In early 2014, Nestlé’s 35-year old brand, Lean Cuisine, had one foot in the grave. With a cultural shift toward less processed foods that are fresh and healthy, a brand built around frozen, diet food was anything but thriving. According to Lean Cuisine Brand Manager, Chris Flora, the brand lacked “soul” (Schultz, 2015). Marketing had centered around the product, not the consumer, as it touted low calorie this and low fat that. Lean Cuisine sales had dropped 20% from the prior two years (Gretler & Giammona, 2015).
In an effort to reclaim position in the marketplace, Lean Cuisine went dark for 18 months while it strategized a comeback. It emerged in late 2015 with a campaign that departed from diet-centric advertisements to one that promoted healthy lifestyles for its highly female target. It rolled out new frozen meal options like “organic, high-protein and gluten-free meals incorporating ingredients like kale and pomegranates” (Gretler & Giammona, 2015).
After developing new health-conscious meals, Lean Cuisine launched a social, consumer-centric campaign to change perceptions in consumers’ minds. It released a promotional video via its social channels that underscored the new brand philosophy: its consumer shouldn’t be reduced to a number on a scale, but rather elevated as a valuable contributor to her family, her community, her profession, etc.
From here, Lean Cuisine took to its social media channels with a call to action by asking followers to post “what’s important to them and to truly ‘weigh what matters’” (Kirkpatrick, 2015). Lean Cuisine then contracted artist Annica Lydenberg to paint hundreds of bathroom scales with the words contributed by followers. With an art installation at Grand Central station in New York, the brand sought to reduce the “negative emotions and anxiety women associate with the bathroom scale” by broadcasting hundreds of things that matter more than weight (Kirkpatrick, 2015). For additional engagement, Lean Cuisine had Lydenberg on hand during installation day so consumers could stop by and contribute additional messages to the scale wall. Lean Cusine even captured addresses of participants so that it could mail them their personal scales afterward (Kirkpatrick, 2015).
Given that the rollout was in January, the universally recognized month to diet, Lean Cuisine provided influencers with a 3D printed diet filter for TV and Google Chrome, “allowing women to mute the word ‘diet’ on their televisions and web browser” and giving them “the power to change the conversation with digital tools that silenced everyday ‘diet’ talk” (“Lean Cuisine #WeighThis, n.d.).
Lean Cuisine then hired Grey to develop a broadcast campaign called “Feed Your Phenomenal”. Though the name is a little goofy, the spot shows the brand shifting from calorie-counting to helping consumers maintain a healthy lifestyle while eating the way they want to eat (Oster, 2015).
What I love about this campaign is how, despite targeting the same segment, the brand realized it had to connect on a more personal level with consumers. Julie Lehman, director of marketing at Lean Cuisine said this about the campaign,
Our target hasn’t changed, but what we’ve done is acknowledge that she participates in a much larger life than just eating lunch or dinner with Lean Cuisine. Through our work we found that our consumers are very busy women who don’t prioritize themselves and often don’t value all the work that they do in their lives, and so this was about going much deeper to get a better understanding of what makes her tick and the choices that she’s making (“Lean Cuisine #WeighThis, n.d.).
At the end of the day, Lean Cuisine is what it is. It is a CPG company that sells frozen dinner in a box. Yet, the brand feels like a little more than that now. Do you feel like the brand met its goal- to develop brand “soul”? If not, what else could they have done?
Gretler, C. & Giammona, C. (2015, June 4). Lean Cuisine’s chef’s daunting task: Clearing out 13-story freezer. Bloomberg. Retrieved from: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-04/lean-cuisine-chef-s-daunting-task-clearing-out-13-story-freezer
Kirkpatrick, R. (2015, November 23). Lean Cuisine scales new messaging with an art wall. Retrieved from: http://www.eventmarketer.com/article/lean-cuisine-scales-new-messaging-to-weigh-what-matters/
Lean Cuisine. (2016, October 11). Lean Cuisine night nurse: Honoring Elizabeth Ryan. [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9ymOfbDks4
Lean Cuisine. (2016, September 8). Lean Cuisine night nurse: Organic ingredients. [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Hot3wAoMnM
Lean Cuisine. (2015, June 23). Lean Cuisine: #WeighThis. [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1I_hFwzOYA
Lean Cuisine. (2016, January 3). Lean Cuisine: #WeighThis installation at Grand Central Station. [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGYUiLxoJFA
Lean Cuisine diet filter. (n.d.). 360i.com. [Online image]. Retrieved from: https://360i.com/work/weighthis/
Lean Cuisine #WeighThis. (n.d.). 360i.com. Retrieved from: https://360i.com/work/weighthis/
Oster, E. (2015, June 29). Grey, 360i move away from weight loss for Lean Cuisine. Adweek. Retrieved from: http://www.adweek.com/agencyspy/grey-360i-move-away-from-weight-loss-for-lean-cuisine/88842
Schultz, E.J. (2015, June 26). Lean Cuisine makes a ‘massive pivot’ away from diet marketing. Advertising Age. Retrieved from: http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/lean-cuisine-makes-massive-pivot-diet-marketing/299236/