Charles Coxe, vice president of narrative, Story Worldwide
Green Giant frozen vegetables was feeling threat from less expensive competitors.
Six-week long research phase; two-day intensive Story Discovery Workshop with stakeholders. And a comedian.
Charles Coxe: “It started with a conversation with General Mills around a potential RFP, a sort of shaking the new-business tree, figuring out what we might be able to do for them. They wanted us to pitch them and we said, “No, we’re not going to, not until you guys tell us what’s wrong, until you give us a problem to solve and we’ll come back to you.”
“They were struggling to sell their frozen vegetables. They were in competition with Birds Eye and other brands that are cheaper, and were trying to figure out how to differentiate themselves. That’s when they came to us saying, ‘We really don’t know how to use the Jolly Green Giant. Help us on that level and see where that goes.’ So that conversation ended up leading into a story discovery workshop process, specifically around the character of the Giant.”
“There are so many dilemmas that brands face; as an agency producing content for them you have to be always conscious that you will never fully appreciate all the pain points they have as a brand.”
“We got a lot of stakeholders together from Green Giant and other parts of General Mills. For these workshops you benefit the most when you have a lot of personalities in the room, a lot of different stakeholders from different parts of the organization. We’ve had clients say to us, ‘We’re not just siloed, our company is made up of silos with missiles in them pointed at each other.’ Where the different departments actively fight against each other because they have different objectives, the idea is getting them in a safe place where they can all honestly voice those different objectives and those different opinions, and make them look at how those things fit together. They can also honestly see how they might contradict each other and it’s an opportunity for everybody to figure out what’s the path forward. They all tend to realize that it’s tough enough fighting against competitors and figuring out their space within the marketplace, and it makes it even tougher if they’re fighting internally.”
For Green Giant, Story Worldwide created a content premise surrounding Green Giant as the “Natural Guardian of Grow.”
“We start by talking about archetypes, which is basically taking the twelve classic hero archetypes and saying, ‘Which one best applies to your brand and how do you fit in a secondary archetype?’
We had done a lot of consumer research [that revealed] the Giant as a guardian. When we were going through the set of archetypes, the Giant didn’t fit into the standard twelve archetypes. He was more of an Obi Wan figure—powerful, a hero, but he doesn’t need to be. He was a blend of the hero and the caregiver.”
“We began metaphor exercises, going through all those archetypes to see what qualities best summarize the brand, allowing them to step back from the same mantra that they’re fed every day, of ‘This is what our brand says, this is what we mean.’ [General Mills] internally thought they were the Innocent archetype. But we had to point out that our consumer research revealed that [General Mills] was not thought of that way. We said, ‘Consumers don’t think of you like that because you’re not [thought of as] organic.’ But they were seen as having some power, like the idea that nutrition is power.”
“Out of this workshop process we created a brand bible. It outlines all the thinking and then produces what we call a story platform, which is not meant to be a tagline or anything that’s consumer facing. It’s meant to be the emotional heart and soul of the brand, or project. In theory, this core of what the brand believes could be the foundation for creative executions for years to come.”
“[For] any company that size, it’s really tough for them to be nimble and to figure out how they can try some things and see if they work.”
“What we came up with for Green Giant was the Natural Guardian of Grow. They’re trying to sell frozen vegetables, but we said, ‘Let's talk about growing vegetables.’ We started there, because they’re expert in growing vegetables, and then we can talk about growing good healthy children and families. Also, Green Giant hadn't talked about quality. We told them that they haven’t talked about the fact that they don’t just source their vegetables like some of the other companies do—they carefully source seeds. In some ways they were very reluctant to talk about their farms because a lot of their farms are in Mexico. The plus side of that is they have brought a level of sustainable agriculture to Mexico that no other brand is doing. They really recruit farmers. They’ve really helped a lot of these towns. All this stuff they hadn’t really talked about.
There are so many dilemmas that brands face, and as an agency producing content for them you have to be always conscious that you will never fully appreciate all the pain points they have as a brand. You try to absorb them as best you can and try to convince them that some of them aren’t worth being concerned about because consumers see them in a different way. But fundamentally, people who live and breathe that brand every day are going to be the best judges of what’s going to fly from a brand level.”
“This got us into this mode of publishing content for them about growing. We set up a blog with articles on how to grow all sorts of different vegetables at home in the garden, which would seem kind of counter-intuitive if you’re trying to sell people vegetables. We focused on broccoli. I was really excited we got them to go along with this because it made total sense for us strategically.
We told them about the value exchange—if you give people this content, all of a sudden you’ve given them great tips on how to grow their own broccoli, and now they’re going to listen to everything you have to say about broccoli because you’ve given them something without asking for something in return. Plus, we told them that growing broccoli at home is really hard, and we wanted to make a point that if you’re a fan of broccoli, if you’re a fan of vegetables, then for that one month a year or couple of weeks a year when you can get broccoli from your own garden, absolutely that’s going to be the best stuff you can get, and if you can buy it at a local farmer’s market so you don’t have to spend a lot of carbon getting it, then you should do that too. But the vegetables in midwinter sitting on the shelf in your produce section? They were picked way before they were ripe; it’s lost a lot of its nutrients while travelling. At Green Giant you pick it and freeze it right away and it locks in a lot of the nutrition. So it sort of gave the idea that for the other eleven months of the year, frozen is just as nutritious as fresh, if not more.”
“[The content program] was a neat way that opened up Green Giant’s thinking into ‘OK, now let’s do something to address the broccoli haters.’ So we hired a stand-up comedian. We had her do a confessional and talk about how she hated broccoli. Then we rallied the social community to tell her, ‘You’re wrong, this is why broccoli is so great and here are all the different ways you can prepare it...you just haven’t prepared it the right way.’
So we put it in social and it got a lot of people engaged. I have to give them a lot of credit, because General Mills is obviously a huge company, and this isn’t anything against them, any company that size it’s really tough for them to be nimble and to figure out how they can try some things and see if they work. This was one of the things we wanted them to just try out. We did comic books for kids with them, and said ‘Just put a little bit of money into it to see if this bit of content resonates.’ And it really did. I give them a lot of credit for being willing to try some things like that because it’s not common for a company to do that.”
Story Worldwide provoked social media activity by hiring a comedian to offer a “confession” about broccoli.