After a Year of Research, Freschetta Aims to Wow

An increased marketing commitment is part of recent changes at The Schwan Food Co., which, after a year spent evaluating the Freschetta brand, has boosted spending behind the frozen pizza and launched a campaign from Campbell Mithun.

“Today, we are being more aggressive in terms of spending and pushing the brand’s name” than at any time since Freschetta was launched in 1996, said Tom Bierbaum, Freschetta’s national brand group manager.

(The Marshall, Minn., company last year changed its name from Schwan’s Sales Enterprises to Schwan Food Co. in an effort to better identify what it sells.)

The company also promoted Michael Ziebell to the new post of evp, chief marketing officer last month, with a mandate to better promote the privately owned company. That mission was backed by an increased investment in marketing.

Schwan’s pizza brands, which include Tony’s, Red Baron and Freschetta, combine to make it the second-largest frozen-pizza maker in the U.S. behind Kraft Foods, according to Hoover’s Online.

The company’s overall spending dipped from $15 million in 2001 to $10 million last year, according to CMR. Spending for Freschetta last year was just $300,000 compared with $7 million in 2001, per CMR.

Freschetta sales last year were down almost 4 percent, according to Information Resources.

Bierbaum said spending behind the new campaign will be “the most aggressive yet,” but declined to give a specific number.

Freschetta marketing executives spent last year researching the brand’s consumers, mainly 21-50-year-old women, in an effort to devise an effective marketing message. They found that Freschetta consumers are “active and energetic,” Bierbaum said. So Freschetta updated its advertising with flashy scenes and brighter colors, he said. Freschetta’s message also focuses on quality and innovation.

The two TV spots from Campbell Mithun introduce the tagline, “Taste the sensation,” which is intended to build on the overall campaign theme, “Fresh taste sensation,” said Pete Leacock, account director at the Minneapolis shop.

The campaign is aimed at establishing Freschetta pizza as a sensory experience that rivals restaurant-quality food. The ads use vignettes of people being wowed by the pizza, such as a couple eating it in a bubble bath and a crowd dancing with a Freschetta neon sign in the background.

Previous work from Campbell Mithun, which broke in 2001, showcased Freschetta’s “chefs,” who create the pizzas with a “Fresh thinking. Fresh baking” tagline.

The new effort, which broke Sunday, will serve as a platform for additional advertising slated for midyear that will promote a new line of Freschetta Brick Oven Pizzas, Bierbaum said.

Focusing on branding rather than promotions in the frozen-food category is a growing trend because of an increased demand for convenience food at grocery stores, said Todd Hultquist of the Food Marketing Institute in Washington, D.C. With so many new products, it becomes more cost-effective for companies to instill a memorable brand name with consumers, he said.

The war in Iraq did not lead Freschetta executives to alter the creative or media schedule of the new work, because the frozen-pizza category targets families and family meals, unlikely to be sources of controversy at such a time, Bierbaum said.