Campbell’s boosts investment in soup with a MasterClass send-up

The pandemic has turned Chunky into a growth brand, and a new campaign aims to keep up the momentum by tweaking the "manly" positioning it is known for.


Campbell’s is sending up MasterClass and other online learning videos that have become popular with millennial men to get them interested in its Chunky brand and keep up the momentum the soup category has picked up this year.

“SouperClass” is a series of instructional videos designed to offer a quick tutorial on what to do with all that extra energy they get from Chunky soup. Instead of how to remodel their kitchen, make craft cocktails or become a filmmaker, it offers a cheeky look at ways they might clean a neighbour’s gutters, rescue a stranded motorist with kitty litter or design goalie pads out of sofa cushions.

Mieka Burns, VP of marketing, Campbell Canada, says it’s attempting to respond to a COVID environment in a culturally relevant way.

“During the early stages of COVID, MasterClass was one of the leading advertisers for digital advertising,” Burns says, referring to the e-learning platform that has had the likes of Aaron Sorkin, Tony Hawk, Samuel L. Jackson and Steve Martin offering lessons in their respective areas of expertise. “We wanted to play off that in a tongue-in-cheek way.”

“SouperClass” is part of a longer standing pivot away from the stereotypical “manliness” that had typically been associated with the brand. Campbell is instead trying to position Chunky as a product that has “lots of good stuff” in it, so a consumer can put good stuff back out into the world, according to Burns – answering a demand among all consumers for healthier food, but coming at it in a more accessible way.

People would be surprised to learn how relevant soup is as a category, Burns tells strategy, as pre-COVID centre aisle declines have started to reverse. The soup category, she says, is now “hotter than ever,” and that it’s a priority to invest behind Chunky, a growth brand for Campbell.

“We are investing more than we would have pre-COVID, to capitalize on momentum,” she says, adding that there are more households coming in, and it wants to increase buy rates as the number of shops is going down. For now, it is focusing on sending its dollars to digital pre-buy efforts, rather than printed POS, and is shifting away from bigger shopper displays as it temporarily revisits its shopper marketing plans.

Campbell’s has around 80% of the share in ready-to-serve soup space, but Burns says the campaign is less about defending against competitors and more about connecting with consumers in a different way as they consider the category more often.

Leo Burnett did the creative, while Spark handled the media buy for the digital campaign.

An unlikely source of brand momentum came earlier this year in the form of Toronto Maple Leaf winger Ilya Mikheyev, whose taciturn pronouncements on soup caused a bit of a social media sensation, receiving coverage in the likes of Forbes.

The Russian, nicknamed “Soup” and “Souperman,” signed a deal with Campbell Canada as its “Chief Soup Officer” earlier this year, and was part of the brand’s recent Giving Tuesday rallying cry to aid Toronto’s Emergency Food Relief efforts through a social post. The Leaf star, who is developing a cult following, will be debuting his first video effort later this month.