A global pandemic has turned consumers’ attention toward the value of a robust, healthy immune system. And as a result, ingesting foods that support that health—like probiotics—has become increasingly important for many.
“Because of the pandemic, almost 30 percent of consumers are consuming more functional foods and beverages—and the probiotics category has benefited a lot from that tailwind,” says Kallie Goodwin, Vice President of Family & Wellness Brands at Danone NA. So when it came time to launch its new probiotic-packed product, Activia+, the brand leaned into immunity as a hook.
We spoke with Goodwin about marketing its latest product launch, and how it partnered with retailer shopper marketing programs, tapped influencers to court a younger demographic and leveraged scientific research to support its health claims.
Chief Marketer: What are Activia’s overall marketing strategy and communication objectives? And how do they connect to the new Activia+ campaign?
Kallie Goodwin, Vice President of Family & Wellness Brands at Danone NA: As we’re talking to our consumers, we know how important your gut is to your overall health and wellness. And we know that a lot of the body’s systems are connected to the gut. Our original A to Z, “Your gut is where it all begins” campaign, is anchored in that insight. It helps educate primarily our female target that how you feel on the inside impacts how you feel on the outside, “from active to zealous.” It empowers you to be your best self.
So when we developed and were looking at launching our Activia+ Multi-Benefit Probiotic product, which offers both the probiotic benefit from Activia through our superior probiotic strains as well as an immunity benefit delivered through vitamin C, D and zinc, we wanted to continue that communication strategy with the A+ Feels ad, using the same kind of creative tone and style—the sing-songy, highly-visual approach.
We know immunity is top of mind for consumers right now, obviously, with the pandemic. A lot of consumers are looking for immunity benefit in their foods, and 44 percent of consumers are interested in yogurt to help support their immune system. We wanted to launch it in a really big way, and we knew that leveraging our existing creative idea, which they’ve seen for the last 18 months, would help instantly communicate to consumers.
CM: Besides TV advertising, what channels have you used to market the new product?
KG: We looked at a variety of channels, but are focused on video, in television and online, to drive awareness so that people know about the product and to drive them to the shelf. But it’s not just television. We also have a robust conversion program driving trial and conversion at shelf with coupons, both digital and print, and in-store promotion tactics.
CM: What shopper marketing tactics are you using? How are you cutting through the clutter?
KG: It’s a two-pronged approach. The first is working specifically with every customer team to marry our trade program. So, promoting and getting the right feature and display on the product. At the same time, it’s integrating into that retailer’s shopper programming. Whether it’s Publix or Kroger, each has their own mechanics and rich shopper data for them to reach their customers, and so it’s about leveraging those programs to make sure we’re reaching the Kroger shopper the way they’re used to being reached, through their loyalty card, ads targeted specifically to them through the Kroger retail media group, etc. We have a robust program specific to each customer. That’s one tactic.
For the second, we layer on national consumer promotion tactics by working with a partner like Quotient, where we’re delivering digital coupons through a coupons.com-type platform that also can connect into specific retailers, but more at a national level. We’re trying to give consumers a reason to try us through a discount in the way in which they’re used to receiving those discounts.
CM: What are the consumer insights that this campaign is based on?
KG: We’ve seen that—because of the pandemic—almost 30 percent of consumers are consuming more functional foods and beverages and the probiotics category has benefited a lot from that tailwind. Activia, however, has been outpacing the probiotic category because of our superiority as the number one probiotic and the number one recommended probiotic by doctors. So when thinking about how to expand Activia as a brand anchored in the gut health space, immunity was just a natural place to go next. Seventy percent of your immune system actually lives in your gut. And as I mentioned before, we know that consumers are looking for foods to help support their immune system.
How do we go about doing it? The consumer we’re trying to reach, this healthy go-getter who is a younger millennial consumer, is looking for multiple benefits in their products. So rather than just a standalone immunity benefit, we wanted to bundle it with our existing Activia probiotic and then use vitamins and minerals to help deliver that immune system support.
Then there are other trends that we’re also aware of and incorporating into this, which is additional scrutiny on sugar. Sugar has replaced fat as the biggest dietary demon and a lot of consumers, particularly this younger millennial, are really mindful about sugar. Each bottle of Activia+ only has nine grams of sugar and 70 calories. So all in, when you combine the functional benefits of the product with this delicious, convenient format, it makes it a winner in our book.
CM: How are you appealing specifically to younger generations through your marketing tactics?
KG: In two ways: in tone and personality and in look and feel. We don’t want to be—and we’re not anymore—the old Activia for your mom. We know that a lot of that is just how we show up. Are we showing up in a modern, vibrant way? And that is the beauty of the A to Z campaign. It shows a variety of different women, a variety of different body styles, all living their best lives in an active way that has this very youthful energy.
The second way is in diversifying our media mix and leveraging influencers to help us tell our story to a younger audience. In 2021, we partnered with Iskra Lawrence, an outspoken influencer, model and younger, new mom. That’s going to continue to be part of our strategy moving forward. Are we partnering with the right influencers that are helping us show up to those younger demographics?
CM: What are the biggest challenges for marketers looking to cut through the clutter in the wellness space today?
KG: There are two that keep me up at night. One you’ve already highlighted: cutting through the clutter. There are so many different options in health and wellness. There’s constantly new brands coming to market with different benefits—some of them more backed in science than others, if I’m being honest. In that case, we rely on the superiority of Activia and the fact that we are the number one doctor-recommended probiotic to help us in that superiority effort. But still, it’s a very busy media landscape. We spend a lot of money on Activia as a percentage of our total yogurt marketing budget because we want to make sure that we’re cutting through that clutter with a really clear message.
The second one is more specific to a brand like Activia in the health and wellness space. You have to make sure that you have the science and are constantly reminding consumers of that superiority, but it has to be in a way that’s very subtle so that we’re not seen as medicinal. [We want to be] seen as a proactive part of people’s health and wellness and not a reactive one—like, “I take this when I don’t feel good” kind of thing. So as we’re on our journey to modernize and be our target’s ally in a proactive health and wellness way, we have to walk that line.