The English nursery rhyme “Jack Sprat” is about a man who could not eat fat and his wife who could not eat lean meat. The inference being, this made them extra compatible because between them they “licked the platter clean.”
Giant food brand Knorr’s latest campaign is claiming that the opposite is true and that the more aligned food preferences are between partners or potential partners, then the stronger the attraction.
The “Love at First Taste” ad, by agency MullenLowe, was directed by Tatia Pilieva, director of the award-winning “First Kiss,” which has more than 113 million YouTube views. The new campaign is the result of insights gleaned from a large global research study conducted for the brand, and includes Pilieva’s film of a social experiment to test out the theory, as well as an interactive site for people to define their own “flavor profile.”
More than 12,000 people took part in the study conducted across 12 markets. It found that more than three-quarters (78%) of respondents would be more attracted to their partner if they enjoyed the same flavors, and that a third would be concerned about their long-term compatibility with a partner who only liked completely different flavors. Furthermore, one in three said that the flavor preference of a partner could stop them from dating.
Knorr Masterbrand senior global director Ukonwa Ojo says that the “Love at First Taste” route was just one of several the brand could have taken following the wide-ranging survey, which was not specifically aimed at relationships. “We learned a lot of things in that study about the role [flavor] plays in our lives and relationships,” she says. “There were a number of different ways we could have dramatized it. We just thought this was one of the more interesting and entertaining. But the message is the same, and that is ‘flavor is more powerful than you think.’”
The next step, Ojo explains, was to help people understand their “personal and unique relationship” with flavor. “Because if we do that then it will improve their experiences with food and cooking,“ she says.
In partnership with IBM, Knorr developed an online “flavor profiler,” which asks users a series of questions about taste preferences and allocates them one of 12 profiles. These range from “Spicy Rebel” to “Melty Indulger” and “Deep Sea Dreamer.” The brand can then make tailored recipe and product recommendations based on your profile.
“Then we went a bit further,” Ojo says. “We all thought our own flavor profiles were so true about us. What we then thought is, if flavor says that much about who you are, and we learned from the research that it does, how can we use it as a tool to connect people? And, we think the ultimate connection is love and romance.”
So, the brand then matched complete strangers based on their flavor profiles, placed a selection of their favorite foods on a table, put them in a room together and filmed what happened. Oh, and the couples were told they had to feed each other.
The spot is an unvarnished attempt by Knorr to reach millennials and modernize its marketing approach. This journey began last year with the touching ad “The Flavor of Home”, which was the first time the brand had moved away from product-specific marketing. The new campaign continues into more emotional territory. The responsibility of stewarding a brand repositioning of this scale is both exciting and a little bit scary, Ojo admits. “Food culture now is pop culture,” she says. “We’re excited about the opportunity to launch something we think could help people understand themselves a bit more and connect with other people in meaningful ways. That’s what we hope to do.”
Knorr is Unilever’s biggest brand, with, according to the company, annual sales of more than $3.3 billion. Its ranges of soups, stocks, sauces, and dressings are sold in more than 80 countries. For a brand this large, the nimble, responsive marketing required today is tough to execute, but Ojo says that’s exactly what they intend to do and has been working with Google, YouTube, and Facebook, as well as foodie network Tastemade, Snapchat, and Playbuzz to help make it happen.
“The film is just a way to dramatize the importance of flavor and help people understand that, but the magic really happens for us when people engage and learn their personal flavor profile, and then we can increase their satisfaction and product experience,” she says.
It’s possible that other aspects of the survey could be used as the campaign unfolds, such as the finding that 70% would give up the right to vote over flavor. Or that 58% would give up having a successful career. Ojo says, “I wish I could tell you exactly how this nets out in the future. We’re poised in the true digital mobile fashion to learn as we go. This is new territory for us.”