Before you ask, it’s not made of people. Its name was inspired by the 1966 science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison, not the Charlton Heston movie. And it’s not just for software geeks.
Today, meal-replacement brand Soylent begins an ambitious relaunch campaign to increase awareness outside the tech community with the help of its new agency of record, Wieden + Kennedy.
The campaign centers on company spokesperson Trish, who appropriately turns out to be an artificial intelligence bot created to educate consumers about Soylent’s products with the goal of making meal planning less stressful. As the campaign copy puts it, “Eating isn’t easy.” Trish will appear across all Soylent media channels and serve as the manager of its virtual store, where she acts as a Bizarro World mashup of Flo and Siri.
Soylent CMO Adam Grablick called 2017 “a big year” for the company when asked about the decision to hire Wieden + Kennedy.
“As we continue to grow, bringing in an experienced, outside perspective supports our efforts to make these initiatives a success, cultivate new potential customers and tap into new markets,” Grablick said.
He told Adweek that his company considered a variety of agencies but went with W+K due in large part to its Lodge unit’s tech focus. “Its ability to develop experiences that bring brands to life in unexpected ways appealed to our own team’s innovative spirit and mission,” he said, adding, “The type of work that the Lodge does is exactly what we need to attract this difficult-to-reach consumer.” Grablick also noted that he worked with Wieden during his tenure in Kraft’s marketing department.
Beyond its subscription model, the brand has succeeded in marketing its products on Amazon—and the act of targeting those elusive consumers isn’t such a stretch. “Beyond Soylent’s early adopter community, our target audience is busy and independent males, typically 18 to 34 years old,” said Grablick. “They live in major metropolitan areas … and they often don’t have time in their busy days to get three complete meals in.” In other words, they have quite a bit in common with ad agency employees.
“As a creative company that uses technology to help brands show up in unexpected ways, we love working with Soylent,” said W+K Lodge managing director Paulo Ribeiro in a statement. “Experimentation is at the heart of both companies, and it will show up in the work.”
That work will stretch beyond the client’s web and packaging designs, broadcast TV ads, digital efforts and presence at South by Southwest, and move deep into “the dark web.”
Soylent, which came to life in 2013 as a personal project of software engineer Rob Rhinehart, has not forgotten its tech roots. Before its traditional marketing went live, the brand launched a bitcoin-based store that could only be accessed via that opaque portion of the internet consisting primarily of closed peer-to-peer networks. It includes “the rarest products” under the Soy Route heading. The phrase is a sly nod to Silk Road, the infamous online marketplace that served as a virtual Wild West until its founder was arrested in 2013 and later sentenced to life in prison for hacking, money laundering and drug trafficking.
Grablick said Wieden pitched the dark web project. “By launching the dark web—a tactic we felt our core would uniquely appreciate and understand—before the campaign launch, we were able to engage our passionate, vocal loyalists with Trish early on,” he said. The point is that the new spokesperson isn’t just a marketing device—she’s here to help.