PAM Cooking Spray: Food Freedom

PAM Cooking Spray

“Food Freedom”

Business Situation and Campaign Objectives

It was back in the late 1950’s when Arthur Meyerhoff transformed the way Americans cooked with the invention of PAM cooking spray.  PAM was healthier and easier than using butter, margarine, or liquid oil and provided cooks with excellent results –no food stuck to or burnt on the pan, leaving little cleanup.

Being the first to market brings clear advantages, one of which is the brand being synonymous with the category (“Can you hand me the PAM?”).  But it also puts a target on your back; others want a piece of the action.  Over time, despite a consistent presence with consumers via advertising and in-store trade deals, PAM lost its market leadership to Store Brand cooking spray and became the leading branded cooking spray, playing second fiddle to Store Brand (43% unit share vs. 45%, respectively).  Consumers could get a can of Store Brand cooking spray for about a dollar less than a can of PAM.

The brand had been focused on getting current users to use more PAM.  But a bigger issue really loomed – there were a lot of occasional PAM users who bought PAM when it was on sale, but bought a cheaper product when it was not.  The decision came down to one of price.  Why not…they all work the same anyway, right?   So it was time to retrench and act like a leader again.  PAM needed to wake up to the fact they could no longer be assumptive about superior performance – the brand had to prove it to consumers, and an improved formula was just the way to do it. Thus, the Marketing Strategy was to prove that there is a difference worth paying for because PAM works better than other cooking sprays.  The Marketing Objective was to increase PAM’s buy rate by 50% among brand Switchers.

PAM tackled this challenge with a fully integrated marketing campaign with a budget of $11MM.  The campaign ran from October 2011 through May 2012 and included television and digital advertising, competitive couponing, in-store advertising, and a robust social influencer program.   All elements were executed in both English and Spanish in a campaign that had an overarching consumer insight along with culturally relevant messaging cues.  A fundamental component to all marketing elements was a “proof of performance” product demonstration.

Research Story
The journey to changing perceptions and behavior was framed up into 2 key stages:  1) Deeply understanding the consumer challenges; 2) Developing the communication to address the challenges.

Stage 1:  Deeply understanding consumer challenges

  • The first step in understanding our challenges was to go through a phase of reexamination and reanalysis of existing data.
  • IRI Panel Data analysis:  This entailed reviewing the brand targeting matrix to determine if the target for growth was truly the most viable target.  The historical growth target was defined as medium category users who were loyal to the brand, which represented about 20% of the brand’s buyers and volume.  Importantly, they were 100% loyal to the brand, so in order to win with this target, we had to get them to use more PAM.  We had been communicating usage tips to them to increase their cooking spray usage.  Using a different lens, we began to look at the size and opportunity of the PAM Non-Buyer and Switcher groups.  They were large—about 36% of category buyers and 51% of category volume.  The Switchers only bought PAM about half of time, and when they did, it was more likely than not to be bought on sale; when they didn’t buy PAM, they were most likely to be buying store brand.
  • PAM Barriers Study Review (Market Data Corporation):  With piqued curiosity about the PAM Switcher’s behavior, we had the data for our barriers-to-usage study re-run to include the new target of Switchers.  There were 2 compelling learnings:
    • As would be expected, non-stick performance was found to be a key driver for PAM, and Switchers rated the brand as delivering well on this.
    • Although Switchers thought PAM worked well at providing no-stick results, the number one barrier to increased usage of PAM was the perception of it being expensive compared to other cooking sprays.  In essence, PAM worked well, but there was not a perceived difference worth paying for.

Through reexamination and reanalysis, the team was able to quantify that the upside potential from shifting the target was greater than continuing with the current usage strategy.

  • With a newly defined target and quantitative data on the behavior and the barrier, we then embarked on an insight discovery process with brand Switchers to get to know them, their motivations, and how to change perceptions and behavior (Inteligencia).  With this fresh start, it was important that the team take an inclusive approach to the target and connect with both English and Spanish speaking consumers.  The Latino population cooks more than non-Latinos, and in their quest for healthier cooking, they are adopting cooking spray into their cooking behavior.   A qualitative deep dive discussion was conducted with:
  • Switchers – to get to know them, their category needs, and their relationship with the brand.
  • Heavy loyal core consumers – to better understand their love for the brand and how we might unlock that with the Switchers.

A large, cross functional team went on this “get to know you” phase.  This included the Ad Agencies as well as internal Brand, Marketing, and Product Development groups.  The Product Development team was concurrently developing an improved formula, so we used this as a forum for feedback.  These touch points provided the team with the following insights:

  • A laser-focus on the task at hand.  Switchers articulated what we concluded from the barriers study:   they like PAM, but that they don’t see a difference worth paying for.  Cooking spray is cooking spray.  On the other hand, loyal PAM buyers love the brand and would never consider using another because they knew that results would be compromised.  They’ve experienced the difference:  Bargain brands don’tdeliver, while PAM does, every time.
  • Next, we learned what to message.  We needed to show consumers that PAM works better. Video demonstrations shot in our R&D kitchens of different types of food prepared with new PAM vs. bargain brands garnered got a lot of “Wow! I had no idea” reactions.  Seeing is believing.  Further, to win the Latino consumer, we learned that we needed to have support points in the message to educate her on the health benefits of PAM and reassure her that the taste of her food would not be changed.
  • Finally, we developed operating principles about how to message.  We needed to properly balance the communication being aggressive, yet respectful of the consumers’ previous brand choices.  In “love letters” to the brand, Switchers told us about their affinity for the brand, but they just couldn’t pull the trigger at the shelf with a price difference of up to a dollar.  They felt “smart” when they put a store brand in their cart because of the savings.  The consumer does not want to be made to feel “bad” or guilty about her choice of a cheaper brand.  This was something that was particularly important for a category leader to keep in mind, especially in the recovering economic environment.

Stage 2:  Developing the communication to address the challenges
After our change in target and target exploration, we needed to determine how to convince consumers that PAM works better than others.  This phase of the research consisted of:  1) ACE Metrix analysis of comparative ads; 2) Ethnographic research with the new product; 3) Qualitative Communication Checks and Quantitative Copy Testing.

Ace Metrix analysis of comparative ads:  In order to break through complacent attitudes, the team knew that messaging with a more competitive edge was necessary.  The team needed some inspiration and understanding of how comparative ads work.  Are they liked?  Are they informational?   We turned to Ace Metrix to learn about the performance of TV ads that had a specific competitive call-out.  Two years of advertising were analyzed from a wide variety of product categories, including food, beverages, personal care, household products, computers, telecom services, and airlines.  In comparison to non-comparative ads, we learned that comparative ads delivered stronger Information and lower Likeability.  This framed the challenge for the team to deliver the information in a likeable manner.

Ethnographic Research with the new product (internal):  While the Product Development Team was finalizing the product, including collecting the legal claim substantiation that PAM works better than bargain brands, the creative brief was being finalized and the creative process beginning.  We took this opportunity to have General Market and Latino consumers try the product and send our cross-functional team into their homes to discuss their experience with it.  The goal was to determine the connection point between the product experience and the messaging area.  Consumers had an exceptional experience with the new formula, which was not labeled as being new or changed in any way.  They told us that PAM was good before, but now it was even better!  We asked them to do a “torture test” with the product, trying it with their stickiest, most baked-on recipe and to compare it to the performance of their usual cooking spray.  It worked particularly well with the torture test items like scrambled eggs and cheesy baked casseroles.  Consumers were surprised that cooking spray could do a better job than it already was, again supporting the fact that we needed to be aggressive in the messaging.  They also liked the notion of the torture test, or as one Latina put it “We dare you to get something to stick!”   This inspired a social media influencer program.

Qualitative Communication Checks (I N A Research) and Quantitative Copy Testing (Ipsos ASI):  The creative team developed three different campaign directions, which were explored qualitatively with General Market and Latino consumers for engagement and message communication.  In all campaigns, we told a story that built to a product demonstration showing PAM’s superiority over bargain brands (the “muffin drop demo”), to which consumers responded favorably.  The news about the new formula was well communicated across campaigns, although consumer engagement was strongest with the “Food Freedom” campaign. Our AceMetrix analysis on comparative advertising indicated that Likeability was a challenge with comparative ads, so it was critical that we created strong engagement.

After enhancing the creative based on consumer input, the last step in the research journey was quantitative advertising testing of the lead execution, “Muffin.” 

  • The overall results were positive, with the Copy Effect Index in the top 25% of the database.
  • Importantly, the creative had a high probability of breaking through, with a Visibility Potential in the top 20% of the database and engagement was strong with Likeability measures significantly above norm.
  • The Emoti*Trace identified the muffin drop demo as the most attention-getting and motivating part of the ad.  With Information communication at norm, the team knew that they could strengthen the muffin demo even further to optimize its impact and did just that.

Campaign Description
Armed with a wealth of insight into our consumer and the challenge at hand, a fully integrated “Food Freedom” marketing campaign was developed and executed with $11MM behind it.  Critical to the success of the campaign was to develop hard-hitting competitive messaging that suited a true brand leader. We needed the work to be engaging and charming, not boastful or alienating.  Because our work with consumers made it clear that we couldn’t make them feel bad about purchasing bargain brand cooking spray, the campaign let the food do the talking. We created realistic muffin characters; one baked using PAM, the other using a bargain brand, to bring our superior point-of-difference to life. And while the entertaining dialogue between the two characters highlighted the benefits of using PAM instead of a bargain brand, the muffin drop demo of PAM’s superiority vs. bargain brands provided a powerful and believable proof of performance and became a signature visual of the campaign. The muffin characters in the English advertising were a father and teenage daughter bantering back and forth.  To be more culturally relevant, the characters were switched to a husband and wife in the Spanish language creative, since the father/daughter banter would not have been viewed as respectful.

The media buy was a key element to the success of the marketing plan.  Because cooking spray is a low involvement product and our consumer only really thinks about it at key times of the year when she is gearing up for some major holiday cooking,  our media plan was flighted to coincide with these key times, as was the couponing. We knew that if we could intercept her with our powerful proof of performance as she was preparing to buy her next can of cooking spray, we had a better chance to change her behavior. We complemented our couponing efforts with targeted offers to bargain brand cooking spray users.

In-store, we knew we needed to have our signature proof of performance visual front-and-center. So, we used shelf-talkers as a final reminder as she was reaching for her next can of cooking spray and also secured alternate placement in higher trafficked areas of the store with shippers using our signature proof of performance visual to reach her just in case she wasn’t shopping PAM’s much quieter aisle.

Our digital strategy was to remind her of our superiority by having our proof of performance and muffin characters within rich media display banners, as video pre-roll before cooking segments on YouTube and other cooking sites and as part of digital roadblocks in content areas related to kitchen short-cuts on food and women’s interest sites. Paid search complemented these digital efforts by directing consumers to either the PAM website or to the brand’s Facebook page.

A critical component to the overall marketing plan was a robust social influencer program. We knew from years of work with consumers, that they are eager for any suggestions and tips when it comes to cooking short cuts and they believe in the power of a personal recommendation. The heart of this effort was a PAM challenge with a money back guarantee. We reached out initially to influential food bloggers and challenged them to use new PAM on their toughest, stickiest recipes to prove that PAM worked better than bargain brand cooking spray. The results of these “torture tests” were phenomenal as these bloggers soon discovered that PAM indeed worked better. Through their recommendations, the program grew on PAM’s Facebook page to include our consumers’ own testimonials alongside our powerful side-by-side demo. Soon this active Facebook community was sharing all sorts of tips and engagement with the brand increased markedly.  427MM impressions were generated by the blogger program and 3.7MM from the word-of-mouth program.

TV Commercials:
Mr. & Mrs. Muffins – english

Mr. & Mrs. Muffins – spanish

Business Results
After letting category ownership, then leadership, slip away, the brand was anxious to reclaim lost ground.  The team measured success by Communicus brand tracking, IRI syndicated panel data, as well as Nielsen Marketing Mix modeling.

The team’s decision to support the superior product performance messaging via a fully integrated English and Spanish language campaign proved out in market, as the Spanish language efforts added significant incremental Branded Proved Awareness among both Spanish Dominant and Bilingual consumers.  The importance of having a compelling overarching insight supported with culturally relevant in-language cues was underscored by the media overlap that was seen in market. 

Strong results were shown on changing perceptions about PAM’s efficacy.  Communicus tracking indicated significant perceptual shifts among both the General Market and Latino consumers. 

  • Among the Total Market consumers who use store brand cooking spray most often, the campaign produced a significant gain in the perception that “PAM always prevents food from sticking.”
  • Among the Latino market, engaging with PAM communication significantly increased the perceptions that “PAM always prevents food from sticking” and that “PAM works better than all other brands.”
  • We also saw the power of an integrated campaign.  Among consumers who saw three or more communication elements, there were significant increases in stated demand measures such as past month purchasing and future purchase intent.

Importantly, the changes PAM achieved in perceptions translated in market to increased purchasing of the brand among Switchers.

  • The buy rate of Switchers increased by 50%, from 1.6 units/buyer to 2.4 units/buyer.   We were able to convince consumers to make their cooking spray purchase a PAM brand cooking spray purchase, as we drove Switchers’ PAM buying occasions up 46%, from 1.3 occasions/buyer to 1.9 occasions per buyer (Source:  IRI Panel Data 52 WE 2/4/12 vs. YAGO).

Lastly, Marketing Mix Analysis indicated that PAM’s “Food Freedom” campaign was more efficient and effective than previous campaigns.

  • “Food Freedom” TV delivered higher Incremental Volume/TRP for PAM for both General Market and Spanish language efforts.  General Market TV Incremental Volume/TRP was +93% to +123% higher than the previous campaign, depending on the execution.  Incremental Volume/TRP for Spanish language TV was +107% vs. the previous campaign (Source:  Nielsen Marketing Mix).
  • Incremental Volume/$ spent also increased 14.3% versus the prior campaign and reached the highest level for the brand in 4 years (Source:  Nielsen Marketing Mix).
  • TV Return on Investment increased +33.3% for the General Market and +54% for the Spanish language TV vs. the previous campaign.  The increases in Return on Investment were driven by improved creative impact (Source: Nielsen Marketing Mix ).

These outstanding results were achieved through a purposeful and comprehensive journey with the consumer.  We stepped back from a business- as-usual mode to address an issue that we let happen.  We redefined the target.  We got to know the consumer, their mindset, and their barriers to PAM.  With this new lens, we created a highly successful integrated campaign that was meaningful to today’s consumer, both general market and Latino.

Thank you to d expósito & Partners for sharing this case history with users.

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