CAMPAIGNS: Soy milk heads to Hollywood to help shed yucky image

PR Team: White Wave (Boulder, CO) and Carmichael Lynch Spong (Minneapolis, MN) Campaign: "Silk Goes Hollywood: Making Soy Cool" Time Frame: June through November 2002 Budget: $470,000

PR Team: White Wave (Boulder, CO) and Carmichael Lynch Spong (Minneapolis, MN) Campaign: "Silk Goes Hollywood: Making Soy Cool" Time Frame: June through November 2002 Budget: $470,000

In late 2001, national soy food sales reached $3.2 billion, and the health advantages of these products were conveyed in several magazines and newspapers running recipes for soy and tofu dishes. But when a poll in the Los Angeles Times dubbed soy milk the worst-tasting food behind liver, White Wave, the leading provider of soy in the US, knew it needed a PR makeover. "When people think soy milk, they think yuck," says Elizabeth Neid, a partner at Carmichael Lynch Spong (CLS), White Wave's PR agency since 1999. "White Wave recognized that refrigerated soy milk needed to look like milk, and created Silk." With its clever name, Silk has since grown from a $30 million brand to a $200 million brand. By the end of 2001, White Wave controlled nearly 80% of the market for refrigerated soy milk, and was being courted for acquisition by Dean Foods, one of the world's largest dairy companies. But while soy milk was obviously a hot commodity, it was still seen as a niche market composed of a loyal band of "cultural creatives." In 2002, White Wave enlisted CLS to help Silk go mainstream. Strategy The team researched its target audience, determining that it would try to attract adventurous consumers between 18 and 49 years old by targeting influencers such as health-conscious celebrities and high-profile nutrition experts. Since Silk already had a place in the refrigerator section of supermarkets, the thrust of the campaign was to place images of Silk in homes, whether through television or media relations. "There are a lot of people who are considering Silk for health reasons, and once they do, they're fans," says Neid. "Our campaign was intended to excite consumers about the health benefits, and put a lifestyle twist on it from a hip, cool approach." So the Silk team went to the epicenter of health, hip, and cool: Hollywood. The team would try to make Silk ubiquitous there, and subsequently in American homes. There would also be a media relations and sampling campaign to let both celebrities and regular folks taste Silk. Tactics First, the team worked with a Hollywood-based product-placement firm to secure Silk placements on highly rated TV shows and in new movies. They proactively introduced Silk to production companies and studios, including set designers, prop masters, and costumers, who helped incorporate Silk into television and movie scenes. Hoping to infiltrate the homes of celebrities who influence Silk's targeted demographics, the team tapped Akasha Richmond - a vegetarian chef who had worked for Pierce Brosnan and Billy Bob Thornton - to showcase Silk at celebrity events. She hosted the Silk Cappuccino Bar at high-profile galas such as Humane USA (a national fundraiser), as well as the Starbucks Silk Cappuccino booth at the Sundance Film Festival. Results Since product-placement pitching began, Silk has secured placements in movies such as The Santa Trap and Two Weeks Notice, as well as on national TV programs such as JAG, 8 Simple Rules, and Seventh Heaven - one of the most consistently high-rated shows. "On Seventh Heaven, the main character has a heart attack," Neid says, "and since that episode, you've seen Silk on the breakfast table." The White Wave website saw a 27% increase in hits from last year, and brand loyalty for Silk is at 65% - compared to an average 20% loyalty for competitive brands. Sales of Silk are on track to reach $207 million by the end of 2003, 9% higher than forecasted, and sales of half-gallons are up 41%. Future CLS will continue to assist White Wave with its attempts to conquer the mainstream in milk buying.

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