OKA: Quebec’s original treasure, since 1863

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term (SILVER)

Client Credits: Agropur

Agency Credits: lg2
Partner, Vice-President, Creative Director: Marc Fortin
Creative team: Martin Cinq-Mars, Stuart MacMillan, Jean Landry
Strategic Planners: Stéphane Mailhiot, Jason Chaney
Client Services: Julie Dubé, Élise Beauchemin, Brigitte Leblanc Fortin
Illustrator: Maurice Gervais
Director: Emmanuel Hoss-Desmarais
DOP: Nicolas Bolduc
Production: 401 - Quatre Zero Un
Head of Broadcast Production: Johanne Pelland
Post-Production: Vision Globale
Sound Studio: Boogie Studio
Media Agency: Vizeum
Print Producer: lg2fabrique


Section I — BASIC INFORMATION

Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):January 2014 – current
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: January 2014
Base Period as a Benchmark: Same period, but last year (2013)

Section II — SITUATION ANALYSIS
a) Overall Assessment

OKA cheese is a well-established brand in Quebec, and its awareness is growing outside of its market of origin, gaining traction in Ontario. Despite an increasing presence on-shelf, it is very difficult to create loyalty in the fine cheese category where consumers have a strong appetite for novelty. After a few years of modest growth in sales, Agropur Signature planned an acceleration in sales and wanted to shake up the cheese market in Quebec (70% of current sales) as well as in Ontario (15% of current sales). Quebecers already spend 3 times as much as Ontarians on fine cheese, leading to a saturated, highly competitive market. In Ontario, there is still some room to grow, but newcomers and exotic options make it tough for a high-volume fine cheese made in Quebec to gain ground. Agropur Dairy coop (OKA’s owner) had to take this into account when establishing communication objectives.



b) Resulting Business Objectives

Agropur had a very aggressive objective of 40% total annual volume growth in 2014. The objective was for the growth to come from both Quebec and Ontario.

With 95%+ brand awareness in Quebec, the objective in its home province was to reposition OKA as a daily cheese (as opposed to a cheese for special occasions only) and grow volume by making OKA the perfect cheese for Quebecers’ snacks. The challenge was thus to change consumer behaviour and have them think of OKA as a cheese for everyday occasions. The volume growth had to come from major chains and at a profitable price.

In Ontario, where OKA doesn’t have the brand awareness or penetration that it has in Quebec, the objective was to recruit consumers. OKA cheese evolves in a very competitive industry in which choices are endless and the attraction for novelty makes top-of-mind awareness a key factor in sales. 

The company backed this aim with an investment of some $4M in 2014, including a new communication initiative. 



c) Annual Media Budget
$4 - $5 million


d) Geographic Area
Quebec and Ontatrio


Section III — STRATEGIC THINKING
a) Analysis and Insight

In this context, we were looking for not one, but two big ideas.

Quebec: OKA is renowned cheese and local cultural icon that has an important nostalgic factor. Such a rich history is amazing for brand bragging, but it may become a challenge for sales volume with special occasion consumption at maturity. Past communications highlighted “century of craftsmanship,” focusing the brand on the special occasion cheese tray. With Quebecers already eating 3 times more fine cheese than Ontarians, the growth had to come from the increasing habit of snacking. The insight: OKA is perceived as being too good to be a snacking option in consumers’ minds. In order to reposition OKA, the brand had to turn its back on some of its heritage and claim its place in Sandwiches and Snacks.

Ontario: OKA can still grow a lot by targeting foodies and getting onto their special occasion cheese tray. But in order to do that, OKA had to singularize itself in a crowded industry hungry for variety. OKA had to find its niche and get Ontarian foodies’ attention. We discovered that two major contradicting forces influence these curious food lovers. First, with growing multiculturalism, many are looking for discoveries that show openness to the world and sophistication. Second, following environmental pressure, there is a strong movement toward locally produced food. The insight: Quebec offers the best value of distinct culture for the least amount of kilometres. Plus, extensive consumer research confirmed that, with respect to cheese, “made in Quebec” is a credible stamp of quality. To thrill foodies’ curiosity and breakthrough in the media landscape, we proudly claimed the French Canadian origin of the artisan-like cheese, produced in Quebec for 120 years, and avoided the generic “made here” labelling that usually seeks to sidestep Quebec-Canada differentiation or conflict. It led to the communication of the tagline “Quebec’s original treasure, since 1863” in the Ontario market.



b) Communication Strategy

The major change in communication strategy for Quebec pivoted on the realization that it is possible to approach fine cheese with a tone similar to the one used for consumer packaged goods. The new approach adopted for OKA in Quebec would trigger the acquisition of new volume and the media channels were chosen accordingly. The media being the message, the presence on TV and the messages’ tone helped consumers understand OKA’s repositioning as a cheese to enjoy every day. 

In Ontario, the use of a key insight allowed the brand to command the spotlight in a crowded mediascape that is difficult to own. Though the budget meant a restrained presence in the Ontarian media, the spot had the advantage of surprise with its distinctly French flavour, helping OKA take up more space and pique the curiosity of Ontarian foodies.       




Section IV — KEY EXECUTIONAL ELEMENTS
a) Media Used

TV spots (3 in Quebec / 1 in Ontario), POS



b) Creative Discussion

The strategy and creative platform had to work in both markets. Finding commonalities was key. 

Quebec:

OKA was depicted in less elitist situations. We associated the brand with snacks, but also with amusing flops, making it accessible while engaging a broader audience. In the 3 TV executions, a spouse mistakenly demolishes a load-bearing wall, a less-than-suitable prospect for a conservative couple’s daughter gets accepted into the family and a man trips on his cat, sending the breakfast he is carrying flying through the air at his wife. In every situation, the presence of OKA in a non-traditional fine cheese occasion turns attention away from the tense situation. The tonality and slapstick humour is as far as you can get from the dry “monk’s heritage of a century of craftsmanship” that marked the brand’s past communications. These ordinary occasions helped associate the brand with ordinary people in ordinary situations, where the cheese volume is.

Ontario:

The TV spot in the Ontario market couldn’t be more blatant about OKA’s Quebec origins. It features an Ontarian couple having dinner in a restaurant somewhere in Quebec. Using his best French, the man asks the waiter the name of the cheese. With a heavy French accent, the waiter identifies OKA and its 100-year-old+ artisan heritage. When the couple wonders where they can get OKA, he replies, “usually at the fromagerie in town, but this one is from Toronto ’cause they ran out.” The couple, confused by the waiter’s accent, don’t understand the name of the city, but nonetheless decide to try to find it on the road near Quebec City. The “OKA now available in Ontario” message broke through by playing up the brand’s Quebec heritage, something that is rarely done in English Canada TV, getting foodies’ attention and fast-tracking its brand awareness.  



c) Media Discussion

In Quebec, the media buy was overloaded with out-of-meal occasions, making OKA much more present during breakfast and late-snacking hours. In Ontario, associations with food-related environments made it easier to reach foodies.

 



Section V — BUSINESS RESULTS
a) Sales/Share Results

Between January 12 and May 3 (most recent numbers), the national volume (tonnes) of OKA increased by 42% vs. the same period in 2013. The growth came from both markets, with a 35% growth in volume in the highly saturated market of Quebec and an 86% increase in volume in Ontario.

During the launch portion of the campaign (January 13 to March 1, 2014), the average baseline sales growth was +49% at major Quebec chains. This AC Nielsen fixed-weight major chain measurement is used to identify incremental volume that is not linked to flyer presence, additional discounts or in-store sampling.

According to AC Nielsen, while on-air, the Quebec campaign contributed to retail ads at shallower discount levels ($5.99 retail), outperforming similar past ad executions with deeper discounts ($4.99 retail). The campaign contributed to OKA raising its fixed weight ad price by $1/unit while still generating growth.

Sales results in the Ontario market were even better, where OKA’s global sales are +48% vs. last year and now make up a larger share of the Canadian sales volume.

With a healthy +42% in volume since the beginning of the campaign, the annual objective is in reach. The repositioning of OKA away from the special occasion cheese tray has achieved the desired effect, with past June sales hitting a record high, beating December 2013 and making the BBQ season as big as the Christmas season for OKA.

Globally, thanks to the 42% growth in volume from an incremental advertising investment of $2M in 2014 (not yet all spent), OKA has already experienced an ROI of more than 80:1.  



b) Consumption/ Usage Results


c) Other Pertinent Results


d) Return on Investment


Section VI — CAUSE & EFFECT BETWEEN ADVERTISING AND RESULTS
a) General Discussion

In its metrics, AC Nielsen takes out all other activities, such as sampling, rebate and couponing. Hence, we can attribute the volume growth and the shallower discount needed to move volume directly to the advertising campaign. The other retail space where the advertising influence is apparent is at Costco, where POS material wasn’t allowed, the price didn’t change and the packaging was the same. During the launch period of the campaign, sales at Quebec and Ontario Costcos were up +26%.

According to AC Nielsen, the strong performance of OKA since the beginning of the year is unmatched in the industry. OKA is up 42% nationally while deli cheese has seen only 5% growth in volume. The performance of OKA outpaced the industry by more than eight times. In Ontario, with 86% volume growth vs. 4% for the market, the difference is more than twentyfold.  



b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

Even with incremental advertising investments, OKA’s spending level is still relatively low for a CPG product.



Pricing:

According to AC Nielsen, while on air, the Quebec campaign contributed to retail ads at shallower discount levels ($5.99 retail), outperforming similar past ad executions with deeper discounts ($4.99 retail). The campaign contributed to OKA raising its fixed weight ad price by $1/unit while still generating growth.



Distribution Changes:

Even though the new tagline proclaimed “Now available in Ontario,” OKA cheese was already widely available in the market. A TV presence and sales support allowed OKA to gain better shelf space, but growth of the distribution network is still a future objective. Meanwhile, recent results for OKA confirm strong interest in Ontario.  



Unusual Promotional Activity:

The retail space where the advertising influence is the most apparent is at Costco, where POS material wasn’t allowed, the price didn’t change and the packaging was the same. During the launch period of the campaign, sales at Quebec and Ontario Costcos were up +26%, despite no other activities than a new communication strategy.



Other Potential Causes:

According to AC Nielsen, the strong performance of OKA since the beginning of the year is unmatched in the industry. OKA is up 42% nationally while deli cheese has seen only 5% growth in volume. The performance of OKA outpaced the industry by more than eight times. In Ontario, with 86% volume growth vs. 4% for the market, the difference is more than twentyfold.