LIVE ISSUE/HEINZ MARKETING STRATEGY: Heinz gets burnt in customer magazine market - Heinz’s venture into direct marketing didn’t produce the results. By John Tylee

Want to know why Heinz is axing its customer magazine, At Home? Then try this simple test.

Want to know why Heinz is axing its customer magazine, At Home?

Then try this simple test.

Put your thumb across the Heinz logo on the front cover. Now imagine

another name in its place. Sainsbury’s, Asda or Safeway perhaps. Does

the magazine look a neat fit with any of those brands?

If your answer is yes, you are some way to understanding why Heinz At

Home has bitten the dust (Campaign, last week). While Heinz the brand

oozes warmth and homely values, the magazine struggled to sustain


Instead, it has been a mere adjunct to the brand’s distinctive

multi-million pound TV advertising, while scrambling for consumers’

attention in a crowded market.

The move almost certainly ends Heinz’s four-year flirtation with direct

marketing and acknowledges that, even in the days of fragmenting media,

it remains a mass-market brand that benefits most from TV


The success of the ’toast to life’ TV campaign through Bates Dorland

convinced the company’s marketers that an ’umbrella’ campaign is not

only an effective substitute for a lot of costly support behind a

plethora of brands, but it keeps retailers content.

’Heinz now has a big idea it can pound home with a heavy artillery

barrage,’ Adam Kirby, the Dorlands board account director responsible

for Heinz, says. ’As a result, it feels comfortable enough to stop

direct marketing.’

Certainly, the five commercials featuring latchkey kids, a single

working mum and an exhausted long-distance lorry driver overlaid with

native African music, pluck-ed at the heartstrings of many a baked beans


For a month after their debut last year, letters poured into the

Dorlands creative department from people much moved by what they saw.

’Those ads got right to the core of what Heinz is about,’ says Martin

Troughton, the former Bates Communications managing director, now a

partner in the relationship marketing specialist, HPT Brand


Tim Ashton, the one-time Dorlands executive creative director, who was

closely associated with the advertising, suggests it hit the mark

because it extended the avuncular tradition of classic Heinz dating back

almost 20 years.

’All we did was to make the same cake but change the ingredients with

freshly observed images,’ he says. ’They were things that everyone could

relate to. We just left out the saccharine.’

According to insiders, however, the impact of ’toast to life’ masked the

turf wars between Dorlands and the Heinz direct marketing agency, WWAV

Rapp Collins. ’The two never spoke to each other,’ a former Dorlands

group senior manager says. ’You couldn’t even get the mailings - many of

them formulaic and pedestrian - to coincide with the TV. Each side has a

vested interest in keeping the other out.’

The announcement in May 1994 that Heinz was switching emphasis to an

extensive direct marketing programme and dropping all product

advertising in favour of ’umbrella’ TV branding was much hyped at the

time. While it may have shifted the centre of gravity of the Heinz

adspend, suggestions that it would be a precursor to an above-the-line

withdrawal were greatly exaggerated.

In truth, Heinz brought in direct marketing as an extra weapon in its

armoury to match the growing power of the major retailers. Their

formidable buying clout and the explosion of own-labels has led to an

astonishing range of products on the shelves, making it harder for

individual brands to dominate a sector.

Some believe that Heinz may have perceived a serious long-term


’Food shopping is becoming polarised,’ a senior executive at an agency

working for a major supermarket chain explains. ’People are dividing

their purchases between the food they really enjoy and the commodity

items they just eat to keep themselves going. Heinz is in danger of

falling into the divide.’

Heinz reckoned it could see off such threats by taking its cue from its

US operation, a heavy spender on relationship marketing, and build on

the direct marketing experience garnered by its babyfoods division. A

central plank of the initiative was Heinz At Home, which was to be sent

to customers responding to promotions. The aim was to develop customer

data while building brand awareness by cross-selling Heinz products.

What Heinz now seems to recognise is that the magazine is a very limited

vehicle for what it wants to achieve. Moreover, the departure last year

of Helen Cahill, who spearheaded the direct marketing programme, for a

senior job at Unilever, provoked questions about whether Heinz’s heart

was really in what it was doing.

’You can see the point of a supermarket launching a magazine because it

has so many products to talk to its customers about,’ an agency chief

who has worked on Heinz business, points out. ’But Heinz makes tinned

foods. There’s a limit to the amount of new information it can offer -

and who is bloody interested anyway?’

Not that everybody is convinced the company has abandoned direct

marketing for good. ’Heinz seems to think it’s got to be either above or

below the line,’ an insider says. ’It’s not yet enlightened enough to

see that the two disciplines can be complementary - and it won’t be

until it finds above- and below-the-line operations capable of working

with each other.’

Mills on Business, p25.