CAMPAIGNS: Dialog's campaign shows consumers the benefits of soy

PR team: United Soybean Board (Chesterfield, MO) and Publicis Dialog (Seattle) Campaign: "Consumer awareness and promotion" Time frame: October 2003 to September 2004 Budget: $902,490

PR team: United Soybean Board (Chesterfield, MO) and Publicis Dialog (Seattle) Campaign: "Consumer awareness and promotion" Time frame: October 2003 to September 2004 Budget: $902,490

How do you transform the image of a somewhat bland food ingredient into a health-promoting wonder food? For more than a decade, many food companies and consumers regarded soy as merely a meat filler. Today food-industry experts call it "the ingredient of the century," and are using it to make more healthful hot dogs, hamburgers, and even yogurt, as new evidence shows that soy proteins might help prevent common illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer. And yet people's perceptions of soy haven't been changing as fast as the products on store shelves. Research last year showed that while consumers understood that soy is nutritious, its consumption remained low. Strategy The United Soybean Board (USB), which consists of 62 volunteer farmers representing the interests of more than 600,000 soybean producers nationwide, is trying to educate consumers on the benefits and versatility of soy. Their goal, says Publicis Dialog team member Lisa Kelley, "is to raise the current annual US demand for soy from 1.2 billion bushels to more than 3.2 billion bushels by 2007." That in mind, Publicis developed a marketing program that would reach a number of targeted audiences, including food companies, manufacturers, processors, healthcare professionals, and the media. Tactics The first step was an annual survey to help determine the types of messages about soy and health that would have the most impact with consumers and food manufacturers, and probe how consumer perceptions about soy change over time. Publicis organized the first-ever Soy Symposium, a one-day summit aimed at marketing executives from food companies that use large quantities of edible oils. To help strengthen the USB's position as an information resource for the food industry, healthcare professionals, the media, and consumers, Publicis created talksoy.com to provide access to soy and health information, as well as an archive of the USB's press communications. The firm also worked with USB consultants to develop a CD-ROM presentation on soy and health, which was distributed at the American Dietetic Association meeting and also can be found on the website. The firm targeted dietitians and healthcare professionals by creating a series of Soy and Health fact sheets on soy and prostate health, heart health, children's health, allergies, and colon and breast cancers. Results Traffic on the USB's website has steadily increased since its launch in 1997, with an average of 25,000 visits per month. Media outreach has scored coverage by Reader's Digest, Better Homes and Gardens, Woman's Day Eating Light, and Men's Journal, gaining well over one billion consumer impressions so far, according to Publicis' tracking. By attending events like the Institute of Food Technologists conference and in meetings with editors, Publicis also was able to obtain multiple placements in many key trade publications, including Prepared Foods, Food Management, Food Product Design, Chef Educator News, and Baking Management. The agency also successfully placed articles touting the benefits of soy product development in School Foodservice & Nutrition, Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery, Food Product Design, Grocery Headquarters, and Food Technology. Sales data from an industry report, Soyfoods: US Market 2003, shows that sales reached $3.5 billion last year. US market share for soybean oil has climbed from 70% in the mid- 1990s to an impressive 82% today. The latest USB survey shows consumer perceptions on the healthfulness of soybean oil remains steady at nearly 90%. The USB has had an increase in requests for hard copies of the Soy and Health fact sheets, which dietitians have reported using in presentations, as well as handing them out to groups and/or clients to help explain the healthful benefits of soy. Future "In addition to what we have been doing," says team member Ryan Simonds, "we'll be promoting an even healthier brand of soybeans under the name of Qualisoy, which is currently being tested to eliminate the problems of transfat the food industry is dealing with."

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