Purina ONE Beyond
A New Way of Telling a Story
Purina ONE beyOnd pet food is an innovative new product line that Purina ONE was excited to launch to consumers. Not only is it the first natural pet food in grocery/mass distribution, but it also features sustainability benefits in the way it’s made and packaged. The goal was to turn people on to the new line while incorporating beyOnd into the masterbrand, including its ongoing shelter initiative. With the right treatment, the beyOnd launch would become a chance to reinvigorate Purina ONE as a brand known for transparency and authenticity.
Part One: Finding a Common Thread
We realized that the product’s name – beyOnd – encapsulated many aspects of Purina ONE. For example, the team that conceived and created beyOnd went the extra mile to reduce environmental impact, and the ONE shelter program established a new level of partnership between top shelters and a food brand by going beyond just providing food and attempting to tackle pet welfare issues. In short, we realized the brand was on a mission to make the world a better place, one pet at a time. The problem was, people didn’t always understand what the brand stood for. In order to break down perennial skepticism about marketing messages and pet food, we had to expose the pet-loving, science based culture of Purina ONE.
You may not know that many Purina employees bring their pets to work with them every day, and are encouraged to take breaks to let the dogs play in their outdoor park. You also may not know that they have a factory in Denver that uses solar panels and a smart light system that measures exactly how much light is needed at different times of the day. It is this spirit of love for pets and for doing big business right that we wanted to get across. When we started arranging the details of the documentary series, it was important to us that it didn’t end up looking like an advertisement. Instead, we looked to find directors who specialized in documentaries, and weren’t used to smoothing footage into a pleasant but glossed-over story. We looked at several directors and, with Purina, decided on Peter Bisanz, who specializes in documentaries that strive to connect people of all kinds of beliefs and backgrounds. His documentary, “Beyond Our Differences,” features everyone from Desmond Tutu to the Dalai Lama to Deepak Choprah, discussing just how religion can become universal motivator for peace instead of a point of disagreement. Not only was Peter a passionate person, but he was humble and hard-working – a perfect fit. The filming took place in three locations – Denver, Boulder and St. Louis – allowing us to show a factory, an animal shelter program in the Purina ONE program, and their corporate headquarters. In the process, we got to meet dozens of dedicated Purina employees, explore the factory grounds and learn a lot about the company. What was especially exciting was how well it came together with only a modest production budget. But that was all part of our second goal.
Part Two: A New Way to Launch a Pet Food Brand
The launch of beyOnd was a whole new strategy for Purina, and it involved a major rethinking of where to allocate money, and when to get customers involved. The typical new product launch in the category starts with a distribution build, with a television campaign kicking in after about 12-18 weeks, alongside coupons to drive trial. Our modern take on a launch turned this process on its head. The plan looks something like this.
We wanted to let people discover the story behind beyOnd long before it hit the shelves, creating latent demand that in turn would encourage retailers to stock the line. By launching the documentaries 12 weeks before launch, and using digital media and a shelter donation mechanism to encourage views, we were able to build a sizable community of advocates on the ONE brand’s Facebook page. We had great success with a sampling program to our Facebook fans before the product was available to the public, which both grew our community and also generated a large volume of completely authentic (and overwhelmingly glowing) testimonials. And to underscore our commitment to “go beyOnd” with our social conscience, the brand gave away $1,000,000 in a day to charities chosen from a list of approved entities by people on the street and in our facebook community. These moves all added up to a brand that was leading with its actions.
We weren’t the only agency working on the beyOnd launch. We worked closely with Purina’s in-house agency CheckMark and New York’s AFG to keep all branches of the campaign cohesive with the central mission. We also helped form the strategy for communicating with customers on Facebook, which CheckMark then executed beautifully. And by telling the detailed stories of beyOnd in the documentaries, AFG’s television advertising was freed up to play a more inspirational role, rather than trying to explain product details.
Our strategy helped Purina create brand advocates for beyOnd before it even hit shelves, while building a strong social media community. The documentaries gained more than 1.8 million views and was in AdAge’s list of the top 10 viral videos for 2011, only the second time a video from a pet food company has made the list. With beyOnd and ONE united on the same Facebook page, people came together over our common thread – making the world a better place one pet at a time. These fans talk about their love of feeding their own pets with the right nutrition and show a passion for helping shelter pets find homes, and they are always eager to jump in and help when asked for input, ideas, and information. The ONE Facebook page now has nearly 200,ooo fans who share anecdotes and product reviews that help propel the brand. In business terms, the beyOnd line has helped ONE achieve strong share and sales growth in a flat to declining category – the only super-premium pet food brand to enjoy such success. And in five months, the beyOnd line has already almost reached its year 1 sales goals. The journey is far from over but the brand now has clear direction and momentum, and is driven by an inspiring purpose.