In a cluttered and increasingly competitive natural and organic breakfast cereal category, Nature's Path plays the role of the 100% organic, fiercely independent, family-owned David, to the publicly-held "natural" Goliaths: Kashi, which is owned by Kellogg's, and Cascadian Farms, which is owned by General Mills. Because consumers can barely discern the difference between organic and natural in the cereal aisle, an effective underdog strategy that effectively targets a segment of the rapidly-growing set of consumers looking for tasty, healthy food was critical. That, and a memorable idea to help overcome a generic, forgettable brand name.
Going beyond marketing as usual, and beginning with development of branding fundamentals, we created a multi-year integrated campaign for a new brand era of authenticity and transparency — a campaign that could only be run by a company deeply committed to sustainability.
By year two of the campaign, sales had increased by over 30%, during a recession, with the rest of the category falling behind or remaining flat.
A comprehensive brand development process helped Nature's Path emerge with a thorough understanding of its brand, encapsulated by the tagline, Eat well. Do good., which, along with the key pillars of taste and health, incorporate the company's fundamental values associated with sustainability. An important branding element was the development of a distinctive personality (that had been there all along, unexpressed): quirkily beautiful, fiercely independent, and playfully down-to-earth. For this family-owned company, brand voice needed to be authentic and pitch-perfect.
A highly successful test market launch used an integrated approach that activated street sampling teams at major mass transit stops to hand out Buy One Give One (in the brand's spirit of generosity, vs. Buy One Get One) samples, combined with transit and outdoor, posters at fitness centers and interactive, all pointing to an interactive microsite. The new brand voice is careful not to sound too zealous, as a sense of humor can help alleviate the cloying earnestness that has become a well-recognized signpost of greenwashing for wary consumers. The new look and feel developed with this campaign was rooted in a 1970s sense of playful and altruistic generosity, but was thoroughly modernized to be as attention-getting as possible, while still appearing sophisticated to our discerning conscious consumer.
A simple microsite was created to introduce people to the brand voice and company story, and offer a coupon on purchase. Among other things, the super-simple 12-page site proudly presented the company's founding family, its organic garden and singing CEO, and previewed a theme to come—the Path. Another social microsite served as a hub for "do gooders" to upload examples of their good deeds and be featured for free products and gifts.
A reusable coupon bag addressed a common problem of today's conscious consumer: how to remember to take the reusable bags into the store.
A completely new website served as a foundational brand element, expressing the newly-unleashed brand personality, and allowing for a highly consumer-friendly experience at every click. The site served to fully express Nature's Path's unique outlook, vision, and values, and includes a new, user-friendly e-commerce platform. Additionally, but no less important, by encouraging customer comments and ratings on individual products, the site has become a lively forum for people to express their opinions and learn others'. In a category where people often expect products to taste like cardboard, this (generally taste-based) information was critical.
Perhaps most crucially for the brand, we developed a mnemonic tool so that consumers could remember the brand name Nature's Path, which research had proven not memorable amongst a sea of "Nature's blank" brands. Converting a popular allegory heard in focus groups over and over again—for Nature's Path, but other clients, too—which captures the idea of the personal journey and awakening one discovers when starting to become more socially and environmentally aware, we created a funky 1970s-revival campaign brandmark using the words Get on the Path in the shape of a bare foot, thereby associating an individual's personal path towards sustainability with the company's mission and its organic cereals. In this category, for this consumer, who is ready, willing and hungry for personal development and optimal wellness, such an appealing call to action was like holding a bloody steak out to a starved lion.
A North American launch picked up where the test market campaign left off, but took it to a new level with messaging and media that was directed more broadly into the mainstream. The overall campaign messaging incorporates an even more direct association with taste and sustainability — two core components of the brand. The entire campaign was designed to motivate people to learn more about the path to sustainability without any of the green guilt.
The campaign was fun, quirky and a bit tongue-in-cheek. Playful "instructional" elements let people know that sustainability is a journey and that we all make mistakes along the way, but that the point is to get started.
Coffee shop "takeovers" at high-traffic independent cafes in key cities were designed to deepen brand engagement by surrounding customers with creative interactive brand elements designed to surprise, delight, and spark interest in the brand. Partnerships with radio stations ensured heavy traffic.
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All of the advertising from this campaign encouraged the public to become more sustainable by "getting on the path," no matter where they are in regards to the green movement, by directing them to a website where people can take a quiz to find out where they are on the path, and then share their stories there or through Facebook and Twitter. Consumers in this space want to be healthier, but they're also part of this bigger values-based movement that they aren't even necessarily aware of — and yet, are craving. Helping them see how they are a part of something larger is a powerful idea. For our target audience — intelligent, educated, questing, and inured to advertising as usual, we need to give them something real if we want to actually connect with them. It's all about encouraging systems thinking in order to drive change.
A multi-dimensional partnership with Rachael Ray allowed us to reach millions of consumers via TV, print, web, and in-store sampling and contesting. The focal point of this partnership was a highy-publicized "What's your path to sustainable living?" contest, which elicited thousands of detailed essays from engaged consumers.
Proud of our "newmonic," which acts as both a headline and visual, we created lots of brandwear to disseminate for evangelism purposes.
Next project: Tomato Goodness
Previous project: The Honest Co.