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Paul Newman-founded firm adjusts marketing mantra to reach millennials

Paul Newman-founded firm adjusts marketing mantra to reach millennials


NYT Syndicate

Newman's Own was having trouble getting the word out about its philanthropy.
The brand has"All Profits to Charity" inscribed across every label on its popular salad dressings, tomato sauces and microwaveable popcorn ” a pledge that has amounted to more than $485 million donated since 1982.
But some wondered if consumers were simply being distracted by the movie star Paul Newman's dazzling smile.
"They might see it the first time, but the second or third time they only see Paul's face," said Bruce Bruemmer, vice president of marketing for Newman's Own."The 'All Profits to Charity' is lost."
Well, the grin is not going anywhere. But Newman's Own is making more of a show of its record of magnanimity, rolling out a marketing initiative aimed at millennials who might not recognise the famous face of the brand and might have little to no knowledge of its altruistic story.
For a no-frills company that has tried to avoid the spotlight ” its celebrity co-founder notwithstanding ” the new promotional effort is an unusual step. But it follows a growing pattern among large corporations to highlight their philanthropic work to appeal to a younger audience. Millennials especially have demonstrated a propensity to favour companies with a generous mission.
"What we're doing is not new," said Robert Forrester, chief executive of the Newman's Own Foundation and a longtime friend of Newman, who died in 2008."This is in our DNA."
Newman's Own worked with the production company Narrative Content Group, which is based in Atlanta, to produce videos that highlight a few of the 600 charities the company works with each year. Three of the videos are released on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube; the rest will be circulated in 2017.
Newman's Own is also rewording and repositioning the"All Profits to Charity" banner that typically frames Newman's face. The new label, which is expected to start appearing in stores in December, will be more prominently located on the products. The wording has also changed to"100 Percent to Charity," which Newman's Own feels is a slight but significant clarification to consumers.
"It's definitive," Bruemmer said."It's unambiguous."
"We give it all away. That makes a big difference," he added.
Newman's Own's charitable endeavour remains unchanged. It gives all proceeds to people or organisations in need. That was Newman's original concept.
"Paul had two founding values: Quality would always trump the bottom line," Forrester said."And if we ever have any money, we'd give it away."
The foundation, which is funded entirely through sales of Newman's Own products and does not accept donations, gave away $260.8 million before Newman's death and $224.4 million since then, or about $28 million annually since 2008.
But only a third of Newman's Own customers said they realised the company gave away its profits, according to Bruemmer. That figure was even lower among millennials, he said; only 12 percent acknowledged they knew how much of Newman's Own's profits were donated.
Forrester said those numbers surprised him, until he took another look at the label and realized that the banner did not stand out.
"A lot of people, particularly older generations, just understood this is what Newman's Own always did," Forrester said."It was this younger consumer that, frankly, we were overlooking."
This did not surprise Jason Dorsey, a researcher at the Center for Generational Kinetics, a consulting group based in Austin, Texas, that specialises in millennial marketing. He thinks young buyers were having a hard time connecting with the Newman's Own story, partly because many of them are too young to be aware of the entertainer.
"This is a perfect example of a great model that is not positioned well for the generation they're trying to influence," Dorsey said in a telephone interview.
Dorsey's research shows that millennials are more likely to come back to a product if they believe it has a social conscience. Brands have certainly noticed. Joel Babbit, founder and chief executive of Narrative Content Group, which counts AT&T, Coca-Cola and Delta among its clients, said it was becoming more common for companies to highlight philanthropic works in their marketing strategy.
Still, when Newman's Own called and said it needed a campaign to highlight its goodwill, he was a bit surprised.
"It was surprising that millennials weren't aware of it to the degree they should be," Babbit said.
The videos are not typical promotional ads, because they do not mention anything about Newman's Own products. Instead, they highlight its partnerships, such as those with organisations that provide guide dogs to blind veterans and a school for girls in Kenya.
These partnerships are recognised throughout Newman's Own's new headquarters in Westport, a couple of miles down the road from where it resided for more than 30 years. The offices are bright and airy, filled with reclaimed wood and adorned with gifts from the charities it supports, such as a bubble gum statue of a puma made at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a free summer camp for children with serious illnesses (the gum was softened using hair dryers, not by chewing).
Forrester said he was encouraged when millennial buyers used three words to describe what Newman's Own meant to them: trust, authenticity and consistency.
When asked what his old friend might say about the company's new advertising initiative, Forrester guessed that Newman would react in the understated manner he normally used to convey his appreciation for a job well done:"Good start. Let's go have a beer."
"That'd be it," Forrester added."That was Paul."

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