CASSIES Gold: Hellmann’s stays real

The Unilever brand shed its "junk-in-a-jar" perception with a focus on simple ingredients and real food.


This story appears in the February/March 2015 issue of strategy.

Long-Term Success

Situation Analysis: In 2006, Miracle Whip and Hellmann’s together accounted for more than 80% of mayonnaise and mayonnaise-type dressing sales. Miracle Whip, a cheaper alternative to mayo, led with 46% share, while Hellmann’s, positioned around the benefit of versatility, was second with 39% share, but was seen as more of a utility than a food. But its versatility platform was losing relevance as consumers began switching away from pre-packaged, processed, chemical-laden foods, a category in which 75% of consumers thought Hellmann’s resided. The product was perceived as unhealthy – “junk-in-a-jar” – fuelled by its “handy standby” reputation.

Insight & Strategy: Hellmann’s is made of just three easily-recognized and easy-to-pronounce ingredients – eggs, oil and vinegar – the kind of real food the new health-conscious consumer wanted. Research indicated once people knew about the simple ingredients, the product became more appealing to them. A story about real ingredients would also give clear differentiation from Miracle Whip. To change consumers’ “junk-in-a-jar” perception, Hellmann’s needed to take a stand, engage people in a conversation about real food and let them discover the simple ingredients.

Execution: Launched in April 2007 and targeted at 18- to 50-year-old moms with a 42-year-old bull’s eye, the Hellmann’s “Real Food Movement” was a social marketing campaign executed across many channels, evolving over the years. The main themes have been “Urban Gardens” (2007-08), “Eat Real, Eat Local” (2009), “Real Food Grants” (2010-12) and “Real Food Trips” (2013).

The program was developed to promote accessibility and help make eating real food easy for families, highlight the issues and barriers to eating real food and make Hellmann’s part of enjoying more real food.

Results: Hellmann’s had been growing modestly before the campaign began, with 3% growth in 2006, but since the campaign launched, sales increased every single year between two and five times higher than the pre-campaign figure: 10% in 2007, 9% in 2008, 15% in 2009, 6% in 2010, 7% in 2011 and 7% in 2012. The “Real Food Movement” contributed an incremental $46 million to annual sales and has grown dollar share yearly, reaching 53% market share – 20 points ahead of Miracle Whip. Agreement that Hellmann’s is “made with real and simple ingredients” had more than doubled by 2012.

Cause & Effect: Budget cuts in the second half of 2013, the first time in “Real Food Movement” history, led to declines in brand perceptions – agreement with “made with real and simple ingredients” dropped from 56% in 2012 to 51% in 2013 – and baseline sales were down 7% between July and December 2013. But with the return of “Real Food Movement” initiatives in market, first half 2014 baseline sales recovered. Hellmann’s price went up 7.5% in August 2011, while distribution has remained stable and the number of weeks on promotion has been reduced. The switch to free-run eggs in 2010 would have contributed to increased sales, however this news was a major plank of the campaign.

Client: Unilever
GMs: John LeBoutillier, Christopher Luxon
VPs marketing: Sharon MacLeod, Geoff Craig
Directors of marketing, foods: Alison Leung, Jon Affleck
Brand building managers: Ola Machnowski, Juanita Pelaez, Ian Busch, Stephanie Cox
Assistant brand building managers: Michelle Wu, Monica Palit, Mindy Perlmutter
Agency: Ogilvy
CCOs: Ian MacKellar, Janet Kestin, Nancy Vonk
Managing director: Laurie Young
CWs: Brian Quittenton, Chris Dacyshyn
ADs: Julie Markle, Ivan Pols
Sr. partner, group account director: Aviva Groll
Account supervisors: Emily Bergeron, Sarah Kostecki, Stasha Poznan, Mandi Lee, Jennifer McLeod and Daniel Koppenol
Account executives: Alex Pente, Coby Shuman, Terri Mattucci
Broadcast producer: Camielle Clark
Other agencies: Harbinger, Mindshare, Geometry, PHD, Segal