Comfort in Prego: 5 Questions with Campbell Soup Co. VP Yin Woon Rani

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Prego knows that pasta dinners are associated with warmth, from Italian grandmothers to steaming noodles and the simmering warmth of the brand’s own sauce being poured over the bowl.

But the Campbell Soup-owned brand wanted to find a way to elevate that experience into a timely marketing tool for an era in which experiential engagement and compelling video have become sine qua nons for effective branding.

So Prego partnered with an organization called Reality Changers, whose mission is to provide youth with academic support, financial assistance and leadership training to help them make the transition to college, for a promotion it called Welcome to the Family.

And Prego invited 16 college-bound, first-generation students from the San Diego area, where Reality Changers is based, to have dinner with one another—over dishes involving Prego, of course—to discuss their hopes and fears, to eat and bond.

“We were inspired by Reality Changers and the work they are doing to support students from all backgrounds in the San Diego region – they have helped send more than one thousand disadvantaged students to college,” Yin Woon Rani, Vice President of Integrated Marketing at Campbell’s, told brandchannel. “With their help, the students bravely shared their stories with us.”

Prego said the dinner highlighted the notion that these students feel anxiety and fear of “failing” and that they learned they’re not alone in the experience, boosting their confidence as they head into their freshman year.

“A lot of first-generation college students get this idea that they are alone,” Prego quoted Andra B, who will be attending San Diego State University this Fall. “The truth is, there are a lot of other students going through the same thing. Family is everywhere. Anyone can become a family.”

brandchannel talked with Rani about the Prego campaign and positioning:

Yin Woon Rani

As VP of Marketing Activation, give us a sense of how you’re elevating this function at the Campbell Soup Co. and an example of a consumer engagement you’ve done in the past year as an example.

At Campbell, we are constantly looking for new ways to connect with our consumers. We look to meet our consumers where they are, which could be through digital, traditional advertising, partnerships, in-store or experiential moments. With the Prego campaign, we leveraged activation to support a group of students, and ultimately, those going through similar struggles around the nation, by bringing them together to tell their stories over a Prego meal.

Is brand activation new for Prego, or does this extend previous efforts?

We have done numerous activations for Prego throughout the years. Last year, Prego brought New Yorkers a life-sized Farm-in-Jar experience, which was filled with Prego Farmers’ Market ingredients. Visitors were able to step into the jar and were transported to an oasis of farm freshness, filled with crisp vegetables and succulent herbs. This is the first installment of Welcome to the Family!

As back to school campaigns go, this is pretty unique—walk us through the dinner with students. How did you invite them, and was making it representative or inclusive a factor?  

As a brand, we like to celebrate the fact that people of all walks of life can enjoy a jar of Prego together wherever they may be, and our communications and programming will always support that. With Welcome to the Family, we demonstrated how Prego can unlock the power of a family meal for a group of strangers with a common experience. [Reality Changers] led us to UCSD and the students featured.

First-generation college student experiences cut across racial and ethnic lines, and while some have the needed resources and support heading into college, a vast majority don’t. The dinner set out to help ease the anxiety which many of these students face and help them realize that they are not alone on this journey.

What insights drove the focus on college students, and first-generation college students at that; and San Diego as a location, paired with this brand? Could have been soup, or any one of your many comforting yet essential food brands…

Thirty percent of college freshmen are first-generation. These students are bound by their common experience, yet many are unaware this new family of fellow first-generation students exists. Family has taken on a whole new meaning in 2017—it’s friends, colleagues, neighbors, strangers—and with Welcome to the Family, we set out to ignite a conversation, through an experience that is uniquely Prego, that helps these students feel more prepared and supported for the future.

As your goal is driving behavior change and forming an emotional bond around the Prego brand, how do you measure that—and how do you keep the love going?

Watching the video, you see the realization the students have—that they are not in this alone and they have a support network—just from sharing a meal with strangers who are experiencing a similar unknown. Welcome to the Family, and the notion of bringing like-minded people together to share a meal, has resonated with the Prego community. The video has more than 1.3 million views on Facebook and the comments are overwhelmingly positive. While measurement for campaigns of this nature can be tough, the sentiment and feedback of responses are incredibly encouraging. We will continue to set out to remind people that a Prego meal can, in big and small ways, make life better.


Get more insights in our Q&A series and suggest a Q&A at editor@brandchannel.com.

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