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Campbell Befriends Facebook

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Taking example from other brands, Campbell Soup Co. is the latest company to use social media to introduce new products.

The Camden, N.J.-based maker of Chunky and Select Harvest soups this week kicked off a Facebook sampling initiative to promote its new V8 V-Fusion + Tea line. Each week, through September 30, the brand is giving away 1,000 free samples. The beverages, which are a blend of fruit juice, veggie juice and tea, come in flavors like Raspberry, Pineapple Mango and Pomegranate.

Separately, Pepperidge Farm, also owned by Campbell, launched its first Facebook page for Milano cookies earlier this month. Campbell is using the page, which already has close to 9,000 fans, to advertise a new strawberry version of the Milano cookie.

Like other marketers—including Ford and P&G's Gillette—Campbell is shifting more of its focus to social media to connect with consumers online. This is the first time, however, Campbell has used social nets like Facebook to tout new products. The move coincides with the company's strategy to grow sales of its healthy beverages and baked snacks.

Advertising for V8 V-Fusion + Tea and strawberry Milano cookies will begin this fall. The V8 V-Fusion + Tea ads will likely focus on “refreshment” and the fact that it offers a “combined serving of vegetables and fruits in every 8-ounce glass,” said Campbell rep Juli Mandel Sloves. Y&R in New York is V8’s lead agency. The interactive practice of G2 USA handled social media campaigns for both brands.

Campbell is already seeing initial results. In the first 24 hours, all 1,000  samples of V8 V-Fusion + Tea were gone, Mandel Sloves said. Campbell plans to further promote the beverages on Facebook and via blogger outreach next week. Mandel Sloves said the unprecedented level of sampling is also a first for Campbell. “This is a much more aggressive campaign to engage with consumers,” she added.

Paul Woolmington, founding partner of brand consulting firm Naked Communications, said Campbell’s latest effort may seem “unsexy” at first, but it’s actually tapping into social media via ordinary human behavior. On first thought, using Facebook to drive consumption and sampling might seem “a bit obvious,” but it’s actually pretty smart, Woolmington said. 

But just because a product does well in social media doesn’t necessarily mean sales will take off. For Campbell, “the proof in the pudding is whether sampling is interesting enough to people that they’d want to spread it, and Campbell will obviously have to build on that,” said Woolmington.

Campbell spent $36 million advertising Pepperidge Farm in 2009, and $22 million through April of this year, excluding online, per the Nielsen Co. Meanwhile, the company spent $31 million advertising V8 V-Fusion in 2009, and $17 million through April.