Hunch sparks Weet-Bix strategy

By AdNews | 10 August 1999
Saatchi & SaatchiÕs creative team sat down in 1997 to devise a strategy for Sanitarium to rejuvenate the market appeal of its Weet-Bix breakfast cereal, sales of which had been slipping since 1991 and markedly since 1993. Weet-bix has been promoted as a nutrition breakfast for 70 years and by the 1980s was market leader in the mature breakfast cereals market, a situation partially attributable to advertising based on the ÒAussie KidsÓ jingle. This positioning began eroding during the early 1990s, however, as Nutri-GrainÕs ÒIron Man FoodÓ campaigns won over mothers, with powerful imagery and a message that its combination of corn, oats and wheat was good for the whole family. Also, pure nutritional positioning was being undermined by time pressures on parents, who as a result were increasingly feeding children ÒtreatÓ cereals. One of the major problems facing the Saatchi & Saatchi team was that breakfast cereals was a static growth sector and growth for one brand could only be achieved at the expense of another of the top seven brands. Before Saatchi & SaatchiÕs campaign in 1997, the market shares of Weet-Bix and KelloggÕs Cornflakes were fairly even at about 9% and Nutri-Grain was about 8%. But both rivals were gaining on Weet-Bix. Also, there were lessons to be learnt from Weet-BixÕs ÒSugarÓ campaign in 1996, a short tactical campaign widely acknowledged as the most successful campaign ever run for the brand. The ÒSugarÓ 30-second TVC aired for only 13 days and created a temporary discontinuity in the cereals market by comparing the nutritional value of Weet-Bix against the high sugar content of fast rising Nutri-Grain and other competitors. But it was never intended to be to be a long term strategy for the Weet-Bix brand, and after the campaign ended in October 1996, sales of the brand began slipping again. The key issue facing Saatchi & Saatchi, therefore, was how to translate the short term success of ÒSugarÓ into a longer term sales recovery for the brand. Having succeeded with the ÒSugarÓ campaign, says Sanitari-um CEO Bob Smith, it was decided that Òany follow-up campaign should keep the nutritional value in focusÓ. Saatchi and Sanitarium agreed that the focus of any new campaign should move from the comparative weakness of competitors (the sugar content of Nutri-Grain) to the nutritional benefits of Weet-Bix. ÒQualitative research by Saatchi & Saatchi in November 1996 suggested that comparative advertising would actually generate an adverse reaction from consumers over a longer period,Ó Smith says. The research also showed that consumers bought Weet-Bix because of a belief in its overall nutrition, not just because of its low sugar content. ÒA campaign that broadened the nutritional benefits of Weet-Bix for consumers was favoured, therefore, rather than concentrating on a single ingredient,Ó he adds. ÒA secondary objective of any new campaign was to stimulate the target audienceÕs recall of the ÒSugarÓ campaign message, but without referring directly to the controversial facts. A campaign needed to reawaken the knowledge of Weet-BixÕs nutritional credentials, which had been buried under the weight of ÒIron ManÓ advertising for the Cornflakes and Nutri-Grains. It should try to flatter mums for feeding kids Weet-Bix and scold them for not doing so Ñ and it should carry at least a few bars of the ÔAussie KidsÕ jingle.Ó As it happened, despite all the provisional research by Saatchi & Saatchi, the resulting campaign was based on a hunch that nutritionists were recommending Weet-Bix as a breakfast. The hunch was articulated by a nutritionist working for Saatchi & Saatchi in an unrelated capacity, who said in passing one day that he recommended Weet-Bix to his clients. Saatchi then launched a pilot study among 20 dieticians to find out if any others did so, and it confirmed that 18 out of the 20 randomly selected nutritionists and dieticians recommended Weet-Bix to clients as a breakfast cereal. Further qualitative research by Saatchi & Saatchi within the target audience Ñ mums with kids Ñ confirmed that a slogan Òrecommended by nutritionistsÓ was a motivating factor in deciding their purchase. A formal survey was then carried out among NSW members of the Dieticians Association of Australia. The results were astounding, says Smith: more than 90% nominated Weet-Bix as the cereal they personally recommended. The creative solution was therefore dominated by the facts emerging out of the research, Smith says. Apart from some point-of-sale material, the ad campaign comprised a 30-second TVC of nine kids at a table saying: ÒNine out of ten nutritionists recommend kids eat Weet-BixÓ. The TVC aired in metro and regional markets between March and November 1997, on-air for 24 weeks of the year. Sanitarium spent $4.27m on media Ñ 88% of a total ad spend budget of $4.85m for the year. The ÒNine out of tenÓ campaign took Weet-Bix to a new market share high and grew sales and volume even more than ÒSugarÓ, re-establishing Weet-Bix as AustraliaÕs top-selling breakfast cereal. The share gap between Weet-Bix and AustraliaÕs number two and three brands, Cornflakes and Nutri-Grain, increased to its largest margin since 1993. The campaign accelerated the sales momentum that had been gained in 1996. By June 1999, Weet-Bix achieved a share of 11.3%, which was maintained to August, when 11.2% was recorded. By contrast, the shares of both Cornflakes and Nutri-Grain fell to about 7.5%. The effect of the campaign on KelloggÕs Cornflakes, Weet-BixÕs traditional competitor in the market, was profound. Cornflakes went into a steep share decline, forcing Kellogg to halt above-the-line advertising and embark on a series of price cuts. The available data suggests Kellogg was forced to buy volume back to stop the decline of its flagship brand. The campaign has been so effective that the commercial itself has received considerable attention from the opposition, with similar ads being trotted out periodically since 1997 for competitor brands.

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