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Ready Baked Jackets: 2014 IPA Effectiveness Awards Shortlist Interview

McCain’s Ready Baked Jackets were the company's biggest product launch in 20 years and used bus shelters giving off the warmth and smell of baked potatoes. The campaign delivered a revenue ROMI of £1.25 for every £1 spent.


Q1. When and why did you decide to launch a campaign?

LK: “The number one reason why we chose to launch in January 2012 is that we wanted to get the product to market as soon as we could. We did not want to wait, or in our view, waste three months to launch in March 2012 which is the standard range change window.

“This was coupled with the fact that from a consumer point of view, it was perfect for a number of reasons. January is a time when consumers start to make lifestyle changes and try to make healthier food choices; McCain Jackets are ideal for this as they have four green traffic lights and are only 208 calories per potato.

“January is still winter, so people still want something warm and hearty and also it’s back to work blues, so people need comforting food. All of which means a jacket spud is just the thing!

“Plus, we wanted to miss all the Christmas noise to ensure we had the best cut through possible, so all in all, January worked best on all fronts for McCain and the consumer.”

RC: “We were briefed as part of a multi-agency group to launch the brand new jackets product into the UK market. It quickly became apparent that there was a big opportunity for an integrated campaign spanning paid, owned and earned channels."

Q2. How did you feel about the original brief?

LK: “From getting the brief to launch McCain Jackets, the team was filled with pure exhilaration and a good level of apprehension. Our brief was a marketer’s dream: to deliver the best NPD launch the food industry had ever seen and to reset standards."

RC: “Nervous but excited. Anybody who has worked on an FMCG launch is well aware of how many products fail. However, the more we found out about the product and how consumers had reacted to it, the more confident and excited we became. Because the product was so revolutionary it meant that the launch plan needed to do it justice.”

Q3. How hard was it to get the campaign signed off?

LK: “Given that product testing was so positive and McCain Jackets was the biggest launch McCain had had for the past 20 years, it wasn’t difficult to get the go ahead to support it with a £6m launch. It was our one chance to change the way people cooked jacket potatoes forever.”

RC: “Because of the solid insight that the strategy was based on, it was relatively straightforward to get the majority of the campaign approved. There was a bit more nervousness around some of the new approaches. For example, the special bus stops weren’t given the full go ahead until two months prior to the campaign breaking.” 

Q4. When and how did you first know that you had been successful?

LK: “The first inkling was when we got distribution (in stores) confirmed.

“But the proof was when performance exceeded targets. By June 2012, we had a product value of over £9 million and volume was 33% higher than targets."

RC: “As soon as the product hit the shelves there was a reaction from consumers – mostly the sheer disbelief that we had expected from all the research results.

“With regards to the campaign, all the above the line activity launched on 6th Feb and as of that moment it just went crazy with all manner of press and websites talking about it. In particular, the buzz around the special bus stops was huge. The sales spikes were also immediately evident so it all added up to a visible success.”

Q5. What was the biggest challenge in demonstrating the effectiveness of your work?

LK: The biggest challenge was proving the future success and payback of McCain Jackets for future investment.”

RC: “With NPD it is often difficult to generate an accurate ROI, especially looking at what each channel has added individually. However, BrandScience was able to tease this result out which gave us great insight into how the launch had worked.”

Q6. How did this campaign compare to previous campaigns by the brand and competitors?

LK: “The frozen category had seen nothing like it before. It was the biggest investment the category had seen in a launch, proving how much we believed in it.”

RC: “The new consumers that the launch bought to the frozen aisle proved its success. The international buzz generated by the campaign also blew the rest of the category out of the water.”

Q7. What lessons did this campaign teach you?

LK: “Know your consumer: identify both the drivers and barriers to their purchase - and tackle these head on. We knew consumers were cynical about McCain Jackets so we adopted an advocacy strand to our campaign since people were more likely to trust the word of others rather than of McCain.

“Challenge retailer rules: we launched out of range window because the belief and the support in the product were there.

“You only get one chance at launch as the newness soon wears off with consumers. You have one shot to get it right.”

RC: “We learned that:

• The strongest strategies have true consumer and product insight at the centre.

• We learned that our sceptics could become our most powerful advocates.

• A campaign doesn’t necessarily need executional integration. Strategic integration with complementary roles for channels can be more important.

• Creating appetite appeal for a food product can be more effective than explaining how you cook/make the product.

• There’s no such thing as a ‘soft-launch’, confidence is everything.

• For McCain as a business we learned that the brand could extend into new markets away from the core area of chips. We were lucky to be able to use the strength of the masterbrand to launch the Jackets NPD.”

Q8. What were the low points/high points of this campaign?

RC: “There was such a buzz about the launch for the whole of the campaign. In terms of highs, seeing sales rocket after the first week of the campaign was brilliant along with the amazing PR that was gained.

“One of the low points across this project was the heavy snowfall that happened just as the outdoor specials were being installed (at bus shelters). The whole thing was about to be delayed but miraculously everything went smoothly for what is now one of the now most famous parts of the campaign.”

LK: “High points: It gave the buyers an opportunity to showcase frozen potato. A launch like this is rarely seen within the frozen category, and this allowed retail partners to do an internal PR job within their own retail estate.

“I honestly cannot think of a low point.”

Q9. What would you do differently if you did this campaign over again?

LK: “If we were to launch again, I would have created and executed more unique ways to drive physical trial, for example, a single trial pack. Tasting to drive believability in McCain Jackets was our biggest challenge.”

RC: “There is very little that I would change but potentially I would leave aside a level of contingency to amplify all the positive feedback we had about the product, and turn this into advertising from our best advocates.” 

Q10. If you could have worked on one, other IPA award-winning campaign over the years which would it be, and why?

LK: “I love the work that was done to launch Squeezy Marmite (Bronze, 2008). The Marmite team faced a challenge we can really relate to at McCain in that they wanted to attract new consumers without alienating current users of the brand.

“The way they involved fans and super-users and integrated them into the above the line marketing campaign felt really fresh and innovative for that time.”

RC: “Walkers, for the campaigns covered in its ‘Going from good to great’ paper (Gold, 2012). As a brand, it wasn’t satisfied with being predictable and familiar and this case study showed really brave tactics. Using participation and buzz in order to drive the brand forward gave life to some incredibly successful and memorable campaigns. The single mindedness and commitment to these is what really stands out.”

Last updated 09/09/2014

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