During COVID-19, Campbell’s Marketing Is All About Being Useful


Instead of using media to drive sales, Campbell’s wants to help people cooking at home during COVID-19 use its products – and enjoy themselves in the process.

The CPG has kicked off a campaign across Group Nine Media properties that teaches how to use its family of products, which include Campbell’s soup, Prego pasta sauce, Pace, Swanson, V8, SpaghettiOs and Pacific Foods.

“The current campaign is a little different than our normal state,” where Campbell’s closely tracks how media impacts sales, said Campbell’s CMO, Linda Lee. “The goal is to provide utility and comfort for consumers who are already naturally buying the products that they want.”

There’s no need to drive sales because Campbell’s has experienced a huge surge in demand as “we all have many, many more meals at home than we’ve probably ever had,” Lee said.

From mid-March to mid-April, IRI dollar consumption rose 42% for of Campbell’s soup, and increased 49% for Prego pasta sauce. Even more importantly from a marketing standpoint, 5.2 million new households tried Campbell’s condensed soup, and 5.5 million new households tried Prego, according to IRI data Campbell’s shared with investors.

All these new purchasers of Campbell’s products will benefit from guidance and inspiration – which is where the Group Nine Media campaign comes in.

With shelter-in-place orders preventing normal video production, the publisher had to get creative and optimize for speed. In the first phase of the campaign, the publisher refreshed content from a previous winter campaign with a shelter-in-place angle. The ads are running across Group Nine’s properties, including PopSugar, NowThis and Thrillist.

For example, a PopSugar sponsored ad, titled “Our Guide to Weekend Relaxation With Your Partner After Working From Home All Week,” was originally titled “Our Guide to the Ultimate Sunday Hang to Relax and Unwind Post-Holiday.”

The second phase of the campaign, “The New Pantry,” launched this week with articles designed to spark cooking inspiration. This series includes the PopSugar piece “How to Throw an Epic Cinco de Mayo Night In” and a Thrillist guide to eating SpaghettiOs as an adult.

A third phase in May will include virtual events, some led by influencers, that celebrate cooking. Lee – who is having her first virtual dinner party this week – is excited to see Campbell’s participate in the zeitgeist happening now around virtual gatherings.

Group Nine Media CRO Geoff Schiller said the campaign’s guiding principle was “How can we create content that is delivered with empathy but provides utility?” Group Nine also surveyed 650 readers about their behavior during the pandemic to better connect with their needs during this time.

Campbell’s ultimate goal with its content is to nudge people who have taken up cooking during the pandemic to continue making their own meals even after it’s no longer a mandate.

“A sign of success for me would be people finding enjoyment in having meals at home, and being part of the process,” Lee said.

Lee plans to study Campbell’s new purchasers carefully, including their key differences from existing customers and product desires that may spark future food innovation.

“There is a richness for consumer insights that we now have at our fingertips,” Lee said. “We want to use this time for deep consumer understanding.”

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