CASSIES Silver: Oka’s dual-market strategies

The brand took a two-pronged approach to break into Ontario and also reposition itself in Quebec as a daily cheese.

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term

Situation Analysis: Oka cheese is a well-established brand in Quebec (70% of current sales), and has been gaining traction in Ontario (15% of current sales). After a few years of modest growth, Agropur Signature wanted a sales increase of 40% in 2014, with the growth to come from both Quebec and Ontario. With 95%+ brand awareness in Quebec, the objective there was to reposition Oka as a daily cheese (as opposed to a cheese for special occasions only), whereas in Ontario, the objective was to recruit special occasion cheese consumers.

Insight & Strategy: Because of the different stages of brand evolution, two distinct strategies were sought. Past communication in Quebec had highlighted the “century of craftsmanship,” positioning the brand for special occasions. With Quebecers already eating three times more fine cheese than Ontarians, growth could come from broadening consumption into snacking, meaning repositioning the brand and turning its back on some of its heritage and brand equity.

In Ontario, growth would come from targeting foodies and getting onto their special occasion cheese tray. Research highlighted two major contradicting forces which influence Ontario food lovers: many were looking to show openness to the world and sophistication, but, due to environmentalism, there was a strong movement toward locally produced food. This led to the insight that Quebec offers the best value of distinct culture for the least amount of kilometres, expressed through the tagline, “Quebec’s original treasure, since 1863.”

Execution: Launched in January 2014, primarily on television, in Quebec the communication adopted a tone and media strategy similar to those used for consumer packaged goods, depicting the brand in more everyday situations, a major pivot from “monk’s heritage of a century of craftsmanship.”

In Ontario, the execution was explicit about Oka’s Quebec origins with the message, “Oka, now available in Ontario.” In Quebec, the media buy focused more heavily on non-meal time slots, making Oka much more present during breakfast and late-snacking hours. In Ontario, focus on food-related programming made it easier to reach foodies.

Results: Between Jan. 12 and May 3 the national volume of Oka increased by 42% vs. the same period in 2013. The growth came from both markets, with a 35% growth in volume in the highly saturated market of Quebec and an 86% increase in volume in Ontario. During the same period, the deli cheese category grew only 5%, with Oka outpacing the industry by more than eight times, while, in Ontario, the 86% volume growth outpaced the market more than twentyfold. Coming from an incremental advertising investment of $2 million in 2014, Oka experienced a topline sales ROI of more than 80:1.

Cause & Effect: During the launch portion of the campaign (Jan. 13 to March 1, 2014), the growth in baseline sales (volume not linked to flyer presence, additional discounts or in-store sampling) was 49% at major Quebec chains. Despite the new tagline, “Now available in Ontario,” Oka cheese was already widely available in the market.

Client: Agropur
Agency: Lg2
Partner, VP/CD: Marc Fortin
Creative team: Martin Cinq-Mars, Stuart MacMillan, Jean Landry
Strategic planners: Stéphane Mailhiot, Jason Chaney
Client services: Julie Dubé, Élise Beauchemin, Brigitte Leblanc Fortin
Illustrator: Maurice Gervais
Director: Emmanuel Hoss-Desmarais
DOP: Nicolas Bolduc
Production: 401 – Quatre Zero Un
Head of broadcast production: Johanne Pelland
Post-production: Vision Globale
Sound studio: Boogie Studio
Media agency: Vizeum
Print producer: Lg2fabrique