CPGmatters: Sara Lee Drives Brand Growth By Leveraging Shopper Insights

May 26, 2010

By John Karolefski

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion
is a summary of a current article from the monthly e-zine, CPGmatters.

For a long time, Sara Lee defined the competitive set of Jimmy Dean as “other breakfast sausage brands” – and the company attempted to gain market share within that segment. The company learned that its iconic brand
represented only 0.7 percent of all breakfast occasions.

“That was absurd!” said
Philippe Schaillee, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Sara
Lee North America. “We finally understood
that we had blindfolds on and that the opportunity was so much larger.”

Sara Lee studied the need states across the breakfast landscape, which led
to an insight to target the strongest opportunity for long-term volume growth.
That target consumer was the “Chaotic Compromiser.”

“This person juggles raising kids, tending to the household, and likely
has an out-of-home job,” Mr. Schaillee explained in a presentation recently
in San Antonio at a conference hosted by Symphony/IRI Group. “She has
two fundamental, unaddressed needs that go into her family’s breakfast.
She really wants a breakfast that her family can afford, and she has a need
for sustainable energy for herself and for her family. They want a breakfast
that will last until lunch, not something that gives them an empty feeling
in their stomach early on in the morning.”

In addition, telling the Chaotic
Compromiser about the benefits of Jimmy Dean for her family was a priority.
This was done via print, web, social media and in-store messaging and on-shelf

One final step was needed to address some key barriers that held some
consumers back from purchasing Jimmy Dean brands.

“So over the last seven years, we have been able to drive sustainable
growth through product innovation,” he said. “It doubled the size
of our brands, and it transformed the category growth rates. You will see much
more in the coming years from this brand from an innovation aspect.”

“We determined consumers were looking for a convenient weekend breakfast
experience,” he continued. “That’s how the Breakfast Bowls
were born. We learned that some consumers craved really that hot, protein breakfast,
but they were concerned about calories. No problem! That’s how the D-Lights
came into the market.”

Beyond product innovation, new packaging and value
proposition can radically change consumers’ consideration of brands and
translate into a purchase, according to Mr. Schaillee.

“We learned that more shoppers would buy our products if we would
offer a four- and an eight-count package instead of a two- and a six-count,”
he said. “That’s pretty straightforward, right? But to get to that,
we had to test probably a hundred types of combinations with some proprietary
ROI tools to really make sure that we would get to the right packaging combinations
and the right price points.

“As we reinvented our Jimmy Dean sandwich line, we introduced new products
into the marketplace and conducted virtual store testing with one of our preferred
partners. We wanted to ensure that we could partner with retailers to ensure
category growth, not just add more products on the shelf. That’s what
all about.”

Discussion Question: What lessons can be learned from Sara Lee’s efforts
to reinvent the Jimmy Dean brand?

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13 Comments on "CPGmatters: Sara Lee Drives Brand Growth By Leveraging Shopper Insights"

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Dr. Stephen Needel
11 years 11 months ago

What this article teaches us is that if we did our homework well early on, we would have been in much better shape later on. The industry figured out long ago (as all of Sara Lee’s competitors had, by the 1980s) that what’s important is breakfast as a whole, not any one segment considered independently. Yes, you have to win your segment, but you also have to win your contextual category.

Anne Howe
11 years 11 months ago

While I voted for product innovation as the area of focus for Sara Lee, I believe the real answer is insights, and the willingness to unplug ears and understand the situation from a shopper mindset. It takes courage and leadership to get a large company to change in a hurry, so I support kudos for the insights team and those who decided to listen to the shopper and focus the organization on meeting their needs.

Joan Treistman
11 years 11 months ago

Do you remember the lesson railroads learned by understanding that they were in the transportation business, not the railroad business? I believe that is what Jimmy Dean learned. It’s a wonder that they could not see the forest for the trees. And I respect the fact that they are now cognizant of the missed opportunities that resulted.

This is a lesson for all of us. Always take a step back and try to understand the marketing landscape from the consumer’s point of view. We are so close in to our products and brands we often forget that shoppers are not. Their perspective is defined by their needs and wants and how that intersects with the messages they receive through the media and in the store.

But then again, I’m just a marketing researcher who has spent a lifetime, or so it seems, paying attention to consumers to help clients draft effective marketing strategies. And in so doing I’ve learned that it really pays…to pay attention.

Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
11 years 11 months ago

Sara Lee made an effort to find out what evolving American consumers wanted but didn’t have and they began to fill that void with new ideas, new products, new values and new packaging, resulting in keeping many more consumers–and Jimmy Dean–happy.

Ralph Jacobson
11 years 11 months ago

No new challenges here. It is very good to see that actionable insights can be leveraged by a huge company. With all the shopper and consumer data available, I still see most organizations struggle with manipulating the information into actionable insights. If the organization is capable of identifying the actionable insights, even fewer companies actually execute upon those insights. There are myriad tools available to accurately and concisely identify key insights. Corporate culture drives the execution throughout the enterprise, however. It is good to see that lessons learned can be turned into benefits for the company in the marketplace.

Max Goldberg
11 years 11 months ago

The lesson to be learned is simple: Listen to your consumers. Brands who take the time to ask questions and listen for answers will frequently find ways to make their products better and increase sales.

Ed Rosenbaum
11 years 11 months ago

It is interesting to see what happens once we learn what business we are really in. Sara Lee took too long to understand this and the catch up is expensive.

Kevin Price
Kevin Price
11 years 11 months ago
It is totally understandable why Sara Lee might say “we’re in the breakfast sausage business” (or whatever the definition is), simply because most companies define their products in terms of categories…and most of their measures are around those categories. (Does Sara Lee buy movement data around fresh eggs or breakfast cereals?) While it is easy for marketers to say, “hey, if they were enlightened, they would define their business in terms of ‘needs’,” it has been difficult and/or expensive to do so. The sheer volume and breadth of information required to better define their business accurately has been immense. Today, however, mining online commentary through services offered by Nielsen, TNS and others makes such a redefinition not only possible, but it makes it highly affordable. I’ve worked with several of these products for clients and have found the incredibly high value of the information and, more importantly, the insights available to companies to be astounding. Sara Lee is simply WAY ahead of the vast majority of marketers today in approaching their business definition in a… Read more »
Michael L. Howatt
Michael L. Howatt
11 years 11 months ago

I hope this serves as a lesson to other CPG manufacturers. They need to understand how products fit into consumers’ lives, and get rid of the old category management mindset. They will also need to investigate the WHEN and WHERE of how shoppers decide on what products to buy to create the right marketing mix.

Bill Hanifin
11 years 11 months ago

This is a great case study illustrating that earnestly and diligently seeking to discover your customer needs and desires will lead to results–if you act on research responses.

When the Jimmy Dean ads featuring the solar system first appeared, it caught my attention but was somehow more appropriate running during Saturday morning cartoons. Now I see what they were addressing.

It would be helpful if the article had addressed the “how” in this process and detailed the specific methods of research used to gain these insights. That must be of interest to most CPG marketers hoping to emulate their success.

Cathy Hotka
11 years 11 months ago

Quick! Somebody tell CPG manufacturers that their products are purchased by breathing, sentient individuals who possess reason and emotion. FOLLOW THEM AROUND. Ask them questions. Think about the money Sara Lee left on the table by assuming that mom was at home, in pearls, cooking for the 2.5 children.

Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson
11 years 11 months ago

They should read the book “Buyology.” It debunks a lot of the myths associated with buying behavior.

Gary Edwards, PhD
Gary Edwards, PhD
11 years 11 months ago

Three simple, time-proven ideas.

1) Stay in touch with your customers. Their tastes and preferences change. Sara Lee’s revelation is just proof that many brands today are underutilizing one of the most important marketing tools out there: customer feedback.

2) Understand the segments you belong to, and what appeals to each. Brands need to identify where they have segment leadership along with the triggers of what makes their customers advocates.

3) Stay relevant. In a world of growing influence of the Y Generation, your brand can’t rest on its laurels. It might be prudent to re-strategize and take a look at who actually is engaging with your product and brand, who isn’t–and why.


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