It’s more versatile than salad dressing and more processed than pink slime; it’s Velveeta. And it could be (read: hopefully not) lurking around the corner to club ranch dressing over the head.
As a consumer, this is a nightmare scenario that became all too real after reading about ranch dressing-producer Hidden Valley’s new ad campaign. The slogan emblazoned on each bottle of Hidden Valley ranch is “The New ‘Ketchup’.” I, for one, am hoping that no one in the Velveeta science lab caught wind of Hidden Valley’s entirely unsurprising reasoning for its coup on America’s favorite condiment. Hidden Valley says about 15% of ranch dressing is used on foods other than salad and vegetables. Moreover, market research firm, NPD Group, pinpointed chicken, potatoes (including French fries), sandwiches, chips, and pizza as the most popular items to be smothered with a combination of dry seasonings, milk and mayonnaise.
After years of guerrilla warfare, Hidden Valley has taken ranch dressing’s battle for condiment supremacy to the front lines. Putting the clear consequences associated with a more broad use of ranch dressing aside, you have to credit Hidden Valley for zeroing in on and exploiting their audiences’ perception of its product. Their ad campaign speaks to experiences that consumers, mostly in the south, have every day and it proves the company is listening. I won’t be ordering a side of ranch with my Belgian frites, but it is a brilliant campaign.
Any communications or marketing campaign that resonates with a company’s customers, while attracting new ones, has to be grounded in genuine feedback. And my guess is that current Velveeta customers are eager to ladle or squirt its product onto more meals. Data consistently shows Americans care less and less about their health and what they eat. Velveeta has to see this as an opportunity!
Why stop at Velveeta Cheesy skillets – boxes of dried pasta, seasonings and pouches of liquid Velveeta sauce to which consumers can add meat and cook over the stove? Is what I would be thinking after the first major Velveeta product since 1984, against all odds and sound logic, has not coagulated since arriving on supermarket shelves in July. According to the Wall Street Journal, “the skillets captured more than 8% of the overall $138 million dry dinner mix category” after three months and Kraft’s Velveeta convenient meals business has realized a 40% bounce over the same time span.
If Kraft starts paying more attention to customer experiences and pairs that knowledge with its market research, then you may find yourself reaching for a bottle of molten pasteurized prepared cheese product with “The New ‘Ranch Dressing’” on the label sooner than you think.