I remember eating Campbell’s Soup when I was a kid. It was a staple of the North American diet. And while I didn’t really believe that the soups were ‘M’m! M’m! Good’, at least the company’s old commercials left me feeling pretty good about the brand.
But now the latest batch of Campbell’s Soup commercials have gone and destroyed that artifice. It turns out Campbell’s Soup was not only not ‘M’m! M’m! Good’, but it was also downright bad for us. I know this because the company is telling me so.
Say that again? Your rebranding campaign, which attempts to persuade us that your soups have less sodium and better ingredients, starts out by essentially saying the product has been awful for all these years. So bad, that employees won’t even buy it. One commercial shows an employee buried up to his torso in salt to illustrate how much salt has been removed from the soup. Another recent one showcased an employee who refused to serve Campbell’s Soup to her family. Who approved these ads?
Apparently, the campaign was partly a reaction to an internal survey of employees. Moya Brown, director of marketing at Campbell Canada (I guess she’s the one. Sorry that crack, Moya.), told Strategy Magazine they were startled by the results of the survey: “Quite a few of our employees had health concerns about our products. That was a real eye-opener for us, and a huge impetus for change.”
While I agree that should have led a charge for change, this campaign takes that information and uses it to ill effect. I would have called for the company to re-jig the recipes and rebrand too. But just because you’re making something ‘better’ doesn’t mean you have to say what came before was garbage! I also would have embarked on a major internal corporate communications push to let employees know their views were heard and changes were coming as a result. (Perhaps they did, I don’t know.)
The company could have had a campaign that built on the legacy of what was a very strong brand. But the campaign the company chose to follow has, in my opinion, done serious damage to the brand. It gives the new low sodium soups a position of weakness compared to their competitors. And entering a cutthroat competition from a position of weakness isn’t a good strategy.
And to add insult to injury, the company reported a 15 per cent drop in profit this week. Among the reasons cited for the decline was increased advertising costs.