Fig Newtons have always played second fiddle to Oreos, beginning when both were Nabisco products and continuing once Kraft took over Nabisco. But now it looks as though Kraft may finally have landed upon a way to spotlight the quirky Newtons family of products and lend them an identity that surely will move them out of the shadow of Oreos — as a better-for-you snack.
New TV commercials for Newtons — as Kraft now calls the cookie formerly known as Fig Newtons — show fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries as well as emphasize that Newtons now are made with whole grains. It's part of an effort to move beyond the cookies' original (and still-offered) fig filling.
"And now, another Newtonism," intones the voiceover in one ad, for a new triple-berry filling. "Never beat around the bush — you'll just squash the berries." The ad closes with Newtons' new tagline, "One unique cookie."
The brand decided it wanted to stop being cookie-cutter, if you will, and depart from the type of advertising done by other cookie brands and "do something a little more cerebral, a little more adult," Tim Scott, president of the Chicago office of McGarryBowen, Kraft's agency, told the New York Times.
The cookie brand is more than 110 years old, named for Newton, Mass. In 2010, after four years of year-over-year sales declines, Kraft brandmeisters decided to figure out how to goose sales. One thing they wanted to do was drop what one Kraft executive called "the baggage of the fig," which isn't popular with younger generations.
But Kraft recognized that, while lots of moms still like to feed fig-filled Newtons to their kids, the real key demographic for Newtons was baby boomers — both because they grew up with the brand as kids themselves, and because of a specific health benefit that many aging Americans derive from fig Newtons.
Figs, you see, are recognized for their laxative effect, much like prunes. And so like Sunsweet, which a few years ago introduced a light PlumSmart juice aimed at digestive regularity to go alongside its harder-core traditional prune juice, Kraft decided to play on the laxative appeal of figs without emphasizing it too much; boomers get the idea. As the Kraft executive told the Times, "We needed to let fruits be the core of the brand as opposed to the fig."
Meanwhile, in order to highlight the nutritive properties of the entire Newtons line for boomers and everyone else, Kraft has decided to feature Newtons in stand-alone grocery-store displays beyond the cookie aisle, where it's difficult to be perceived as a better-for-you product.
Newtons can handle the change. They've seen a lot of it in over a century of work.