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April 29, 2011

Barilla's Superb "Share the Table" Campaign Empowers Families to Reconnect by Sharing Dinnertime Together

By Jim Bucci

Having dinner as a family used to be the norm for households across the country. Dinnertime together represented a moment during the day for families to connect—for children and parents to share details about their day. But, with our over-scheduled and busy lives of today, with parents logging longer hours at work and children participating in various sports and after school activities, it's harder than ever to line-up everyone's schedule to share dinner together. Now, instead of a meal as one, family members end up eating dinner separately at different times during the evening.

The Italian food company, Barilla America Inc., believes sharing a meal can help people connect. While many food companies talk about getting people back to the dinner table, Barilla, with its roots in Parma, Italy, truly lives this culture—understanding that the simple moments from shared meals with family and friends are what enrich lives and relationships.

When the results from a proprietary study conducted by Edelman's research arm Strategy One revealed that 93% of people ranked sharing meals as the most important activity in helping them connect with their family, Barilla saw an opportunity to communicate the importance of Americans sharing meaningful meals together. To raise awareness of the benefits of creating and sharing meals, Barilla launched "Share the Table: The Barilla Family Dinner Project" campaign.

"The goal of this campaign for Barilla was to build brand equity, to create a presence for us with consumers when they went to the shelf," explains Prita Wadhwani, marketing manager, integrated marketing at Barilla. "We wanted them to have a connection with the brand so that they thought about Barilla. Once we had the results of the study, it seemed like a natural fit for us and really influenced and formulated what the campaign would be about."

The Challenge: Create a Simple yet Compelling Message for Consumers: "The challenge was to make sure to keep the message simple for consumers," says Wadhwani. "During our trial launch, we learned from experience to not overly complicate the message. At first, we asked consumers to make a 'promise,' but changed that message to be less daunting, asking them to 'join us for a meal,' instead."

The Strategy: Build Brand Loyalty Through a Strong Emotional Consumer Connection: Utilizing research that said Americans viewed dinnertime as the leading way to reconnect, desired to eat together more often and wanted quality dinnertime interactions with greater conversation and fewer distractions, Barilla set out to establish itself as the brand consumers should lean on in their efforts reengage in family dinnertime.

"We wanted to help people live better lives and to bring the love of eating into their everyday lives," Wadhwani offers. "We're also Italian—the art, culture and passion are part of us. We don't believe that food is just functional, but that food is about togetherness."

Barilla highlighted women between 25-54 years of age with children living at home, who value eating dinner with their families as the campaign's target audience. But, to build campaign credibility, they needed a few influential spokespeople. They selected Italian chef Mario Batali to speak about the food-specific messages and celebrity moms—Oscar-nominated actress Julianne Moore and country singer Martina McBride—to speak about the value that family dinner play in their personal lives.

"Mario was the right fit for us," she says. "He had the believability and relevance for our consumers and reflected our values. Consumers could see that, believe him and want to participate."

In addition, to Batali, McBride and Moore, the Barilla PR team launched www.sharethetable.com, which contained more than 700 recipes and 100 expert tips to improve the dinnertime experience. Visitors could customize weekly dinner plans, share dinnertime stories and receive customized tips to make mealtimes even better. Participants could also download an exclusive, free celebrity pasta lovers' cookbook with recipes from actresses Moore and Meryl Streep, tennis player Andy Roddick and more.

With these "Share the Table" campaign efforts leading the way, Barilla positioned itself as the leader in promoting family dinner togetherness—offering the tactics and tips for consumers to do so.

The Results: "Share the Table" Campaign Receives Coverage in Top-Tier Print, TV and Radio: Barilla's "Share the Table" campaign landed over 1,000 placements and 187 media impressions. National television and radio coverage included "The Rachael Ray Show," "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," "Parents TV," "Better TV," "The Today Show" and NPR. The campaign secured print coverage in Family Circle Magazine and Country Weekly, while online and blog coverage included Huffington Post, NYDailyNews.com and CountryWeekly.com. Three of the top 20 food blogs—iVillage.com, Slashfood.com and CNN.com "Eatocracy"—publicized the campaign, in addition to top ranked celebrity weekly publication, People Magazine, and top ranked daily newspaper the Wall Street Journal. Over 105 blog posts discussed the importance of family dinner, while a roundtable with 20 influencers in June 2009 sparked new research regarding parents and children's dinnertime viewpoints.

Secrets of Success: Read on as Wadhwani offers more tips and explains why this campaign won the Grand Prize Award at the 2011 Bulldog Awards for Excellence in Media Relations and Publicity.

Utilize every tool available, not just public relations: "What worked for us was the 360 approach," she says. "It wasn't just public relations, but all the other marketing tools and levers in the toolbox to get consumers to engage with the campaign."

Team with a partner to forge greater credibility and relevance: "We also engaged a media partner in Family Circle," she offers. "That worked well for us and helped us to build credibility." In partnership with Family Circle, Barilla conducted a new research survey to expand upon their initial findings, centering around parents' versus children's views on dinnertime.

Promote messaging to engage with consumers and expand the dialogue: "We used cause-related messages to open up the dialogue," she explains. Messages relayed included educating consumers about the benefits of family meals, engaging the campaign's target audience in discussion about food and culture and empowering them to have more meaningful dinners together by providing them with the tools and opportunities to do so.

Winner's Profile:

Based in Parma, Italy and originally established in 1877, Barilla America Inc. is one of today's top Italian food companies. The company has been managed for over 130 years by one family and is now run by the fourth generation. Barilla's U.S.-based headquarters are located in Bannockburn, Illinois.

Comments

Barilla gets B2C messaging right!

It's truly refreshing to see companies that understand how to connect with customers through relationships.

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