Snacking in a Woman's World

Posted: October 13, 2009 by
Ron Romanik

If you missed Frito-Lay's recent "Only in a Woman's World" advertising campaign, you probably haven't been watching the cable channels that are targeted at women viewers. This ad campaign and the accompanying package design campaign was the culmination of years of women-centric research aimed at discovering how to better entice female consumers to try—and stay loyal to—the healthy snack brands that Frito-Lay has been expanding.

Julie Saliba, director, marketing at Frito-Lay North America, and Laura Jakobsen, strategy director at the Hornall Anderson design firm in Seattle, collaborated closely on building and executing the package design campaign with their dedicated teams. As it turns out, there was a lot to discover in probing women's shopping habits and purchase motivations.

"Women were snacking more than men, but not in our category," explains Saliba. "We really had not been talking to snacking women directly." An early qualitative research finding that revealed how much work was ahead for the teams came when they learned that many women simply "fly-by" the long snack aisle of their supermarket. Women avoid the aisle because it is a stressful situation as they struggle with the conflict between their desire to snack and their desire to eat healthy.

Starting with the promise

The team realized: "Eating healthy is hard, especially if you have to sacrifice flavor." Frito-Lay wanted to expand their flavorful, healthier snacks and believed that their products and packages could communicate that brand promise in a way uniquely tailored to reluctant women aisle-browsers. Together, they created a package design campaign that recognizes the inherent conflicts and connections between health, beauty, and self-confidence. The core lines in this campaign were Baked!, Flat Earth, 100-Calorie Mini Bites, and the new SmartFood line. The overarching goal was to design packages that appeal to women who want healthier snacks that don't sacrifice great taste.

Jakobsen recalls that the teams focused on creating a "woman-to-woman" communication style and tone. "The goal is to make women feel like we understand them," Jakobsen stresses. Most of the products in the campaign were in existing packages that needed to be realigned with a new, singular Frito-Lay message. The design firm believed that innovative communication could make women see the value of the products that were there all along, as well as discover new products.

Brand visibility was priority number one. Getting noticed by women who were simply skipping over Frito-Lay products was no small ambition, but that was only one of the many things Frito-Lay was expecting of their new packaging. They also wanted the package design to work in conjunction with a new the retail strategy to help women navigate the category. To do this, Hornall Anderson felt the packages should stand out by separating from the category with an understated visual tone and an increased perception of food quality to differentiate from other snacks crowding the aisle.

"These packages were really shouting at the female shopper," explains Saliba. Looking hard at the existing Frito-Lay portfolio, the teams discovered that Frito-Lay products that appealed to women were often lost in this hustle and bustle. For instance, they learned that the design of the Baked! line of snack foods was not working hard enough to invite women in close to talk to them.

Jakobsen explains that the health and wellness messages of the existing lines were not always getting across. One way to draw women shoppers in is to signal them with graphic design that this one section of Frito-Lay products is for them. "The challenge was balancing appetite appeal with a message of 'healthy,'" Jakobsen explains.

The new designs and retail shelf arrangements create both blocking and billboard effects. The lighter tones, simpler designs, and matte finish bags command attention by staking out a section, or block, of the aisle. The billboard effect comes from the handcrafted cues in the package design and the photography that highlights the key elements of the brands.

A breakthrough came when the teams discovered that women expected to have multiple need-states spoken to. "It's not just about understanding 'a' woman," Jakobsen says, "but understanding all the women and all the issues that they face."

Research focused on women's needs in the category, how they used the products in their day, and shopping behavior. One key element of the package designs that addressed women's needs was creating succinct "reason to believe" statements or propositions to the consumer. Once the female shopper is engaged, new real-life photographs reinforce that brand promise and reassure women that the snacks contain quality, healthier ingredients.

Making it easier to shop

Saliba explains that their research found that different behaviors emerged in different retail environments. Women would often only shop the perimeter of a category because of the annoying visual noise of the category and the uncomfortable feelings once in that aisle. Women felt that the category was simply difficult to shop and bothersome.

The new package designs had to accomplish two separate goals: 1) invite shoppers to venture down the aisle; and 2) help them find what they are looking for. However, research also found that different women shoppers have different primary drivers for their buying decision process. Package design was also essential in bringing both segmentation and relatedness into the category and in determining how the products should be ordered and arranged on shelf.

With that knowledge and while trying to serve many masters, another insight helped guide the retail strategy and package design approach. They discovered that in order to help the typical woman's eye make sense of the whole aisle where the Frito-Lay products might be found, having visual "breaks" is very important. These separations can be created by both merchandising as well as managing the package design between product lines and varieties.

Jakobsen emphasizes that in repositioning these brands with multilayered goals, the package design had to define important elements, emphasize taste "credentials," and build variability into the package's communication hierarchy. While trying to unify the portfolio, Frito-Lay and Hornall Anderson also felt the familiarity of the existing brands was too valuable to abandon.

One way to achieve all the campaign's goals was to take the 11 varieties of the Baked! line of Frito-Lay products and make the "Baked!" element more of a brand as opposed to just a description. The increased size of "Baked!" and the sunburst rays on the new packaging draw more attention to the now-central sub-brand.

Research showed that it was not Lay's shoppers who were drawn to the Baked! line. Shoppers looking for baked, healthy snacks were the ones who sought the products out. The new design is more inviting while at the same time providing the necessary identifiers that help shoppers locate the right combination of line, form, and flavor variation they are looking for.

Previously, part of Flat Earth's positioning was to engage parents who were health conscious and wanted to start their children on a healthy snacking path. "From a design perspective, that had a lot of variables," Saliba says. "We've gotten clearer on what those messages should be."

Saliba explains that what research uncovered was that moms were much more loyal to the Flat Earth products for themselves than Frito-Lay had guessed. To leverage that knowledge, the new designs play up the core vegetable ingredient much more than before, when it was merely hinted at. "The vegetable is now the hero for moms," Saliba says.

Jakobsen explains that the goal of the Flat Earth redesign was to keep the wonder and delight of the products' "taste adventures." Other research showed that even women who bought and enjoyed Flat Earth products could not always recall that brand name when asked point blank. The new design has a refreshed logo, clearer benefit messages and design cues, and added text on the back of the package to engage the shopper and user. This engagement, in theory, should lead to more brand name recall, more interest at retail, and more repeat purchases. Given time in the market and campaign engagement, created by Juniper Park, we deem this a strong beginning at talking directly to women and creating meaningful propositions.