Heinz®: A Leading Condiment Brand Using PR to Promote its Latest Non-Condiment Innovation

While watching the news on CNN just a few days ago, I saw a piece of news that we seldom see these days. It was a news story about a gadget that a leading FMCG (fast-moving consumer good) brand introduced, that is, the launch of the new Heinz Packet Roller.

Watch the 30-seconder advert here (play video below):

This is precisely the best way for a brand to use PR: to promote something that is newsworthy and relevant. As soon as I saw this on CNN, I already knew that this was a ‘PR‘ campaign and not an ‘advertising‘ campaign.

In a recent blog about Uniqlo®’s LifeWear Magazine, we discussed the fourth P of the marketing mix which is ‘Promo‘. As we mentioned in that blog and in other blogs, a brand’s promo strategy comes in many forms. This includes advertising, promotional tactics, social media marketing, influencer marketing, CSR (corporate social responsibility) programs, in-store advertising, and much much more. In the case of the new Heinz Packet Roller, it is clear that PR is foremost in their promo strategy for this launch.

Before we talk more about this brilliant campaign by Heinz®, let’s learn more about PR.

Richard Branson, one of the well-known masters in PR.

“Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front-page ad.

Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

What is PR?

LA-based Publicist Robert Wyne provides this good explanation in Forbes.com: PR is the Persuasion Business.  You are trying to convince an audience, inside your building or town, and outside your usual sphere of influence, to promote your idea, purchase your product, support your position, or recognize your accomplishments. Here’s what the Public Relations Society of America PRSA agreed upon after a few thousand submissions:  “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

For the untrained eye, there seems to be very little to no difference between ‘PR‘ and ‘advertising‘. However, there actually is a very clear distinction between these two marketing communication disciplines. And if deployed properly, each can provide the right kind of impact for such campaigns.

Further in his piece in Forbes, Robert provides a good comparison of these two ‘promo‘ disciplines which clearly outlines the key differences, as follows:

In the six principles of ‘Positioning’ developed by Laura Ries, daughter of marketing guru Al Ries, her sixth principle is ‘PR, not Advertising’. She even co-wrote a book with her father entitled “The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR” which extensively covers this sixth principle. And in the private webinars on branding that I conduct, I share the four main reasons why this sixth principle of Laura Ries makes a lot of sense:

First, PR has a higher reach. If a piece of publicity by a brand is deemed newsworthy by the media, it tends to be covered by multiple news outlets either in traditional media or online media. This causes a multiplier effect with respect to the reach achieved by the brand.

Second, it’s a better investment. Because of the first reason mentioned above with regards to reach, when you compute the cost per view of PR, it ends up significantly much lower than advertising. “A former client purchased one full-page ad in a weekly magazine that cost him $125,000,” says Robert. “He expected a wave of phone calls, viral media and multiple conversations about the ad.  He got zero.  In contrast, getting quoted in the New York Times, Forbes and Reuters resulted in national speaking invitations, calls from new and existing clients, and solid credibility. Not everyone can afford $125,000, but advertising can be expensive when you figure the cost of the space or time plus the creative designs and production costs. And most advertisements need to be repeated several times before the consumer can be influenced.”

Third, it is more active. When a news item on a brand is encountered by a reader or viewer, he or she is already in the act of consuming news. Therefore, the tendency is for the reader or viewer to consume the brand’s news story as well. That’s why when you’re watching content on Youtube, you tend to ‘skip the ad’ because you’re in the mode of being entertained or educated, and an advert, even just an 8-seconder one, tends to be a source of intrusion into your activity, rather than as a natural part of your media consumption at that moment.

And finally, fourth, PR is more credible. Just like what Robert stated earlier, media subliminally provides third-party validation. Since a perceived neutral party such as media is delivering the message, there is a perception that the story being communicated has a higher level of believability compared to a paid thirty-seconder advert.

Extensive Media Coverage

In the case of the Heinz Packet Roller, you can very well put a check-mark beside each of the four above-mentioned points. Aside from the news coverage on CNN, a simple Google search of ‘Heinz Packet Roller‘ produces a long list of links of various news outlets which have covered the launch around the world.

From the USA to Europe to India to Thailand, the media coverage of this simple gadget for something as mundane as ketchup packets has been nothing less than phenomenal.

And a closer look at this launch provides some key insights as to why this PR campaign has been so successful.

A Sign of the Times

What makes this story so newsworthy and relevant?

As we all find ourselves around the world still in the middle of a global pandemic, the incidence of food take out and delivery has been one of the activities that has experienced a significant spike. According to an article in QSR, the “Percentage of consumers who say they’re more likely to purchase takeout food from a restaurant than they were before the outbreak” has increased by 68% among all adults and even higher at 73% among millennials. And along with this is the use of ketchup packets.

In fact, the increase of consumption of these sachets has gone up so high that there is now a shortage of these ketchup packets! “It’s gotten so bad that when I go to McDonald’s or Wendy’s, I’ll hoard those extra packets to bring back to Blake Street,” says Chris Fuselier, owner of Blake Street Tavern in Denver, Colorado. Last April of this year, The Kraft Heinz Company, the makers of this leading brand of tomato ketchup, pledged to increase production of their ketchup packets by 25% to 12 billion packets per annum.

Sustainability

A big buzzword in the corporate world today is ‘sustainability’. In practically all major corporations in the world, you will find sustainability as one of their major corporate priorities.

In our previous blogs on Cotopaxi®, Amarula®, and Del Monte®, sustainability is a recurring and dominant theme which can be expected to become even more pronounced in the medium to long-term.

And somehow, this humble Heinz Roller Packet presents itself as a powerful symbol that “builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. The condiment company said in a statement that it is the “biggest innovation in sauce since the packet itself.” At a time when the world is trying to reduce its plastic packet waste, leaving unused ketchup inside while reaching to open another one is simply not environmentally friendly. “Squeezing out every drop (from our packets) is no easy feat,” admits Ashleigh Gibson, Heinz’s brand director. “We engineered the Heinz Packet Roller to give fans a whole new way to savor their favorite condiment and ensure the last drop never goes to waste again.”

The Heinz Packet Roller in a digital billboard in Las Vegas.

This brilliant brand leaves us with some key lessons regarding PR:

  1. First, by keeping its ears close to the ground on what’s mutually beneficial to the company and its publics, a brand can find itself in a unique position to generate innovations that can capture the imagination of its consumers that is newsworthy and relevant.
  2. The best use of PR is when a brand is able to create a story or follow a story, or even marry both. The Heinz Packet Roller has become a big story because it is following the bigger story of the consumer shift during the pandemic, as well as the heightened consciousness on sustainability.

You can indicate your reason for choosing ‘No‘ here.

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