Pepperidge Farm, Inc.’s Goldfish crackers, introduced in 1962, had by 2004 evolved into a megabrand available in more than 24 individual flavors and varieties, from the original cheddar to peanut-butter-filled sandwich crackers and crispy rounds. At the end of that year Goldfish sales in the United States were $168.5 million, making it the number two snack-cracker brand behind Nabisco’s Ritz crackers. But despite its ranking the Goldfish brand was slipping; in 2004 sales of the crackers dipped 8.3 percent from the previous year.
To lift its iconic brand out of the doldrums, Pepperidge Farm, a division of the Campbell Soup Company, looked beyond its agency of record—Young & Rubicam Advertising in New York—for creative help. The company charged BrightHouseLive, a small Atlantabased agency known for its unique approach to marketing and advertising, with developing a clever new marketing campaign for the Goldfish brand. BrightHouseLive created a television-focused campaign that featured an animated goldfish character named Finn. The campaign, which began in January 2005, also included in-store and online marketing and new packaging for the Goldfish crackers. A budget for the campaign was not announced, but according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, a unit of the United Kingdom–based market research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres, in 2003 Pepperidge Farm spent $16.3 million on advertising for its Goldfish brand, a figure that was almost unchanged from its spending in 2002.
The new campaign, as well as its spokescharacter, Finn, seemed to resonate with consumers and helped increase sales of Goldfish crackers by about 5 percent within several months of its launch. Media insiders also praised the campaign, using a variety of adjectives to describe Finn, from lovable and funny to spunky and irreverent. Additionally the Campbell Soup Company credited the campaign and its spokescharacter with boosting Pepperidge Farm’s sales in 2005.
According to its website, Pepperidge Farm’s humble beginnings in 1937 were in the kitchen of Margaret Rudkin, the mother of three children. To ease the allergies of one of her children, the industrious mom began baking bread for her family that contained none of the preservatives or artificial ingredients found in commercially baked bread. Her efforts in the kitchen soon evolved into a small business named for the family farm in Connecticut: Pepperidge Farm. The first product, whole-wheat bread, gained in popularity with consumers and in the 1940s, as the business grew, the line was expanded to include oatmeal bread, dinner rolls, and stuffing mix. The peripatetic Rudkin also added to the product line by collecting recipes during her international travels, including European-style cookies that she discovered while traveling in Belgium in the 1950s. In 1961 the Campbell Soup Company acquired Pepperidge Farm. The following year Goldfish crackers were introduced after Rudkin discovered the snack cracker during a trip to Switzerland and returned with the recipe and permission to market it.
Ogilvy & Mather had served as the Pepperidge Farm ad agency for 40 years. In 1995 it resigned from the Pepperidge Farm and Goldfish crackers account, reportedly because of a business conflict, and agency Saatchi & Saatchi/New York took over the account. When a smiling face was added to the original goldfish in 1997, ‘‘Smiley’’ the Goldfish icon was born. Saatchi & Saatchi created the accompanying tagline, ‘‘The snack that smiles back.’’ In 1998, following a consolidation by the brand’s parent company, Campbell Soup, Young & Rubicam Advertising in New York won the Goldfish account. The agency introduced a new campaign for Goldfish crackers in 2003 that included the theme song ‘‘Jingle for Goldfish.’’ The campaign, which targeted kids 8 to 12 years old, featured two scruffy, longhaired musicians playing acoustic guitars and singing the jingle. Television spots placed the singing duo in a variety of settings, including on a school bus and in a classroom. At the request of Pepperidge Farm, Atlantabased BrightHouseLive joined the team in 2004.
BrightHouseLive created an updated campaign for
Goldfish crackers that featured a new animated spokescharacter, Finn the goldfish. The campaign was released in January 2005.
Any parent, babysitter, or other person who had ever quieted a fussy toddler with a cup of Goldfish crackers could appreciate the value of the tasty fish-shaped treat. But with the new campaign featuring Finn, a personable animated goldfish, the goal was to help create an even closer bond between the popular Pepperidge Farm brand and the children who enjoyed Goldfish crackers. As an added benefit, the clever spots connected with the adults who purchased the product. The animated Finn also was designed to continue Goldfish crackers’ appeal to tweens—kids 8 to 12 years old—and teens who had been given the fish-shaped crackers as toddlers but had perhaps stopped eating them in favor of other snacks. To further reach its target market, Pepperidge Farm introduced a Goldfish website, www.pfgoldfish.com, that enabled older kids to go online and play games featuring Finn. The site also offered a variety of activities that parents or caregivers could play with kids aged three to five years old, such as determining how many goldfish crackers tall the child was. In addition, new packaging (the milkcarton box was replaced with a bag similar to what was used for other products in the line) added to the appeal of the brand for consumers of all ages.
In the snack-cracker wars, flavor, as always, was paramount, but in the early 2000s part of the battle was about the shape of the cracker. Pepperidge Farm’s fishshaped crackers were near the top of the list, with 98 percent of Americans surveyed saying that they recognized and were familiar with Goldfish crackers. Nabisco, which claimed one of the top spots in the snack-cracker market with its Ritz brand, went one step too far in its competition with Pepperidge Farm when it introduced its own fish-shaped crackers in 1998. Nabisco’s new crackers were planned as a tie-in to the Nickelodeon television network’s program CatDog. The new crackers resulted in a lawsuit, pitting Nabisco against Pepperidge Farm. The latter alleged that Nabisco’s new crackers infringed on its Goldfish brand trademark. In 2000 a federal court upheld Pepperidge Farm’s claim and ordered Nabisco to discontinue production of its fish-shaped cracker. Later in 2000 Kraft Foods acquired the Nabisco brand for $18.9 billion. While Nabisco’s Ritz cracker brand claimed the number one spot in the snack-cracker market at the end of 2004, with $232.6 million in annual U.S. sales, the company was still looking for a niche in the shaped-cracker market. Nabisco introduced dinosaurshaped puffed crackers under its Ritz brand in 2005. The new Ritz Dinosaur crackers were created in direct response to Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfish crackers and targeted the same young consumers and their parents. In 2005 the Kellogg Company introduced its own character-shaped cracker under its Keebler Sunshine cracker brand, Cheez-It. Rather than a fish or prehistoric creature, however, Keebler Sunshine’s new crackers were shaped like the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants and directly targeted the kids who munched on Ritz Dinosaur and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers. Targeting an older audience, in 2004 Kellogg introduced Twisterz, another variation on its Cheez-It crackers. The new shape, a twisted cylinder rather than the traditional square, was launched in time for the end of college basketball season and included combination flavors designed to please college-age consumers: Cheddar & More Cheddar, Hot Wings & Cheesy Blue, and Cool Ranch & Cheddar. The new product launch was supported by a marketing campaign created by Leo Burnett/Chicago and continued the brand’s tagline, ‘‘Get your own box.’’ With $140.1 million in sales, the Cheez-It cracker brand ranked fourth in the snack-cracker market at the end of 2004.
Although New York–based Young & Rubicam Advertising remained the agency of record for Goldfish crackers and other Pepperidge Farm brands, in 2004, when Pepperidge Farm wanted to put a different spin on the advertising for the fish-shaped cracker and update the brand, it partnered with BrightHouseLive, an agency based in Atlanta, Georgia. BrightHouseLive had opened its doors in 2003 but had quickly earned a reputation for devising unusual advertising campaigns. The creative idea developed by the agency was a primarily television campaign that featured an animated goldfish named Finn. A specific budget for the campaign was unavailable, but according to a report in Adweek, in 2004 Pepperidge Farm spent approximately $14 million from January through September on advertising for the Goldfish cracker brand.
Prior to the creation of the campaign Pepperidge Farm devoted more than one year to conducting market research about Goldfish crackers. Included were interviews with mothers and children to determine what the brand meant to consumers. The company also worked with Character, a leading character-development agency within the film industry, to help establish the personality of the new spokescharacter, Finn.
For the campaign BrightHouseLive created a series of four 30-second and three 15-second television spots. The initial two 30-second spots, which were first aired in January 2005, highlighted Goldfish crackers’ cheddarflavored variety. Subsequent spots featured the brand’s Flavor Blasted and Sandwich Snackers varieties. Each spot showed Finn interacting with other Goldfish crackers as he made plans to help protect them from being eaten by hungry humans reaching for a snack. Finn warned, ‘‘To avoid being eaten, you’ve got to avoid the bowl, avoid the baggies. Cool?’’ One spot had Finn’s advice being ignored by the other Goldfish crackers. As the crackers laughed and jumped into a bowl on a kitchen counter, a person reached into the bowl and took a handful of the crackers. A voice-over stated: ‘‘Tasty Goldfish crackers, baked with real cheddar cheese. It’s a wonder they’re not extinct.’’ Finn sighed and returned to the package to try again to warn the remaining Goldfish crackers about how to avoid becoming a snack for humans. The spot ended with Finn exclaiming, ‘‘So much for fish being brain food.’’
In addition to television spots, the campaign included in-store advertising and Internet promotions on a new website for the product that featured games and activities for kids to play alone or with their parents. As part of a brand update, the company designed new packaging for the crackers. In an interview reported in Business Wire prior to the release of the campaign, Pepperidge Farm’s vice president of youth snacks, Steve White, said that, by bringing to life the familiar goldfish as the spokescharacter Finn, ‘‘we feel confident that kids of all ages are going to love the character as much as they love the snack.’’
GOLDFISH CRACKERS REPLACED WITH COOKIES ON BOOK COVER
Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfish crackers could be found almost everywhere, from the lunch boxes of elementary school kids to strategic placement in the movie Christmas with the Kranks. But when the fish-shaped cracker appeared on the cover of a new novel, the waters got choppy. The book, Little Children by Tom Perrotta, was about what happened in a suburban neighborhood when a convicted child molester moved in. To the dismay of Pepperidge Farm, featured on the cover of the novel were Goldfish crackers. The book’s publisher, St. Martin’s Press, had failed to get permission to use the crackers on the cover, so the book cover got a makeover: the Goldfish crackers swimming across the front of the book were replaced with chocolate-chip cookies.
At the time of the new campaign’s 2005 launch, Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfish crackers were among the world’s most popular snack crackers, with American consumers devouring more than 85 billion Goldfish crackers annually. Within six months of the start of the campaign Pepperidge Farm reported that sales of Goldfish crackers were up more than 5 percent. Parent company Campbell Soup also noted the success of the campaign in its thirdquarter report for the period that ended May 2005. The report stated, ‘‘Sales of ‘Pepperidge Farm Goldfish’ snack crackers experienced good gains due to continued momentum of the base brand and the favorable impact of new advertising featuring the new animated character, ‘Finn.’ ’’ Besides resonating with consumers and spurring sales, the campaign was well received by media insiders. Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Lewis Lazare described Finn as a lovable advertising icon that was ‘‘funny and irreverent’’ with ‘‘spunk and soul.’’