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
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.