Why Kraft’s Singles Push Has a Red-State Kind of Feel

Kraft Foods is taking a page from the GOP playbook with a campaign for its Singles cheese slices celebrating small-town America.

Kraft is launching the contest—which asks consumers to submit a photo and a short description of what they consider to be the “single best thing” in their hometowns—with a series of TV spots running on the Disney-owned ABC daytime soap channel. Ads, which begin this week, show the three members of the country music group Love and Theft—Brian Bandas, Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson—playfully bantering about whose hometown is best. The ads prompt consumers to submit entries by asking, “Is it your county fair? Or your annual parade? Maybe your local moment. What is it about your town?”

Kraft, which has put more advertising weight behind iconic food brands like Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Oreo cookies during the recession, said the effort is an attempt to stem frequent brand switching among heavy users of the category. Dollar sales of processed cheese slices, a $1.3 billion category, fell 9 percent in the 52 weeks ended Dec. 27, per Chicago-based market research firm IRI. (The data does not include Walmart sales.)

Sales of Kraft Singles are down 17.5 percent to $380 million, though Kraft said the business has since rebounded in part due to value- and patriotic-driven campaigns, such as its most recent, “American Cheese” effort.

Launched last September, the ads—by New York advertising agency mcgarrybowen—tout the food as nourishing the “future leaders” of America. One spot, for instance, says, “A country is only as good as its cheese. Good thing ours doesn’t have a bunch of holes in it.”

That effort seems to be connecting with the target Singles consumer, who is described as a mom residing in smaller U.S. towns and suburbs. (Unit sales of regular Kraft Singles grew by 5 percentage points since the campaign’s launch, said Kraft Singles senior brand manager Clayton Wai-Poi.) Such consumers, in particular, are fiercely proud of where they live and “how she chooses to raise her family,” he added.

The goal of the latest promo is to “reinforce to moms that Kraft Singles is the authentic American Cheese and that there is no other cheese like it.”

Kraft, which upped its expenditure on Singles from $25 million in 2008 to $34 million through November of last year, per Nielsen (the data does not include online spending), is also using social media sites like Facebook.com to drive consumer entries for the contest.

Contest participants who upload submissions to the Disney-owned FamilyFun.com site can share their photos and essays with Facebook friends, or ask them to “vote for my town,” Wai-Poi said. The food company is also reaching out to influential mommy bloggers, as well as running ads in the March publication of Family Fun, the print incarnation of the craft and recipe site, to attract more entries. Voting opens March 11 and runs through April 11, with the winner receiving a block party visit hosted by the members of Love and Theft, and appearances from his/her favorite ABC soap stars.