For the love of jam

Coming soon to the confectionery aisle near you: jam revisited. After a year of massive studies to refine its marketing, product offerings and package design, Winona, Ont.-based jam company e.d. Smith was looking to get closer than ever before to consumers.

Coming soon to the confectionery aisle near you: jam revisited. After a year of massive studies to refine its marketing, product offerings and package design, Winona, Ont.-based jam company e.d. Smith was looking to get closer than ever before to consumers.

Throughout 2004, its research company, Toronto-based Brand Leadership Marketing, which also helped mould the brand’s marketing and media plans, polled over 3,000 consumers from across Canada to hash out what e.d. Smith’s line of products should be and determine effective marketing strategies.

But forget about the focus group method. ‘I don’t believe in focus groups,’ says Dennis Barham, chairman of the research firm. Instead, Barham and his teams spoke to people in stores…in the confectionery aisle while they were contemplating a jam purchase.

‘You get more genuine comments,’ he says, because at that time the product is top of mind, and it’s a true-to-life scenario that no focus group or survey can replicate. And moreover, consumers hardly want to wax poetic about food items. ‘I haven’t met anyone who wants to spend more than five minutes talking about any grocery product,’ he says.

‘If you’re looking for the ‘big idea,” says e.d. smith CEO Michael Burrows, ‘I’ve found value in using one-on-one interfacing to get the insight. You catch them in the moment.’

Burrows says this was the first time such an exhaustive study has been undertaken by the 123-year-old company, which also had consumers take home prospective jam flavours. In addition to the in-store point of purchase, the point of consumption is another moment to get the most honest comments from consumers, he adds.

In the end, the main insight surrounded taste, says Barham: Most Canadians found most jams far too sweet. On the product side, therefore, e.d. Smith has reduced the sugar content, redesigned labels and created 23 new flavours of jam.

On the marketing side, they’ve focused on P-O-P materials (designing stand-alone shelves which help reinforce the product) and coupons (learning that this will encourage tasting the product); put more dollars into PR (third-party testimonials resonate with their female market) and rolled out a heavy long-lead publication media buy, which includes female-friendly staples like Chatelaine, Canadian Living and Homemakers. ‘In most other media [they'd] be wasting money,’ says Barham.

Face time is invaluable when building a brand that truly reaches consumers, says Burrows. ‘[You're] getting the insight both from an objective and emotional perspective. [That's when people] are passionate…rather than when filling out a questionnaire.’