IRI’s Top Launches of 2009

As the economy faltered in 2009, transparency, affordable luxury, value and health benefits were all the rage. At least those are a few of the patterns that emerged from Information Resources Inc.’s list of last year’s top launches, ranked by sales. The following report outlines the winners. Note: IRI’s data does not include Walmart sales.*

No. 1: Food
Campbell’s Prize Harvest

When Campbell Soup execs first floated the idea for Select Harvest, they discovered their biggest competitor was a fictional one.

In a 2007 focus group session, those execs gathered eight “heavy users” in the soup category and presented the product, which was made with natural ingredients and devoid of MSG. In the course of 90 minutes, the women told Campbell researchers everything they liked about the soup—“natural, white meat chicken,” “farm fresh vegetables,” etc. But when asked if they’d buy such a product, all eight paused and then said, well, no.

Why? It turns out the women thought such a soup already existed.

That insight informed advertising from BBDO that strived to be something of a reality check. In launching Select Harvest, the major challenge Campbell faced was getting women to realize that “they weren’t getting what they thought they were getting [from a soup today], and that’s exactly what we were bringing to them,” said Geoff Jackson, then senior brand manager on the business.

“It was literally one of those moments where we understood that in order for us to be able to win in this segment of the market, we had to [disrupt] their habitual purchasing behaviors,” he said.

Print and TV ads took a comparative approach. One ad showed a blindfolded woman testing two bowls of soup. The first, she proclaims, has “hydrolyzed vegetable protein and MSG,” while the other (Campbell’s) contains “Chicken! [and] 100 percent natural…white meat!”
Campbell maintains the effort was in no way a direct jab at its competitor (General Mills’ Progresso, which, in 2007, had launched Weight Watchers-endorsed “Light” soups), though the campaign later exploded into an all-out, MSG finger-pointing soup war between the two. Its goals with the ads, said Michael Barkley, vp of ready-to-serve soups, was to simply generate trial and awareness by “breaking through the fog and familiarity that people can sometimes have with Campbell’s and get them to try it.”

That’s because, as well-known as Campbell’s is, the target demo—women over 35—often felt a disconnect with the brand. “I grew up with Campbell’s, but [it] didn’t grow up with me,” was an oft-stated sentiment, Barkley said, adding that Campbell’s brand loyalty among this group spanned everything from “they loved the brand, they ate it as kids, they served it to their kids, they used it to cook. But when they sat down to have a bowl of soup, they didn’t pick Campbell’s. They didn’t feel the brand had grown up with them,” he said.

Two-hundred-and-two million in first-year sales later, Select Harvest has reconnected with the demo. Campbell last year added a dozen “100 percent natural” soups to its Select Harvest line, including five Mediterranean varieties. The launch prompted consumers to consider “the back of the label as the new front of the label,” Jackson said of Americans’ focus on real ingredients and transparency.

Sales: $201.8 million
Media Spend: $41 million**
Marketers: Michael Barkley, Geoff Jackson
Lead Agency: BBDO

2. Bud Light Lime Anheuser-Busch’s launch was targeted at consumers who liked a lighter, sweeter taste—a segment Miller had addressed with Chill. A-B soon found it had a hit, though one whose sales aligned with the summer months. So, in the next phase, A-B pitched it as a year-round brew. “A summer state of mind doesn’t go into hibernation,” said Gregg Billmeyer, vp, premium lights. “It merely takes on a different set of activities.”