For as long as there have been food brands, there have been promotional tie-ins on food packaging — think on-pack coupons, mail-in offers and instant-winner sweepstakes. Now, with the growing significance of electronic media, packaging's role in the promotional mix is expanding to leverage that technology.
"The package has to convey what this product is about and even a little bit of the expectation of the experience of the [product], so it's critical that the brands constantly look to use packaging in new and unique marketing ways," says Tom Egan, vice president of industry services at the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute, Arlington, Va.
Even promotions that have been in existence for many years, like Campbell Soup's Labels for Education (LFE) program, are finding ways to play in the digital age.
The fundamentals of LFE remain unchanged: Consumers mail in UPC codes from specially marked packages to earn points that can be redeemed for educational materials, equipment and supplies for the school of their choice. Now, to draw on the power of the Internet, the LFE stamp on labels of participating products includes the program's web address (www.labelsforeducation.com). At the web site, consumers can become LFE coordinators, create and manage online accounts for "banked" points, identify bonus offers, redeem points and more.
Brands participating in the LFE program include Campbell's condensed and Chunky soups, SpaghettiO's, V8, Prego, Pepperidge Farm, Wolfgang Puck and Pop Secret.
As one of the newest brands in the program, Pop Secret is using special package graphics to call out its participation. The redesigned Pop Secret carton carries the LFE stamp on the top panel and the stamp plus UPC code on the bottom panel.
In addition, graphics for a promotional Pop Secret package feature an animated figure carrying a stop sign with the LFE logo and the message: "Clip and earn free stuff for your school." The carton's back panel also carries a message about the program. This promotional package, timed for back-to-school sales, will be in the marketplace from July through September 2010. It will be used for three-count and six-count Pop Secret, the brand's top sellers.
LFE was the first manufacturer-sponsored shopper rewards program, according to John Faulkner, director of brand communication, at Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J. The program "has been part of American family life since 1973. It is very much in the culture, and it's inexorably linked to Campbell's," he says. "We look at it as a program that says ‘thank you' to our consumers."
The household penetration metrics for LFE underscore the program's effectiveness in building brand loyalty. Between 30 percent and 40 percent of households participate in the program at some point during the year, according to Campbell's data.
Campbell Soup is taking advantage of supermarket scanning technology to bring LFE further into the digital age. In a pilot program with two U.S. supermarket chains, the company is trialing electronic redemption for labels. When the cashier scans the label at the point of purchase, the consumer's designated school is automatically credited with the correct amount of LFE points.
The up-side for consumers is "you don't have to go to the hassle of peeling the label off the can" and mailing it in, Faulkner says.
H.J. Heinz Co., Pittsburgh, uses the Internet to foster community and facilitate voting in its annual Heinz Ketchup Creativity Contest. The contest, which began in 2006, gives students in kindergarten through high school the chance to design artwork for Heinz single-serving ketchup packets.
Jordan De La Rosa, a third-grader, was the 2010 contest's grand prize winner. He and the other 11 winners will have their designs featured on 20 million Heinz ketchup packets during the 2010-11 school year. This year, for the first time, the grand prize winner's artwork also will appear on some 2.5 million bottles of Heinz ketchup.
De La Rosa received $5,700 plus a school visit from contest judge and pop artist Burton Morris. The other 11 winners each received $1,000, and all 12 schools will receive $1,000 for art supplies plus a voucher for $1,000 of Heinz ketchup.
At the contest's web site (www.ketchupcreativity.com), teachers could download grade-specific lesson plans centered on food and nutrition as well as a Contest Kit with contest entry forms, package templates and Heinz Ketchup logos. Teachers also could upload student artwork to the site.
The contest's web site houses a gallery of previous winning designs and "Sharing Tools," such as electronic postcards, computer wallpapers and a screensaver with contest imagery. Public voting to choose the 12 winners for 2010 took place on the site, as in years past.
The immediate marketing benefits of the Heinz and Campbell Soup promotions are obvious. But their strategies also offer advantages for the long term. Because these programs focus on young people, the companies are essentially grooming tomorrow's brand loyalists.
A new Dew
Mountain Dew, Purchase, N.Y., a PepsiCo brand, yoked the power of social media to drive the DEWmocracy 2 promotional campaign. Launched last year, the campaign used Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and 12seconds.tv to engage the creativity of Mountain Dew fans in developing new flavors and package graphics.
PepsiCo is turning over most of the decision-making for a new flavor -- and package graphics -- of Mountain Dew to consumers. On-package graphics send people to the web site to vote, and the brand also is using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and 12seconds.tv in the DEWmocracy 2 campaign.
Mountain Dew drinkers' enthusiasm for the product, together with the brand's emphasis on creativity and self expression, made social media a natural choice for the collaborative DEWmocracy 2 campaign. The 12-month, seven-stage campaign will culminate with the launch of a new, permanent addition to the Mountain Dew line-up this October.
"Our fans are incredibly passionate about Mountain Dew," says Angie Gentile, assistant brand manager for Mountain Dew. "Of course they love the product, but it's more than that to them. It's a lifestyle. They live, breathe, sleep Dew every day. To them, it says something about who they are."
Because the fans care so much, "They actually want a say in what the brand does," Gentile adds. "DEWmocracy gave them that opportunity in a real way." The brand used social media to identify and reach out to its brand fanatics, starting a conversation that ended up in DEW Labs on Facebook. DEW Labs consists of more than 4,000 of the brand's most hard-core fans.
In addition to helping Mountain Dew develop flavor profiles and choose product names, colors and descriptors, DEW Labs collaborated with the brand owner on package graphics.
Using Facebook, the brand put out a call for package designs for the three finalist flavors. Consumers voted for their favorite package graphics, winnowing the 357 submissions to 10 designs. From there, DEW Labs members narrowed the selection to a single package design for each of the three flavors. The top 10 designers each received an Apple MacBook Pro, and the top three also received a prize of $10,000.
The three winning designers worked closely with the Mountain Dew brand team for two to three months to finesse the package designs. "We truly brought them into the process," Gentile recalls. In essence, "they were on the brand team during that time. We didn't tell them anything different than what we were telling each other here at PepsiCo headquarters."
Within the promotional mix, "There is nothing quite as impactful as the actual packaging and the package design," Gentile adds, noting that the package-design competition "was one of the most exciting stages of our campaign. People got passionate about it because they knew how important it was."
Using an online process similar to that of the design contest, the brand recruited television ads for the three top flavors. In a two-step vote, consumers and DEW Labs members chose the winning ads, which ran nationally.
The three finalist products hit store shelves in April, and consumers voted for Mountain Dew White Out as the winning flavor. At the time of this writing, the brand's online community is developing a launch plan for White Out.
DEWmocracy 2 has yielded ongoing benefits for Mountain Dew, drawing an enormous number of fans into conversation with the brand. "It's been a crazy ride on Facebook," Gentile says. Between July 2009, when the campaign started, and July 2010, the number of fans on Mountain Dew's Facebook page grew from fewer than 200,000 to 970,000—without promotional spending on the site.
Some observers have wondered if it was risky to bring consumers so far into the product and package development process, but Gentile believes it was not. "You can argue that [our fans] know the brand as well as we do," she says. "We knew we were doing the right thing."