welchs-lickable-stephanie-fierman.jpgMagazine inserts have long been a fact of life.  The “interactive” ones most familiar to women typically deliver a scent (marketing perfume) or a tiny sample of lipstick, blush, foundation or cleanser.  Boooring.

Now we’re in a whole new world!

For me, the insert became noticeable again with Welch’s grape juice LICKABLE insert.  Have you seen this thing?  It’s crazy!  And clever.  I sat on my own couch and licked a magazine.  And it wasn’t even a picture of George Clooney this time!  Oops, sorry… How’d such an ingenious ad happen? It was sparked by a new CMO, of course.  With sales down, the team looked hard at everything from Welch’s age-old positioning focused on moms to its CPG-typical media mix of heavy TV and Sunday coupons. 

kid-licking-welchs-ad-stephanie-fierman.jpgSidebar: When looking for innovation, sometimes the biggest obstacle can be your own history.  I’ve been the “change agent” in many situations, and it can be very hard to motivate and inspire tenured employees.  Many sometimes feel that you’re disregarding a brand’s history: that you don’t appreciate that that history is precisely what’s gotten you your new job, etc.  It can be tough going.  One of the things I’ve noticed in the Welch’s case is that its new CMO was in fact a VP promoted into the job.  Let’s assume that he’d been there for awhile and that his promotion indicates that he is well liked and respected for his work.  This doesn’t guarantee success, but being on the “inside” can make a significant difference when delivering a message of change.  Fellow employees know for themselves that you truly understand and respect the brand’s history, challenges and realities.  This helped pave the way for this guy, Chris Heye, to succeed with a “nothing is sacred” approach to an decades-old brand and (with a little help from Britney) win big.  Major kudos to him. 

To kick it all off, Chris challenged his team to create an ad that would stop people in their tracks.  JWT subsequently First Flavor, a company that created the first lickable ad using “Peel ‘n Taste” taste strips that dissolve in the mouth like a breath strip, and turned to print to reach Gen X.  People Magazine – with its huge circulation and experience handling odd materials – was the big choice.  The luck came with the Britney Spears cover that happened to grace the issue in which the ad first ran. 

Then viral success whipped the attention even higher with a flurry of news coverage from the Wall Street Journal, GMA, NPR and more.  Based on the brand’s own research, nearly 16 million consumers say they heard the Welch’s name in the month after the ad ran.  The company says those are big big numbers for them.

The most recent new innovation in inserts – also tipped into People – is the one for the upcoming movie, Mamma Mia!.  “Singing” greeting cards and inserts aren’t new, but this one let’s YOU record your voice, too (and suggests you try singing the Mamma Mia! song yourself.  Pass.).

This intriguing technology comes from Americhip, which claims to create “the most vibrant, spectacular, interactive Multisensory solutions experienced anywhere.”  Judging from my first experience with them, and their impressive website and client roster, they may just do that.  

So what do both these mini case studies have in common?  The answer is an ability to recognize and leverage the old – the true essence of the brand, what makes it special – but deliver it for new audiences in new ways.  Welch’s grape juice tastes great.  The calling card for Meryl Streep’s new movie is unquestionably the great ABBA song by the same name.  Neither team made the mistake of straying from these positives: they just refreshed the delivery.    Both are great examples of good judgment matched with a healthy restlessness to stay current and breakthrough in an exceedingly cluttered world.


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