Operation Spark: Kraft Reheats ‘Ghost’ Brands


The world’s second largest food company (annual revenues of about $49 billion) is home to eleven billion-dollar iconic brands: Cadbury, Jacobs, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, LU, Maxwell House, Milka, Nabisco, Oreo, Oscar Mayer, Philadelphia, and Trident.

But what about Kraft’s smaller brands, at risk of being sent to the glue factory because of flagging consumer interest or meager ad budgets?[more]

These so-called “ghost brands” are at risk of becoming almost invisible, and — by dint of less marketing muscle — end up contributing little to the company’s bottom line, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It’s a problem deserving of attention as Kraft aims to keep its huge stable of brands relevant in the face of ever-increasing competition for the consumer’s attention. That’s why, reports Stuart Elliott of the New York Times, the company has embarked on a ghostbusting program it calls Operation Spark.

It’s an effort to pump up the images of deserving smaller brands with potential, including Athenos, a line of Greek-style dips, Breakstone and Knudsen dairy products, and the old stuffing stand-by, Stove Top. (Stove Top! Surely that’s worthy of a Mad Men placement?)

Kraft is using a novel approach, treating each brand as a creative project worthy of individual attention from different agencies who might shake things up a little. In fact, the agencies getting assignments have reputations for “effective, rule-breaking advertising” and are new to Kraft’s agency roster.

The idea is to “find ways to be entrepreneurial,” according to Dana Anderson, senior VP for marketing strategy and communications for Kraft. “We’ve been changing the conversation with our consumers because the marketing landscape has changed so much,” she tells Elliott.

The result is that each brand is getting a makeover of sorts, at least from a promotional perspective. A new humorous Athenos campaign, for example, features a salty Greek grandmother who finds fault with most everything — except Athenos products.

Similarly, a new offbeat Breakstone commercial (above) shows a personification of a sour cream container offering up some love to a potato while it swoons to REO Speedwagon’s Keep on Lovin’ You. The tagline at the end of the spot: “The Food Your Other Food Loves.”

A new campaign for Stove Top, supported with Facebook, outdoor and in-store promotions, positions Stove Top as “the un-potato.”

These ads all represent quirky ways of setting a brand apart with a focus on fun — a clear departure from a strictly product-oriented approach. In fact, Kraft may be looking at doing the same thing for some of its bigger brands. The company has recently engaged new agencies for Jell-O and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, which made headlines by hiring Ted Williams to lend his dulcet tones to its voiceovers.

As Kraft’s Anderson tells the Times, “We are in the early stages of transformation.”