Factor on ITV1, ITV2 and itv.com.
- Super bowl, super social: we began the process believing the answer did not lie in choosing between social and broadcast, but in committing to both wholeheartedly. To borrow @willsh’s analogy, ‘fireworks bring you to the brand, you stay for the warming fire’. In Yeo Valley’s case, this meant live event TV every weekend, with an ongoing bedrock of conversation and additional content on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube which extends, deepens and personalizes the brand’s relationship with new customers.
- As we’ve said before, it’s not about now, it’s about the trajectory. The basics of the brand’s behaviour and presence online were laid down months before the TV ad launch and will continue long after; amongst other things getting to know like-minded bloggers, who came to Yeo Valley over the summer to see for themselves how a sustainable dairy farm is run.
- Reward the fans – by recognising the very best remixes and spotting what they like and giving them more (in our case, letting Ted the owl take over @yeovalley for a day on Twitter and produce his own edit).
- If you can, change the rules of a category. Quite simply, the conversation around Yeo Valley was fuelled by content and behaviour that caught people’s imagination in a surprising way. A brand trending on Twitter a few days in a row may not be a result in itself, but since the sentiment stayed largely favourable, it gave us a useful indicator of early impact and most importantly where earned media could come from.
- Haters gonna hate? Maybe, maybe not. Sure, some criticism should be ignored, but we’ve gained a lot more by listening, taking a deep breath and responding.
- Have an organising thought that can cross platforms and time. “Live in Harmony” sums up Yeo Valley’s world view and also gives the brand and its audience the licence to have some fun with music over time, even playing with the sounds of the farm itself: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlUwZie30UU[/youtube]
- Brands that get better under scrutiny, not worse, will win in social environments online. With Yeo Valley this was never a problem. But it’s worth thinking beyond your carefully planned editorial calendar: what are the issues and opportunities that just *might* arise?
THE ANATOMY OF ‘LIVE IN HARMONY’ TO DATE
The engagement plan set out to splice bought, earned and owned media. It was necessarily quite complex – this is the simple version:
If you’d like to find out more drop us a comment here, check out the brand’s website or YeoTube for more Yeo Valley videos. These include a Making Of together with a series of films featuring Tim & Mary Mead, each offering a window on Yeo Valley as a real place in the West Country (one example below):
Finally, look out for “Farmony“, our Yeo Valley online game teaching kids how to run a sustainable farm, launching in early 2011.
Tim Mead, Managing Director
Adrian Carne, Commercial Director
Ben Cull, Head of Brands
Alison Sudbury, Marketing Manager
Niki Martini, Assistant Brand Manager
Sally Laurie, Customer Services Manager
Rosie Arnold, Deputy Exec Creative Director
Kevin Brown, Director of Engagement Planning
Mel Exon, Strategic Business Lead
Simon Pearse and Emmanuel Saint M’Leux, creative team
Eric Chia, Digital Creative Lead
Glenn Paton, Producer
Mark Whiteside, Team Director
Simeon Adams, Strategist
Lawrence Kao, Strategist
Jim Hunt, Head of Technology
Craig Dodd, Tech Lead
Ebla Salvi, Digital Team Manager
Josie Robinson, Team Manager
Sarah Barclay, Digital Project Manager
Daniele Orner-Ginor, Digital Intelligence
Emile Doxey, Data Analyst
David Pandit, Head of Data
Richard Helyar, Knowledge & Insight
Rebecca Levy, Team Assistant
PR: Bell Pottinger
Richard Moss, Director (PR Planning)
Kate Griffiths, Account Director
Jacquelyn Redpath, Account Manager
Brand identity redesign: Pearl Fisher
Tess Wickstead, Planning Director
Natalie Chung, Creative Director
Matt Small, Client Services Director
Michael Dye, Senior Account Manager
Henry Leeson, Head of Realisation
TV Production Company: Flynn
Julien Lutz, Director
Emma Butterworth, Producer
Alex Barber, DoP
Post Production: Framestore
Editing: Steve Ackroyd at Final Cut
Exposure: TV, UK