Heinz pasta sauce: a narcissistic apology or a desired product?

Olga Keating
Market Research Manager
Here is a new product released by Heinz last year. 150 years later they release what seems to be a logical brand extension – pasta sauces. For the most part I like the ad but there is something about it that's rubbing me the wrong way but I can't quite put my finger on it.
It was when I read this article by Mark Ritson I realized what it was. While the tagline "150 years late, 7 ways to apologise" is clever, it takes place at the expense of something very important – the consumer benefit, the what's in it for me.
Heinz should stop talking about its internal processes and focus instead on what the sauce does for the target consumer and her pasta.
— Mark Ritson
Ritson goes on to explain just how important the 3 C's are in positioning: Company (what the product is), Competitors (how is it better than the others) and Customer (what is the benefit to the target audience). Miss one of those and almost certainly miss your consumer. Also the public apology band wagon has gotten so out of hand that it casts a shadow of negativity over this otherwise lighthearted comm.
So is this actually true when it comes to the masses? Will it affect purchase intent? We tested the ad to find out.
METHODOLOGY

Stimuli:
The idea of pasta sauce range by Heinz.

Target: A national representative sample of Brits between 18 and 65 y.o.

Research solution: We used the Concept test solution on the Fastuna platform. Online panel respondents were sent a survey link to their email. After seeing this ad, they answered our survey questions. We added a couple of bespoke questions about their usage of ready-made pasta sauces.

Happy to try a new pasta sauce, but not that happy

The combined score is slightly below average, only 67. Majority of people found it appealing and credible, which means that they are not rejecting the idea of another pasta sauce manufactured by Heinz. However, the excitement and anticipation suggested by the ad doesn't seem to be reflected in the sentiment coming through in the open ended answers. The consumers seem to feel rather lukewarm towards the idea.
Nice to have a new variety but from a trusted brand. Female, 64
The combined score is slightly below average, only 67. See the full report →
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Is this really what people were missing for 150 years?

The ad is interesting and grabs attention. The concise tagline makes you want to read it, but is the 150 year 'delay' in the launch of pasta sauces enough to hang the whole campaign on?
Seemingly not. With the rest of the scores in the yellow and red zone, uniqueness and relevance are especially low. If you are not the one thinking about when Heinz was finally going to release their pasta sauces already, you probably would not find the angle speaks to you.
I'm sure that inside Heinz and its agency the fact the company had never launched a pasta sauce is an amazing omission. But not a single target customer has ever thought about this. Nor is it any reason for them to buy the product now that it has been launched "150 years late".
— Mark Ritson
So the desire to tell others is also low. Additionally we see that apologising is a step too far, too dramatic, too irrelevant as shown by the low relevance score.
I don't understand what the point about apologising is. – Male, 31
But! Does the brand have enough legacy to carry the interest over from this ad into trying?

Conclusion

So while Mark was spot on about the ad, he was also right about the brand legacy:
Extending the Heinz brand ensures the new product can lean on a century of trust and quality along with a rich array of distinctive assets that instantly come to mind for the target customer.
— Mark Ritson
Heinz carries enough credibility as an overall brand to interest people to buy / try. 76% of those who buy pasta sauces (89%) can see themselves switching to Heinz, which is reflected in the 69% purchase intent score out of the full sample.
In the meantime we continue to anticipate good work by all the creative agencies out there and Wunderman Thompson Espana, who was courageous enough to try something new. And that in itself is admirable. We love good creative. Hopefully they can learn from this minor hiccup and continue delivering even more great creative.
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