Heinz developed an innovative product called Steam n’ Mash™ potatoes, and knew that once consumers tried them, they would truly appreciate them. But how could they best sample a frozen product with a major selling point of being made the way “you” like them? By going direct to an influential group of target consumers via SheSpeaks, the leading female word of mouth community with a network of 125,000+ engaged women.
Steam n’ Mash products were conceived from Heinz’s research that showed consumers love mashed potatoes but consider washing, peeling and chopping to be major deterrents to their preparation. So the best way to demonstrate the value of Steam n’ Mash (peeled, washed and pre-cut potatoes flash frozen for freshness that allow the consumer to steam in the microwave, add milk & butter and then mash their way), was for consumers to try them and create their own home style mashed potatoes. To launch this groundbreaking product, Heinz needed an equally innovative approach to introduce it to market in order to fully capitalize on the opportunity.
The product went from concept to launch in record time – only nine months! . With the reduced timeline, the Ore-Ida brand team looked closely at alternative marketing channels – including Word of Mouth.
Heinz chose SheSpeaks to quickly activate a program, mobilizing a large group of targeted and vocal consumers to build awareness and excitement for the product at the same time a national advertising campaign hit the airwaves and product arrived at the grocery stores.
SheSpeaks targeted 16,000 moms, from their community of influential women. Qualified members were invited to take an online survey to join the Steam n’ Mash program.
Each member received a package from SheSpeaks that included one free product coupon, ten coupons for $1.00 off the product, a free potato masher and an enclosure card with program instructions.
Once enrolled, participants were given access to a microsite designed specifically for Steam n’ Mash products, which served as a roadmap to guide them through the process. This “Test Central” a microsite, provided detailed information about the product, a flash illustration of product preparation, links to program surveys and access to three SheSpeaks discussion forums. Heinz was able to monitor the discussion 24/7 and communicate directly with members to respond to their questions and comments.
After members had an opportunity to redeem their coupons and try the product, they were invited to take an evaluation survey to provide their feedback about the product as well as report on their word-of-mouth activities.
Over the course of the eight-month program, members received monthly communications from SheSpeaks that encouraged them to share their coupons and spread the word. At the end of the program, SheSpeaks sent each participant a thank-you email to convey their appreciation for the thoughtful and honest feedback members provided. SheSpeaks members were thus able to influence the Ore-Ida brand and inspire changes to the Steam n’ Mash product, including the accelerated development of a new SKU.
Heinz CEO, William Johnson, described the Ore-Ida® Steam n’ Mash™ potatoes launch as “one of the most successful launches in many years.” The 16,000 moms were credited with generating an astounding 1.2 million conversations and 200,000 unit sales.
Not only did the program create awareness, but it built excitement around a product even before it arrived on grocery store shelves. Members reported going out and buying the product before they even received their coupons!
An overwhelming 94% of SheSpeaks participants told an average of 8.5 people about Steam n’ Mash products. Members used both online and offline methods to tell their friends and family about the product. Most often, they mentioned that Steam n’ Mash potatoes were quick and easy to prepare, which is the key message that Heinz wished to communicate.
Members were very active on the discussion boards, posting over 8,000 comments to the SheSpeaks boards as well as posts to other chat forums.
Members blogged about the product and their involvement in the program. They posted photos of their SheSpeaks kits and shared their excitement and stories with their followers. Consequently, the SheSpeaks program was able to build an army of consumer ambassadors.
After trying the product, members became loyal customers, as evidenced by the following metrics:
o Purchase intent increased 96%
o Recommendation intent increased 118%
o Brand favorability (initially high) increased 11%
o 62% of participants said they would purchase Steam n’ Mash products once a month or more.
“Heinz has achieved something many might have thought impossible: It has created excitement around mashed potatoes. Heinz Spud Launch No Dud, Brandweek, Dec 6, 2008
This campaign achieved multiple goals for Heinz.
o Distributed coupons to a highly targeted consumer
o Motivated trial of a new product
o Drove demand at retail
o Revealed quick and valuable consumer insights.
o Generated awareness and buzz both online and offline
According to Heinz Associate Brand Manager, Kimberly Lang, the SheSpeaks program was an essential element of the Ore-Ida Steam n’ Mash launch. We were able to gain valuable consumer feedback from week one of distribution, and we leveraged our new brand advocates for insights at multiple points during the launch.”
The enrollment and evaluation surveys, as well as the discussion forum, revealed key insights on the product itself as well as the effectiveness of the program.
Heinz was able to gather valuable consumer feedback on both the product and the purchase process immediately. This real-time information enabled them to respond quickly to unforeseen distribution problems. Early on, they were also able to identify the need to reformulate one of the varieties.
By utilizing the online discussion forum, Heinz was able to poll the community to get a read on any pop-up issues. They were also able to report good news early in the launch, before mass marketing vehicles were fully activated.
In addition to the “potato passion” and buzz created by the program, the valuable insights generated by consumer feedback were used to inform strategic decisions regarding product development, distribution, packaging and marketing tactics.