A Blog by Jonathan Low


Nov 20, 2016

Who's Paul Newman? How A Venerable Brand Is Attempting To Convince Millennials To Buy Its Stuff

A brand can never remind the customer often enough of its attributes, especially when a demographic shift of substantial proportions is under way and the customers of the future may no longer recognize the name of the founding personality. JL

Zach Schonbrun reports in the New York Times:

Only a third of Newman’s Own customers said they realized the company gave away its profits. That figure was even lower among millennials. (And) Millennials especially have demonstrated a propensity to favor companies with a generous mission. “This is a perfect example of a great model that is not positioned well for the generation they’re trying to influence.”
Newman’s Own was having trouble getting the word out about its philanthropy.
The brand has “All Profits to Charity” inscribed across every label on its popular salad dressings, tomato sauces and microwaveable popcorn — a pledge that has amounted to more than $485 million donated since 1982.
But some wondered if consumers were simply being distracted by the movie star Paul Newman’s dazzling smile.
“They might see it the first time, but the second or third time they only see Paul’s face,” said Bruce Bruemmer, vice president of marketing for Newman’s Own. “The ‘All Profits to Charity’ is lost.”
Well, the grin is not going anywhere. But Newman’s Own is making more of a show of its record of magnanimity, rolling out a marketing initiative aimed at millennials who might not recognize the famous face of the brand and might have little to no knowledge of its altruistic story.
For a no-frills company that has tried to avoid the spotlight — its celebrity co-founder notwithstanding — the new promotional effort is an unusual step. But it follows a growing pattern among large corporations to highlight their philanthropic work to appeal to a younger audience. Millennials especially have demonstrated a propensity to favor companies with a generous mission.
“What we’re doing is not new,” said Robert Forrester, chief executive of the Newman’s Own Foundation and a longtime friend of Mr. Newman, who died in 2008. “This is in our DNA.”
Newman’s Own worked with the production company the Narrative Content Group, which is based in Atlanta, to produce videos that highlight a few of the 600 charities the company works with each year. Three of the videos are set to be released on Monday on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube; the rest will be circulated in 2017.


New packaging for Newman’s Own products calls attention to the company’s charitable donations. Credit Cole Wilson for The New York Times

Newman’s Own is also rewording and repositioning the “All Profits to Charity” banner that typically frames Mr. Newman’s face. The new label, which is expected to start appearing in stores in December, will be more prominently located on the products. The wording has also changed to “100 Percent Profits to Charity,” which Newman’s Own feels is a slight but significant clarification to consumers.
“It’s definitive,” Mr. Bruemmer said. “It’s unambiguous.”
“We give it all away. That makes a big difference,” he added.
Newman’s Own’s charitable endeavor remains unchanged. It gives all proceeds to people or organizations in need. That was Mr. Newman’s original concept.
“Paul had two founding values: Quality would always trump the bottom line,” Mr. Forrester said. “And if we ever have any money, we’d give it away.”
The foundation, which is funded entirely through sales of Newman’s Own products and does not accept donations, gave away $260.8 million before Mr. Newman’s death and $224.4 million since then, or about $28 million annually since 2008.
But only a third of Newman’s Own customers said they realized the company gave away its profits, according to Mr. Bruemmer. That figure was even lower among millennials, he said; only 12 percent acknowledged they knew how much of Newman’s Own’s profits were donated.
Mr. Forrester said those numbers surprised him, until he took another look at the label and realized that the banner did not stand out.
“A lot of people, particularly older generations, just understood this is what Newman’s Own always did,” Mr. Forrester said. “It was this younger consumer that, frankly, we were overlooking.”
This did not surprise Jason Dorsey, a researcher at the Center for Generational Kinetics, a consulting group based in Austin, Tex., that specializes in millennial marketing. He thinks young buyers were having a hard time connecting with the Newman’s Own story, partly because many of them are too young to be aware of the entertainer.
“This is a perfect example of a great model that is not positioned well for the generation they’re trying to influence,” Mr. Dorsey said in a telephone interview.
Mr. Dorsey’s research shows that millennials are more likely to come back to a product if they believe it has a social conscience. Brands have certainly noticed. Joel Babbit, founder and chief executive of the Narrative Content Group, which counts AT&T, Coca-Cola and Delta among its clients, said it was becoming more common for companies to highlight philanthropic works in their marketing strategy.
Still, when Newman’s Own called and said it needed a campaign to highlight its good will, he was a bit surprised.
“It was surprising that millennials weren’t aware of it to the degree they should be,” Mr. Babbit said.
The videos are not typical promotional ads, because they do not mention anything about Newman’s Own products. Instead, they highlight its partnerships, such as those with organizations that provide guide dogs to blind veterans and a school for girls in Kenya.
These partnerships are recognized throughout Newman’s Own’s new headquarters in Westport, Conn., a couple of miles down the road from where it resided for more than 30 years. The offices are bright and airy, filled with reclaimed wood and adorned with gifts from the charities it supports, such as a bubble gum statue of a puma made at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a free summer camp for children with serious illnesses (the gum was softened using hair dryers, not by chewing).
Mr. Forrester said he was encouraged when millennial buyers used three words to describe what Newman’s Own meant to them: trust, authenticity and consistency.
When asked what his old friend might say about the company’s new advertising initiative, Mr. Forrester guessed that Mr. Newman would react in the understated manner he normally used to convey his appreciation for a job well done: “Good start. Let’s go have a beer.”
“That’d be it,” Mr. Forrester added. “That was Paul.”


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