Daily Buzz 2-22-12

Campbell Counts on New Soups in a Pouch to Spur Turnaround

Campbell Soup Co. — which has put soup in see-through tubs and sipping cups — is now shoving it in a pouch as the marketer embraces new innovations and packaging in search of a turnaround.

The new microwavable pouches will be sold under the name, Campbell’s Go! Soup, and will launch in up to six flavors ranging from Coconut Curry with Chicken and Shitake Mushrooms to Moroccan Style Chicken with Chickpeas. The flavors, which are a mouthful just to say, are aimed at younger consumers.

CEO Denise Morrison previewed the launch at an investor conference while updating the company’s plans to revive its struggling U.S. Soup business. The division has been in decline for awhile, including last quarter when Campbell reported domestic soup sales dropping by 2%. The new strategy,first announced last July, seeks to reverse Campbell’s over-emphasis on sodium reduction and failure to reach out to newer generations increasingly skipping past the soup aisle in favor of other simple meals such as frozen foods. (www.adage.com)

Jeremy Lin’s Appeal Is Irresistible in China, Too

Even more than his athletic prowess, New York Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin’s ethnic-Chinese identity is dominating Lin-sanity, especially in China.

Mr. Lin’s impact there is immense, with millions glued to TVs and researching his story online. The excitement was highlighted in an uncharacteristically impassioned plea by Xinhua — the Communist Party’s official news agency — that Lin declare his allegiance to China, and sign up for the national basketball team (that’s despite Lin’s U.S. citizenship and Taiwanese parentage). However, the mass excitement and desire to own Mr. Lin speaks to a wider crisis in China’s sports psyche, making him especially appealing to marketers.

Generally, China has struggled to find powerful sports role models who can match the increasingly international mind-set of China’s younger generation.

Only two figures have succeeded so far — former NBA star Yao Ming and Olympic hurdler Liu Xiang. Mr. Yao, the first Chinese player to “make it” in the NBA, represented a breakthrough moment in Chinese sports as the most visible Chinese professional athlete abroad. Liu Xiang’s Olympic Gold medal in a track-and-field event made him an Asian star in a sport dominated by African and European athletes. Both were also symbolically important for local fans, as relatively self-made athletes who flourished outside of China’s official sports system. (www.adage.com)

Men, Women Favor Same On-Premises Vodka Brands

When it comes to beverages ordered in restaurants and other away-from-home venues, men and women generally prefer the same vodka brands. Moreover, the preferences are also fairly similar across age groups.

So finds a new report on on-premise/away-from-home alcoholic beverages trends from The NPD Group, based on a survey of a U.S.-representative sample of 33,750 U.S. consumers 21 and over. NPD notes that fully 36% of all beverages ordered away-from-home by Americans 21 or older are alcoholic beverages.

The #1 and #2 vodka brands – Grey Goose and Absolut, cited as the preferred away-from-home brands by 18% and 12% of total respondents, respectively — are both preferred equally by men and women, reports NPD.

The next three in the rankings – Smirnoff, Ketel One and Stolichnaya (preferred by 10%, 7% and 5% of total respondents, respectively) – show only a slight preference skew among men versus women. (www.mediapost.com)
Taco Bell Has New Slogan

Adios, “Think outside the bun,” hola, “Live mas.” It is meant to signify a move from the idea of “food as fuel” to food as experience and lifestyle. On Feb. 25, the company will roll out a campaign featuring the slogan with TV spots airing on TNT’s NBA All-Star Saturday Night and then nationally. The campaign was developed by Taco Bell’s agency, Interpublic’s DraftFCB.

Also on tap is a national product launch for Doritos Locos Taco ( a taco with a Doritos shell) on March 8. Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed called it the chain’s biggest product launch ever. (Doritos is owned by PepsiCo, with which Taco Bell has a contract for beverages.) The QSR chain also introduced breakfast in nearly 800 locations in January. The rollout included a co-branded menu with brands such as Johnsonville, Cinnabon and Tropicana. And it’s testing what it calls the Cantina menu, which is more upscale and focused on fresh ingredients. (www.mediapost.com)
Lexus Staying Away From Entry Ramp

Premium cars priced below $30,000 are coming back, but Lexus isn’t biting. Last year, Buick introduced the Verano, based on the Chevrolet Cruze platform, and starting under $23,000. Acura followed with the ILX, which shares underpinnings with the Honda Civic and will start “well below $30,000″ when it hits dealerships this spring. Mercedes is still on track to roll out a family of compact carsstateside.

Toyota’s Lexus division wants none of it. Lexus has just one car below the $30,000 mark, the pint-sized CT 200h hybrid, and it sells well enough. But the automaker wants none of the near-luxury pie, said Brian Smith, VP of marketing. (www.mediapost.com)
Travelers Favor Deals Over Brands

Has the struggling economy and the popularity of daily-deal sites like Groupon and Living Social given rise to a new breed of consumers who put a premium on price over brand? In some cases, yes. Recent research by HawkPartners on hotel channel usagefound that 65% of travelers who booked a recent stay used online review sites, such as TripAdvisor, to select their hotel rather than rely on advertising. Seventy-four percent of the 1,200 travelers surveyed said that advertising (defined as TV and print) had no impact on their selection.

When asked to comment about which channels had the most influence on hotel selection, travelers responded with promotions (Groupon, Living Social, reward sites) and social media ranking highest, with advertising coming in a distant fourth. (www.mediapost.com)
Sonic Drive-In Revives ‘Out of Work’ Spokesmen

T. J. Jagodowski and Peter Grosz, who starred in humorous and largely improvised ads for Sonic Drive-In from 2002 to 2010, appear in about a dozen videos uploaded to YouTube over the last few weeks.

Proclaiming to be commercials produced by the two, the videos include such mishaps as the spokesmen promoting popcorn chicken in a car overrun by live chickens.

“We want our old jobs back,” explains a Facebook page featuring the two. “Now we make our own commercial-things without permission from the man.”

A Web site features a petition for consumers to sign that demands their return. The effort culminated with a commercial that was posted to YouTube on Tuesday and which will go on the air this Monday. “Hey there, America,” Mr. Grosz begins in the ad. “You may remember us as the two guys who used to be in all those Sonic commercials.” (www.nytimes.com)

Marketing Budgets Rise for Some Giants

For the last couple of months, forecasters have been predicting that 2012 would be a better year for Madison Avenue and media companies as more marketers increased advertising budgets. That outlook is starting to brighten further as some of the biggest spenders reveal plans to open their wallets even wider than had been expected.

Of course, those plans could change suddenly if the economic recovery reversed course or a crisis abroad rattled consumer confidence. And not every giant marketer is buoyantly optimistic.

For instance, Paul Bulcke, chief executive at Nestlé, said last week that he did not expect 2012 “to be any easier” than 2011, which he called “a challenging year.” Also, purveyors of pantry staples like General Mills and J. M. Smucker have reduced their earnings forecasts for 2012.

Still, the skies seem to be sunnier as marketers including Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser and Unilever step up spending or product introductions or both. (www.nytimes.com)

Google to Sell Heads-Up Display Glasses by Year’s End

People who constantly reach into a pocket to check a smartphone for bits of information will soon have another option: a pair of Google-made glasses that will be able to stream information to the wearer’s eyeballs in real time.

According to several Google employees familiar with the project who asked not to be named, the glasses will go on sale to the public by the end of the year. These people said they are expected “to cost around the price of current smartphones,” or $250 to $600.

The people familiar with the Google glasses said they would be Android-based, and will include a small screen that will sit a few inches from someone’s eye. They will also have a 3G or 4G data connection and a number of sensors including motion and GPS. (www.nytimes.com)

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