New Hormel Campaign Beefs Up Portfolio Strength

For the first time in its 119-year history, Hormel Foods is running an ad campaign spotlighting its whole Hormel-branded portfolio, an attempt to get consumers to consider the brand’s breadth of offerings.

The effort, which carries the tagline, “Life Better Served,” is aimed at consumers who may buy one or two Hormel-branded products all the time, but aren’t aware of other foods that are part of that line.

In its research, for instance, the maker of Jennie-O and Dinty Moore beef stews found that once consumers were reminded of these options, they saw Hormel as a way to answer “their daily question of, ‘What should I serve myself and my family?'” said Scott Weisenbeck, group product manager for integrating marketing and planning at Hormel.

“We call it, ‘pulling the blanket off the brand,'” quipped BBDO executive creative director Brian Kroening, adding that, consumers saw “that there were more parts to the brand than they had in their homes.” The Omnicom agency’s Minneapolis office created the campaign.

The Hormel brand has more than $2 billion in retail sales. (Its products reach some 74 million U.S. households, or a 62.8 percent household penetration, per Weisenbeck.) Though it’s repositioned and introduced new products, such as Hormel Compleats, in recent years, its top-selling foods are still its chili, pepperoni and black label bacon products.

Hence, television and print ads breaking this month which introduce consumers to the variety of meal options sold under the Hormel brand. An ad showing three child violinists playing on stage, for instance, asks, “What’s my go-to-option for a family on-the-go?” Opposite it, in dinner plate-shaped dialogue bubbles, are three foods: Hormel Compleats, beef roast and its eponymous chili product.

Other ads highlight a single brand product. An advertisement for its Natural Choice deli meats, for instance, asks, “How can I preserve lunchtime without any preservatives?”

Hormel, which spent $49 million advertising its company-branded products through the first 11 months of 2009 (excluding online, per Nielsen), is also running TV spots during NBC’s broadcast of the 2010 Winter Olympic games and the Academy and Emmy Awards. The TV spots position Hormel’s products as a mess-free, quick, convenient and nutritious meal option.


One ad, for instance, shows  a family living in a house that’s overgrown with grass because they’ve decided to go “all natural.” A voiceover counters, “Do you really have to go all out to go all natural?…Not with Hormel Natural Choice sandwich meats,” it says, touting the line’s lack of preservatives.

Another shows a man going to such extremes to fit in a 10-minute bite (his female co-worker simply microwaves some Hormel Compleats during that time) that he speeds down the street, gets hit by (and rolls over) a car and barely has any time to wolf it down.

The campaign comes as sales of Hormel products have benefitted from the recession-driven, eat-at-home trend. Dollar sales of its canned lunch meats, a $119 million business, rose 6.74 percent in the 52 weeks ended Dec. 27, per IRI, for instance. (The data excludes Walmart sales.) Bacon sales, meanwhile, were down 3.21 percent during that same time period.

Tom Denari, president of Young & Laramore, an advertising agency that works with companies like Procter & Gamble, said the campaign is a way for Hormel to contemporize its brand. “People think of Hormel as more of a canned product, and they’re trying to connect [those products] with some of the newer and more contemporary [offerings] in their [portfolio],” he said. The common theme, he added, is that these foods all contain protein, so “they’re trying to use that to create a halo effect and extend that to products that aren’t selling as well or aren’t as popular.”

Hormel is typically the No. 1 or 2 player in most of the categories it operates in, which spans sausages, dinner hams and microwavable meals. The goal is to communicate to moms with school-aged children that she doesn’t necessarily have to sacrifice time or quality to eat healthily, Weisenbeck said.

The tagline, Kroening added, hints that “there are better [meal solution] answers than you might think and [oftentimes], they’re coming to you from Hormel,” he said.

The company did not reveal the cost of the campaign, but Weisenbeck said the effort’s total ad expenditure is 20 percent more than the combined amount spent on individual Hormel-branded campaigns over the last several years.

Agency partners, in addition to BBDO, include PHD (for media buying) in Minneapolis, Proximity for digital duties, pr firm Burson-Marsteller and Nsight Connect, part of the D.L. Ryan Companies, for consumer promotions and shopper marketing.