15 February 2010

Is Emerald Nuts?

Last week's Super Bowl advertising disappointed many of us. You can watch all the ads here and see a roundup of industry reaction here.

Emerald Nuts "Awesomer"

One of my personal disappointments was Emerald Nuts. It's a great brand that did some great advertising in past Super Bowls, notably the Robert Goulet ad. This year, however, their message was "Awesomer" but their strategy was not: Use the Super Bowl to tell people they can enjoy two kinds of snacks, Emerald Nuts and Pop Secret Popcorn.

The strategy was nuts

So why was this wrong strategically?

Two different brand names. A typical measure of effectiveness for a :30 TV ad is brand linkage, or the ability of a consumer to remember the brand name to buy. Most Super Bowl ads struggle to communicate just one brand; two is doubly difficult. All the more so when they are...

Two different products. Someone online wrote that these are peanuts and popcorn, not diapers and chainsaws. They're both snack foods so what's the big deal? It's a fair point. But while you can expect people to eat them at the same time, will a :30 TV spot convince them to buy them at the same time? No, because they offer...

No clear selling proposition. Let's face it, most food advertising literally says "this tastes good". (In this case they at least put an acrobatic twist on the usual bite and smile.) The Robert Goulet ad was much more specific, selling Emerald Nuts as a mid-afternoon, energy-boosting snack.

So what were they trying to do?

Taking a closer look, it's important to note for the umpteenth time that marketing does not live by TV alone.

As one blogger observed, Emerald spends about a fifth of their marketing budget on thirty seconds of Super Bowl advertising. To judge based on this investment alone would suggest a flawed strategy.

It appears their strategy is much more balanced, however. According to various published reports, they built a lot of other activity around the Super Bowl. FSI coupon. Trade circulars like the one above. Consumer promotion. Online activity. Working with their agency they appear to have built a through-the-line program around the Super Bowl as an event. No brain surgery there.

Did they succeed?

They claim to have succeeded: check out this press release issued on 8 February 2010, the day after the game. They cite sales results through the period ending 23 January and lots of other results. The only point we might dispute is whether the "Awesomer" commercial was "groundbreaking".

We can't dispute, however, the importance of all the other channels utilized. I still don't think the TV commercial was very good. By the time it ran, however, it appears Emerald had driven all the sales they needed. That's never crazy.


  1. Thanks for the perspective, Steve and thanks for linking to my own post on this topic. We've all had clients who want two offers in a single ad and here is a textbook case of what's wrong with that.

    And Emerald's management seems to be continuing their self-delusional post analysis... the year I reported it they were attributing their entire yearly sales increase to the single Super Bowl ad.

  2. Back atcha, Otis. I like your blog!

    Soon I'll post about the "halo" effect -- guidelines for when a single ad can benefit more than one product.

  3. Steve, great article. I have to agree that this ad was a (belly) flop.

    While they may have done a good job of pre-game PR, it will be interesting to see how much sales increase after showing this commercial.

    I wrote a little more about it here:


  4. I agree completely. I really enjoyed reading your article and found the supporting info and links refreshing. Thanks!

  5. David: I loved your post and just Tweeted a link to it. See @SteveS1.

    Mandy: You have a great website!


  6. Thanks Steve, I'm new to this so really appreciate it!