by Stuart Elliott, nytimes.com
October 9, 2012
DECADES ago, campaigns from brands like Tetley and Chesterfield celebrated tea leaves and tobacco leaves. Now, a campaign for Truvia sweetener seeks to make a star of the leaves of the stevia plant.
Truvia, sold by Cargill, is a relatively new entry in the crowded category of low- and no-calorie sweeteners that are substitutes for sugar, among which are aspartame, saccharin, sucralose and, increasingly, plant-based sweeteners. Truvia, introduced in December 2008, competes against brands like Equal, Nectresse, NuStevia, NutraSweet, PureVia, Splenda, SugarTwin and Sweet’N Low.
Truvia is made from stevia leaf extract, which enables Cargill to bill the product as natural. To underline its origins, the brand name is pronounced TRUE-via, with an emphasis on the “true.”
The campaign for Truvia, now under way, was created by Creature, an agency in Seattle. The campaign also plays up the origin story by bringing in a new theme, “From nature, for sweetness,” replacing “Honestly sweet.”
The Truvia campaign, with a budget estimated at $30 million, is extensive, with television and radio commercials; print, online and out-of-home ads; signs in stores; coupons; sampling efforts; public relations and social media like Facebook and Twitter. Some ads introduce products like Truvia Baking Blend, which mixes stevia leaf extract with sugar.
The previous work for Truvia, by the Chicago office of Ogilvy & Mather, part of WPP, helped make Truvia the leader of the natural sweetener subset of the sugar substitute category, and No. 2 in the category over all, behind Splenda.
Creature had been working with Cargill “to help us explore the relationship between great coffee and Truvia,” said Mark Brooks, global consumer products director for the Truvia brand at Cargill in Wayzata, Minn., based on Creature’s campaigns for Seattle’s Best, a coffee brand sold by Starbucks.
That led to a print campaign, which ran in December, centered on the idea that because “coffee comes from plants,” Mr. Brooks said, “so should your sweetener.” Creature was subsequently asked to produce a Facebook app for Truvia with a Father’s Day theme.
Creature was then deemed to be “the right partner to shine a light on the leaf” and convey “the nature story,” Mr. Brooks said. Cargill is continuing to work with Ogilvy & Mather on other Truvia campaigns, he said, like ads that run in Britain.
The goal of the “From nature, for sweetness” campaign is to bring the consumer to what Mr. Brooks called “a natural first-taste moment” — that is, his or her initial taste of Truvia — and then explain how it “looks and behaves like sugar.”
The natural origins of Truvia are important, too, he said, because so many shoppers describe how concerned they are about where food comes from. About half the consumers who buy Truvia had been using sugar, Mr. Brooks said, with the rest being users of alternative sweeteners in those pink, yellow and blue packages and packets. (Truvia’s colors are green and white.)
The benefits of Truvia ought to be “a simple story to communicate,” he said, as the campaign creates a bridge from the stevia leaf to Truvia.
That approach is seen in the television commercials, including one called “Celebrity.” The spot begins with an announcer declaring, “Nature’s true celebrities aren’t always the most obvious” as the camera pans from sky to trees to flowers.
“What nature really cares about is what you have to offer, like the stevia plant,” the announcer says as the camera approaches one. The plant is “small and humble,” according to the announcer, “with a surprising secret to share: sweetness.”
“Truvia sweetener,” the announcer says. “Zero-calorie sweetness, born from the stevia leaf. From nature, for sweetness.” As he speaks, the scene switches from the nature vista to a cup of coffee as Truvia is sprinkled on top.
The initial print ads echo the TV commercials. One carries the headline “The best sweetness comes from nature” under a photograph of a sprinkling of Truvia surrounded by stevia leaves, which from a distance resembles a sunflower.
The campaign stems from research that found “people liked the brand but didn’t make the connection that it was a natural sweetener,” said Jim Haven, principal and executive creative director at Creature. “We want to make that connection stronger” and turn it into “a product truth,” he added, because it is “important to differentiate ourselves” from rival sugar substitutes with chemical origins.
By making the stevia leaf “a hero,” Mr. Haven said, the campaign can “be for something rather than not for something” like the lack of calories in Truvia.
Other agencies working on the campaign are Universal McCann, part of the IPG Mediabrands division of the Interpublic Group of Companies, for the media duties; Mars Advertising, which specializes in shopper marketing; Periscope, for digital elements; and RF Binder Partners, for public relations.
Cargill spent $12.6 million to advertise Truvia in major media during the first half of 2012, according to Kantar Media, a unit of WPP, compared with $14.1 million in the same period a year ago.
For all of 2011, ad spending for Truvia totaled $27.5 million, Kantar Media reported, compared with $29.8 million in 2010 and $40.2 million in 2009.