Pillsbury ~ A Case Study on the Canadian Market

Pillsbury Case StudyBy Ruth Zamoyta
March 2012

Pillsbury wanted to capture more of the Canadian market for their refrigerated cookie dough. My team and I defined a target audience, discovered what’s important to them, crafted messaging, and recommended an integrated marketing plan.

Opportunity is where the market, audience, and brand converge. In terms of the market, Pillsbury was the most profitable segment of General Mills Canada, with refrigerated cookie dough owning 62% of ready-baked-goods sales and yielding 75% category profit. Pillsbury held 85% of the market share and was carried by all major Canadian retailers. However, volume growth, household penetration, and cookie segment growth were all flat. We had to give them another reason to buy Pillsbury cookie dough.

Our goal was to achieve 5% category growth, so we focused on increasing frequency of purchase among users and increasing household penetration among new and lapsed users.

We went into the kitchens of three Canadian ex-pat families with working moms, and brought them a few packs of Pillsbury cookie dough. They had never made it or tasted it before. Across the board, the kids had fun participating in the baking, but were not unanimously impressed by the taste. The adults didn’t care for the taste, and started to make their own modifications to the cookie dough to enhance the flavor (such as putting pockets of jam in the center of sugar cookie dough).

Some revealing quotes:

  • We’re a bake-from-scratch family.
  • I never buy packaged cookies; I make them myself or go to the local bakery.
  • We bake for birthday parties or Christmas.
  • Canadians maintain their food culture for a very long time.
  • At 10 p.m. I hear about tomorrow’s bake sale.
  • I would be annoyed if someone brought Pillsbury to my party.

Polls on Canadian’s attitude toward Pillsbury dough corroborated our ethnographic studies, claiming that the purchase drivers were “easy” and “quick” followed by “tasty” and “fun for kids.” Yet the big barrier was the predominance of scratch baking in Canada. Low on the polls were statements like:

  • It looks like I took the time to make something special.
  • There are recipes on the packaging that I use.
  • I use the dough in my own recipes.

We decided to capitalize on Pillsbury’s reputation in America of encouraging kitchen creativity, marked by the American tradition of the annual Pillsbury Bake-Off contest, first held in 1949 and now with a cash prize of one million dollars. For over 60 years Americans have been using Pillsbury refrigerated dough as a base for their own unique creations, and this is where we saw a point of entry for scratch-happy Canadians.

Recommended tagline:  Make it your own with Pillsbury.

Recommended messaging: When time isn’t an option, Pillsbury can help, while giving you that home‐made experience.

Integrated marketing plan: Paid media geared to working Canadian moms; content marketing through the Pillsbury Bake-Off website and social media (Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram); and partnerships with family recreation locations where kids can sample the fun and moms can see how they can “make it their own.”

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