Prepared Foods Company Discovers Secret Ingredients for Driving Growth

October 10, 2019 Ginna Hall

Audiences and advertising mediums are constantly changing, with each passing year offering new ways to interact and engage with consumers. To be effective, marketers need to reach the right audiences on their preferred channels and devices. But getting budget approval and executive buy-in on untested tactics can be fraught with challenges.

So, how can you prove that a new initiative or campaign will improve sales and create a substantial return? 

You have two options: launch on a smaller scale before rolling out more broadly or prove that a campaign worked after the fact. Either way, decisions based on gut instinct aren’t enough anymore. You need to validate your hunch before investing too much budget in an unproven message, channel or tactic.

This reality wasn’t lost on a prepared foods company that had a new food base product with an awareness problem. The company turned to Nielsen to help solve this challenge with a test campaign. The test campaign not only drove a 34% sales lift and a 50% increase in household penetration, but also gave the team the evidence it needed to roll out the campaign nationally. Read on to find out how it worked.

Proving the Impact of Every Marketing Dollar Spent

The company knew it had a superior product that should have been selling much faster. Segmentation and other underlying consumer data revealed the product had a loyalty rate over 90%, but less than a 5% household penetration rate. 

Marketers at the company knew they weren’t going to increase market share based on loyalty alone, and wanted to launch a media campaign to fast track brand growth. But as a traditionally food service-oriented business, the company hadn’t invested much in consumer marketing. In fact, it was outspent as much as 17 times by competitors.

To justify a larger marketing budget, the team would need to prove that every dollar spent drove the maximum impact.

Linking Media Impact to Sales

The company turned to Nielsen and its Campaign Lift solution to help it plan, execute and measure a limited media test to quantify the impact on sales. Campaign Lift measures sales lift driven by advertising through a single-source approach that connects campaign exposure to brand sales.

The test campaign, which consisted of TV, digital, social media and in-store tactics, was executed in eight markets (four test and four control), plus one heavy up test market over a 12-week period. Markets were chosen based on their category and brand development indices (CDI/BDI) to ensure low, average and high markets were represented in the test. Stores in the markets where the advertisements aired (the test group) were then compared to stores from similar markets (the control group) where the advertisements weren’t aired to calculate the impact on sales.

“As a company that wasn’t used to consumer marketing, we knew we couldn’t just ask for budget to roll out a national media campaign. We would need to financially prove out our theory first. Nielsen was instrumental to our success,” said a VP of Marketing at the prepared foods company.

“Not only were they able to customize their Campaign Lift solution to meet our testing requirements, but they provided us with a breadth and depth of understanding into just how much consumer marketing and awareness could really drive our business. We couldn’t be more ecstatic about the results.”

Secret Ingredients Revealed

Nielsen’s Campaign Lift analysis revealed that the marketing campaign was highly effective at generating measurable awareness and sales growth for the food base product.

The results showed:

1. Sales in test markets were significantly higher than sales in control markets.

Not only did stores in the test markets outsell stores in the control markets every week of the test, but low, average and high CDI/BDI markets all performed well. In fact, the sales lifts driven by the campaign ranked in the top 5% of all time (based on Nielsen historical norms for similar types of media activity).

2. Higher frequency levels led to higher results.

While the heavy up test market experienced the highest level of sales lift, this finding ultimately helped the team fine-tune frequency and reach levels and avoid overspending. Since lower spend levels had a significant impact across all test markets, the team realized they didn’t have to spend more to sustain growth.

3. Ad messagIng increased brand perception.

Brand perception metrics increased in the test markets, proving that the advertising resonated with target consumers and influenced their decision to purchase. In fact, the response to the campaign exceeded expectations and drove out-of-stocks in the test markets.

4. Media drove sustained sales lift.

The media effect did not diminish at the end of the campaign, but rather continued to drive a lift in sales over the course of several months.

A Recipe for Sustained Growth

With Nielsen Campaign Lift, the team was able to prove that consumer marketing can rapidly grow awareness and sales of a product. The test campaign not only drove a 34% sales lift and a 50% increase in household penetration, but also gave the team the evidence it needed to roll out the campaign nationally. The full national campaign proved to be even more successful, generating a 57% sales lift.

The findings helped the prepared foods company improve collaboration with retailers. Sharing the results of the Campaign Lift analysis ahead of the national campaign ensured retailers were able to order sufficient quantities of the product ahead of time and avoid costly out-of-stocks.

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