Case Study: Progresso Checks Out Consumers at Cash Register

The Challenge:
Responding to trends in the marketplace that suggested the low-sodium soups were an untapped niche, Progresso launched its “Progresso Reduced Sodium line. The problem was one of numbers. According to AC Nielsen’s “FreshFacts,” some 30,000 new products are introduced onto supermarket shelves each year, and a full 75% of them fail. What’s more, most manufacturers are targeting the same demo-mothers, 25 to 55 years old. With so much competition, Progresso needed to find a way to get its soups into the minds of consumers in a way that stood out from all of those other new products also hitting the shelf.

The Plan:
Based on the popular marketing theory that 20% of a brand’s customers represent 80% of its sales, Progresso decided to go after a more specific niche with more targeted advertising outreach. It tapped Catalina Marketing, St. Petersburg, the firm that monitors and collects consumer profile data via platforms such as shopper rewards cards. The data comes from some 140 million consumers with 250 million transactions tracked each week at 23,000 grocery, drugstore and mass retail stores in the U.S. Based on transaction histories over the previous 12 months, Catalina pulled out the top 10% of soup buyers, and then further honed the number to target those who were identified as “sodium-concerned.”

“In a world where people are barraged by a mass media, [our technology] gets messages that are specifically targeted to [the relevant consumers],” said Todd Morris, svp at Catalina. “Instead of a billboard outside or a shopping cart ad, we said how about we get the [Progresso ads] in the hands of the people who most care about it. By looking through all of the 140 million consumer IDs…we identified those people who would make or break this product launch.”

The Results:
The initiative spurred sales for the new line of Progresso low sodium soups from this unit of General Mills, Minneapolis, From Aug. 5 through Sept. 29, ads touting the new line of soup were handed out to those select customers at checkout counters in over 2,000 supermarkets. In those supermarkets where the ad ran, the soups’ share of their category’s marketshare jumped to 9.5%. In supermarkets that didn’t run the ads, but were in the same markets as those that did, the new soups only grabbed 2.3% share of their category.  According to Morris, one of the key factors that made the initiative successful was that the ads began running the same day that the soup launched. “Marketers don’t want to run their spots until they get a critical mass of distribution and retailers don’t want to have product sitting on the shelves with no push behind them.” “So when the right consumers were getting this ad, the product was already there on the shelves for them to buy.”