How Sara Lee Beefed Up Jimmy Dean Brand

When Sara Lee was looking to grow breakfast brand Jimmy Dean’s market share, it turned to consumer insights to help drive new advertising for the brand, according to CMO Philippe Schaillee.

Speaking at the IRI Reinventing CPG Summit in San Antonio on Tuesday, Schaillee called Jimmy Dean a “strategic investment” brand, meaning a product line that Sara Lee has advertised heavily in the last three years, and has yielded results in terms of strong sales growth. (The brand had $39 million in measured media spending last year, excluding online, per the Nielsen Co. Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif., handles.)

In a category where consumers are often time-starved, Sara Lee studied the different morning mealtime routines. In its research and through focus groups, the company narrowed down the target consumer to what Schaillee described as the “chaotic compromiser.” This consumer is a hardworking mom, and breakfast for her consists mainly of frozen meals because “her family likes them,” said Schaillee, who’s held the top marketing position at Sara Lee for two years.

With a more in-depth understanding of its target consumer, Sara Lee saw an opportunity for growth. “We leveraged that insight: that moms subconsciously know there are better breakfast options out there than the ones they [serve up] in the morning,” Schaillee said.

As a result, the company shifted Jimmy Dean’s marketing focus from a “happy breakfast” to a “lasting breakfast.” Past ads showed a man, dressed up as the sun, cheering up others by serving them Jimmy Dean meals for breakfast. But the new ads, including those that ran last year, focus on telling the consumer “to shine on, to have that warm, protein-based breakfast that will get [them] through the morning,” Schaillee said.

The take-away from the Jimmy Dean case study, Schaillee said, is that marketers should understand consumers’ needs. Since doing the research, Sara Lee has expanded its breakfast portfolio to include morning sandwiches and breakfast bowls, as well as low-calorie Jimmy Dean D-lights, which boast a filling meal option for “under 300 calories.”

Innovation — both in the form of new product launches and consumer-driven marketing and brand insights — has enabled Sara Lee to “drive sustainable growth” every year, Schaillee said. A packaging change on its Jimmy Dean Biscuit Sandwiches, for example, increased household penetration by 13 percent. And, the company was able to do this while whittling down SKUs by 30 percent, thereby, reducing inventory and eliminating clutter for consumers.

What about the ROI? While Schaillee wouldn’t disclose the exact number, he said that sales in the category and for Jimmy Dean have grown year-over-year.