Chi Chi’s Kicks Its Salsa Up a Notch

NEW YORK Chi Chi’s, a unit of Hormel Foods, wants consumers to see the brand as more than just chips and dip. That’s why the brand is banking on a series of marketing and branding initiatives next month.

Chi Chi’s will start its “C” campaign in 12 key U.S. markets in the Northeast including Chicago, Cincinnati and Grand Rapids, Mich., where the brand’s penetration and sales are strongest. Consumers will see Chi Chi’s name associated with words like “chicken,” “cravings,” “cooking” and “celebration” in signage across grocery stores. And when shoppers go to store shelves to pick up Chi Chi’s salsa, they’ll find a new package design that reads: “Let the fiesta begin.”

The campaign, per BBDO, Minneapolis, will also include TV and print spots that will focus on the salsa product’s versatility as a flavor-enhancing ingredient across a variety of foods. In addition, the brand will begin rolling out event marketing throughout the summer, such as parade floats for various July 4 activities, as well as mobile billboards and Segue vehicles adorned to look like a salsa bottle. A digital effort, including both a dedicated Web site and viral marketing, will also support.

“[The brand] needed to be positioned as extended use and as a flavor enhancer, to be considered as something more than just chips and dip,” said Mark Mayer, group product manager for the ethnic food group at Hormel, Austin, Minn. “We feel that the ‘C’ campaign is simple, strategic and sticky enough to communicate that message.”

The brand has also been working to expand its product line. Chi Chi’s introduced a line of frozen appetizers last fall. Then in January, it started appearing as an endorsement on packages of Manny’s brand flour tortillas, which have distribution in the Northeastern U.S. Eventually Manny’s nameplate will disappear and the tortillas will be sold under Chi Chi’s banner, Mayer said.

In 2007, Hormel spent $150,000 on marketing Chi Chi’s salsa products, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. While Mayer would not reveal exact figures, he said that marketing spend behind the “C” campaign represented “significantly more investment” compared to the past two years, and it will now be in line with advertising budgets for the rest of Hormel’s food brands.