The likes of Mr. Clean, Tony the Tiger and the Morton Salt Girl, have shown us that brand characters can be a key corporate asset. As Kevin Keller observes in his book Strategic Brand Management, some key benefits of having a brand character include enhancing awareness via rich imagery, breaking through promotional clutter in competitive environments and enhancing likeability.
Ironically, in an era of media fragmentation, it has become more difficult to effectively introduce a brand character on a large scale than before, as the investment required to achieve high reach is very high. As we have seen with Flo from Progressive, it is not that it cannot be done. However, building a trade character has conventionally relied on a high volume of television ads perhaps supplemented by other media.
It is with this in mind that I have watched the recent introduction of Wholly Guacamole’s “All Real. No Drama.” campaign. As the market leader in refrigerated guacamole, the MegaMex Foods-owned brand has partnered with BBDO San Francisco to create five trade characters who reinforce the difficulty in making guacamole due to the often unpredictable nature of the ripening process of avocados. The consumer insight behind the campaign stems from a 2018 Google Insights survey that found that 38% of Americans have wanted to make guacamole, but were not able to due to avocados being unusable. The same survey also found that almost 70% of avocado purchasers have thrown away all or part of an avocado because it was not usable.
In an effort to reinforce the convenience of Wholly Guacamole, the brand is introducing four trade characters who personify avocados’ unpredictability in a series of video, banners and social advertising that’s built around a troupe of characters. The creative behind the campaign is clever and well conceived. The characters, as described by senior brand manager Diana Pusiri and BBDO creative director Jason Moussalli are:
- DeeDee the Diva: she takes forever to be ripe and ready, and then she’s only perfect for a moment (but what a moment it is!).
- Benny the Bruiser: he may seem tough with his thick skin, but underneath he’s a total softie and bruises with the slightest touch.
- Serious Susie: she’s a total hardball who just won’t ever soften – not for anyone.
- Mushy Meredith: she’s overly sensitive – too soft and mushy when it comes to just about anything.
- Nervous Noah: the nervous one who can’t get rid of the pit in his stomach. He’s tried all kinds of techniques to get it out – he’s even been under the knife.
A particularly interesting aspect of the campaign is an effort to target users as opposed to the traditional heavy investment in mass television advertising. Diana Pusiri explains the strategy as follows:
“We are taking a social-first approach in our media strategy to really connect with our key consumer with an authentic voice, leveraging platforms that are known for beautiful imagery, such as Instagram, to showcase our lovable troupe. To build on this, we will extend our social reach through engaging media, leveraging premium video partners like Hulu and Freeform, dynamic mobile formats, and high impact display that are more interactive and geo-targeted. These units are known for driving brand awareness and offer great creative real estate to show off our relatable brand characters.”
It seems likely that the success of the campaign, at least early on, will hinge on the extent to which a large proportion of the target audience becomes both aware of and engaged with the characters. Clearly, the data-driven consumer insight the campaign is built on is a strong one due to the reality that avocados are not easy to deal with. What is different here is that the aim appears to not necessarily get everyone familiar with the characters. The availability of finer analytics today would appear to make it easier to pinpoint target users, which is the goal. Yet, it will be interesting to see whether something is lost by not everyone in the general public recognizing a character such as the Geico Gekko.
Pusiri sees the objectives of the campaign as follows:
“Our objective with the campaign – All Real. No Drama. – is to personify the various types of fussy avocados, making sure people know there is an answer to them with Wholly Guacamole. We take the guesswork out of enjoying avocados and delicious guacamole by offering a product made with hand-scooped Hass avocados, real ingredients and no added preservatives. Our new tagline – Leave Tricky Avocados To Us – perfectly encapsulates our campaign idea and lets consumers know that we deal with the unpredictable avocados so they don’t have to.”
While I suspect that before long, the brand will also need some evidence that the characters drive sales, this campaign is a very interesting effort to build brand characters via non-traditional media. If the campaign succeeds in building awareness and engagement it looks like good things will follow for Wholly Guacamole. As such it will be very interesting to watch.