July 1, 2005
By Sam Gazdziak, Senior Editor
A host of new products help Oscar Mayer maintain both its marketshare and its strong reputation among consumers.
Oscar Mayer has evolved to something more than one of the country’s top meat processors. It’s become a part of American culture. The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile has been on the road for almost 70 years and attracts both children and parents wherever it goes. Generations of people have grown up singing “Oh, I wish I was an Oscar Mayer Weiner...” and “My bologna has a first name...”
How does a company maintain its position in the marketplace and in pop culture? The key word is ‘delight.’
“Our vision is to maintain and grow our position as America’s favorite provider of meat-based meal products,” says Nick Meriggioli, senior vice president of Kraft Foods Inc. and general manager of the Madison, WI-based company. “The way we plan on doing that is through delighting our consumers. We’re fortunate at Oscar Mayer to have a great brand, a brand that actually makes consumers smile.”
Oscar Mayer has created a three-step plan to promote and improve upon its full range of products, not only for hot dogs, but also its shaved deli meats, its ready-to-serve breakfast meats, and its Lunchables line of lunch combinations.
“First, we want to leverage the icons that we have through an advertising and promotional campaign that make consumers smile, and that continue to build our relationship with today’s moms, and the next generation of moms,” Meriggioli says. “The second thing we want to do is to continue to delight consumers by making our products more convenient for them through product and packaging innovation ideas. The final area is taking steps to improve the overall nutritional profile of our products.”
Oh, I wish...
At one point, Oscar Mayer walked away from its famous jingles. “We felt like the jingle dates us a bit, so we wanted to try to come up with a new approach,” Meriggioli says.
The jingle has since returned, and has been modernized to adapt to today’s market.
“I’ve been in the food industry for fifteen years,” Meriggioli explains, “and the change that’s going on in the macro environment today has been more than I’ve seen before. We want to make sure we are addressing specific consumer needs, and we know every consumer isn’t the same. We need to address the needs of the Hispanic consumer, and the needs of the aging consumer, the liberated boomers, who are becoming a bigger part of the population.”
The first three words of the company’s hot dog jingle, “Oh I wish,” have now become the cornerstone of the new campaign. “Consumers have wishes,” explains Jeff Meyer, category business director, lunchmeats and hot dogs. “From a food basis, whatever your wish is, you can count on Oscar Mayer to deliver.”
The campaign has crossed from hot dogs to bologna to the company’s deli shaved lunchmeat line. The print ads and the television ads both play off this theme. The company’s Hispanic television ads are similar in tone to the English-speaking ads, which are a departure from previous campaigns where the Hispanic and English ads looked very different. The television ads also promote the company’s diversified consumer base by showing children and adults from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
“You look at all these individual communications, and they may look great by themselves,” Meyer says. “But the challenge we have now is, do all these communications still look like the total “Oh I Wish” Oscar Mayer campaign we’re trying to put together.
“It is an increased investment,” Meyer adds, “because of the micro-communication that we have to do. But we feel it’s worth the added investment to make sure we effectively reach the consumer with the right, individual message in the right way.”
The company has also taken the Oh I Wish campaign one step further in hot dogs, by tying it into its “Win the Ride of Your Life” contest, where 20 lucky winners nationwide get the Weinermobile for a day and up to $5,000 to make the dream ride become a reality. The contest will be heavily promoted through July, with print and Web advertising, as well as on-pack promotions. (For more information about Oscar Mayer’s contest, turn to page 20).
Oscar Mayer ranks as the top-selling retail hot dog brand, an accomplishment the company takes great pride in. “We know we’ve been America’s favorite hot dog for one-hundred years, and we want to continue to be America’s favorite hot dog for the next one-hundred years,” says Meriggioli. “We may not be working here one-hundred years from now, but we want to make sure we’re leaving a legacy.”
Meyer, who manages the hot dog side of the business, realizes that being Number One in the market is a tremendous responsibility, as is having a product with as much history as the Oscar Mayer hot dog. “With this brand, anything that we market, we want to make sure that we have the utmost integrity. We need to make sure the products we launch are going to be successful,” he says. “We don’t want to market products and hope they’re going to be successful, because the risk of denigrating the brand is so large. We need to be assured they’re going to be successful, and that the next product we launch is going to be as delightful as the line of products we currently offer.”
Convenience for consumers
Hot dogs aren’t the only category where Oscar Mayer has excelled. The company’s ready-to-serve bacon has a commanding share of the pre-cooked bacon segment. Not content to rest on that success, the company has taken what it’s learned from the pre-cooked market and has expanded the line.
“It’s part of identifying opportunities to make consumers’ lives easier,” explains Darin Dugan, category business director, breakfast meats. “We know that consumers love breakfast, and that they wish they had more time and less hassle during the week to have a more fulfilling meal.” The idea of pre-cooked bacon came about from learning that fully half of all bacon consumption occurs on the weekend, when consumers had time to fry it up. By offering a product that could be quickly heated and served, bacon became more convenient to eat during the rest of the week.
“Parlaying that success, we have launched two new items this year, the pre-cooked pork sausage patties and the Canadian-style bacon,” Dugan says. “Again, we’re attempting to deliver a more convenient, fresher alternative to consumers, to have a fulfilling weekend breakfast with weekday effort.”
Dugan says that the products have done very well since their roll-out in March. “Much of the competition tends to be frozen, so we really feel that we have a nice opportunity to give consumers a fresher alternative to a more satiating breakfast.”
The need for increased consumer convenience also led to a new breakthrough in the company’s line of prepackaged lunchmeats. In 2003, Oscar Mayer introduced a line of deli-style shaved lunchmeats, including ham and turkey, and the company began offering shaved roast beef this year.
Meriggioli says that the shaved meats were developed in a time when Oscar Mayer’s prepackaged lunchmeat sales were stagnant. The company put together a program to reinvigorate the line, initially developing the “Oh I Wish” campaign, realigning some of its prices in the marketplace to be more competitive, and launching the shaved meats concept.
“We’ve been able to deliver deli-fresh taste in a convenient package,” he says. “The product is shaved and fluffed, similar to what you would get at the over the counter deli.
“We grew our Oscar Mayer lunchmeat consumption by over ten percent last year, and we grew our marketshare by more than one share point,” he adds, noting that the company is on track for similar results this year.
Shaking up lunch
As more and more schools are attempting to improve children’s health by eliminating sodas and sweets from schools, Oscar Mayer is making sure its Lunchables brand of lunch combinations are also becoming healthier.
“We’ve got a big challenge,” says Deanie Elsner, senior business director for Lunchables. “We’ve got to drive kid excitement, so we have to make the product very exciting for kids while making mom feel better about the nutritional delivery of this product.”
Lunchables has been a success from the start, Elsner says, by giving children the power to make their own lunches. “That’s really been the secret to Lunchables over the years. We’ve taken their favorite lunch foods and given them a unique twist that allows kids to make their foods the way they want.”
The brand’s two newest offerings continue to provide kids’ favorite foods, while providing nutritional content to satisfy the parents. Chicken Shake-Ups contain chicken nuggets in a resealable bag, along with a bag of spice (either nacho cheese or barbeque-flavored). Kids put as much or as little of the spice in the bag with the nuggets, shake the bag up, and the spice is evenly distributed throughout the product.
“It’s exceeding our expectations now,” Elsner reports. “We launched this product in March, and it has almost ninety percent on-shelf distribution.” Between the Shake-Ups product and the Chicken Dunks product that Lunchables launched in 2004, it is a $50 million business.
She says that the both the Chicken Dunks and the Chicken Shake-Ups products fit into Kraft’s Sensible Solution program, which was a broader Kraft initiative to deliver products that meet certain nutritional criteria. The Shake-Ups serving is 210 calories, with five grams of fat, and just two grams of saturated fat, as well as an excellent source of protein and Vitamin C. The package includes the chicken nuggets, as well as the drink and dessert. Elsner notes that getting the Chicken line to fit the Sensible Solution criteria has been an 18-month process, and the company continues to improve the nutritional content of the entire Lunchables line, already reducing the calories, fat, saturated fat and sodium, while also increasing nutrients children need, such as calcium, protein and Vitamin C.
While parents may be thrilled with the improved nutrition, kids care more about the taste and the product’s “coolness.” Elsner says that Oscar Mayer continues to look for ways to keep its Lunchables product relevant among its audience, including promoting tie-ins with the recent Fantastic Four movie. To appeal both to children and their parents can be a challenge.
“What we’ve got to do with the promotions on Lunchables, as well as the product in Lunchables, is ensure that kids are excited by that product, as well as moms approve that product. Everything we do is a joint decision. Whatever we do is approved by moms but has to grab kids’ interest,” she says.
“The overall goal is to delight consumers, and we believe we have the right brands and the right ideas to meet that goal and keep the momentum going on our business,” adds Meriggioli. NP