“We’re in a crowded category. We’re not a huge brand. We don’t have $10 million to spend on media, so we have to grab attention.”
That’s the unvarnished rationale offered by Victoria Fiore, director of brand strategy and mission at baby food company Plum Organics, to justify the company’s latest eyebrow-raising campaign, “Do Your Part(ner).” Equal parts shocking and suggestive, the campaign delves into the very real issues of stress and fatigue that plague new parents. It also happens to embrace a line of thinking that Fiore finds deeply funny.
“A baby food brand wants you to have more sex to have more babies to help the bottom line. I think that’s hilarious,” she says.
The seeds for “Do Your Part(ner)” were planted two years ago when Plum Organics launched a separate initiative, “Parenting Unfiltered,” which was meant to reflect the raw reality of raising a newborn. The campaign conveyed that it’s an amazing time to grow as a person and a family, but there are also many challenges that create a lot of negative feelings people are often afraid to express. Plus, there’s a ton of messaging about parenthood that can make first-timers feel like poor providers.
The insight that Plum Organics gained with “Parenting Unfiltered” was that new parents are guilt-ridden, Fiore says. “There’s this constant sense of falling short because of our Instagram culture and everything that’s out there.”
The resounding success of “Parenting Unfiltered” convinced Fiore’s team to continue with the theme for their next big campaign. They decided to go where no baby food company had gone before: the bedroom.
It was a big risk, but one that suggested the possibility of a big reward. Or, as Fiore says, “If we do this tastefully, tactfully and in a way that is really insight-driven, we definitely have a green light to start this conversation. And it’s great for the brand. It’s memorable. It’s ownable. It’s quote-unquote emote-able.”
The project began by polling parents about their relationships through a survey developed on the advice of their PR firm, Hunter Public Relations. What they found confirmed their suspicions that, for many new parents, intimacy is a concern. Seventy percent of millennial parents, for instance, said they feel guilty when they’re away from their child for a night out with their partner, while nearly 70% of all parents with a significant other talk about their kids the majority of the time they’re alone together. More than one-third of parents reported the thing they do most in their bed besides sleeping is catching up on news or social media.
Using that data, Plum Organics patterned a digital campaign to address these pent-up feelings.
“The idea was to have a celebrity go from room to room narrating an experience that we’re all so familiar with of what really happens behind closed doors when you’re a parent in the evening,” with a playful non-shaming tone, Fiore says.
Through their agency of record, Something Massive, they were able to bring aboard actress
“On the long list of what your children need, parents who attend to their relationship as adults and as a couple should feature prominently,” she says in the video. “This is not about adding another thing to your list. This is about giving yourself the permission to care about yourself.”
After going through all the campaign content, viewers were asked to take a pledge affirming they would prioritize their own well-being and relationship health. Visitors who click the pledge are then directed through a series of prompts that help them carve out personal time in their life before contacting their significant others via e-mail to make a similar commitment.
Finally, Plum Organics enlisted a network of influencers, including mommy bloggers and relationship experts to personalize the experiences shown to be common in the survey and reflected in the campaign content. This brought a deeper layer of realness to the message that was lacking at the brand level.
Timed to launch around Valentine’s Day, the campaign went live on Feb. 7. Surpassing the team’s expectations, it generated 11.8 million total video views, widespread industry recognition and overwhelmingly positive feedback from parents on social media. Sample comments ranged from, “this is so us!” to, “best ad ever, I’ll be sure to remember it in six months when I start buying my now-newborn food.”
The pledge, which took several steps to finish, had “incredible completion rates,” Fiore says. More than two-thirds of visitors who started it completed it, and more than one-third of all pledge-takers finished it more than once.
“There are obviously lots of conversion statistics, but it’s also nice to use your marketing dollars to make somebody’s life a tiny bit better as opposed to just sell a product,” Fiore says.
The provocative campaign also proved to be largely free from controversy. While “Do Your Part(ner)” was being developed, Fiore’s team agonized over how to present the content in a way that was suggestive without being offensive.
“I was worried about striking the right balance,” Fiore says. “The truth is we were constantly stressed about it. We knew we wanted to be real, but sometimes in being real, you can say things people aren’t ready to hear.”
To that end, they largely succeeded, according to Bonnie Ulman, chief insights and planning officer and director of branding at PR agency M Booth.
“I tip my hat to the brand’s courage and commitment to expanding the conversation with parents beyond just baby food,” Ulman says. “They have boldly gone beyond messaging about organics and nutrition by addressing a pain point for parents wholly unrelated to food.
“The balance is always that line between how far we can push creative to disrupt and engage without leaning so far over the line that the consumer loses the thread and can’t find their way back to the product or brand.”