Why Simplot's marketing team is whole-heartedly embracing QR and AR

GM marketing for Australian FMCG brand talks through its latest Birds Eye campaign and how augmented reality and QR codes are fuelling new levels of engagement

Stronger engagement with health and sustainability conscious consumers as well as the food services sector are in the sights of Simplot’s GM marketing, Katie Saunders, as she spearheads a push into augmented reality (AR).

The Australian FMCG giant has released its latest Birds Eye Ocean Selections campaign in partnership with local health and fitness guru, Sam Woods. Supporting the creative is the group’s first use of AR, connected to a QR code on pack, that provides educational information, access to Sam Wood and his seafood recipes and tips, plus an interactive fishing game. Consumers also have the opportunity to win one of 100, three-month 28 by Sam Wood memberships.

Saunders told CMO the campaign is the latest step in two years of work to reposition the Birds Eye masterbrand as a healthier choice option with consumers. The work has its foundations in a revamped frozen products range under the ‘better for you’ moniker.

“People didn’t really believe natural and healthy can come from the freezer. It’s commonly been considered a backup. Two years ago, after a significant research program we did, we uncovered insights around the ‘better for you’ switch that’s taking place as a bigger trend,” Saunders explained. “This is about people increasingly switching out for something that is a little bit better. Provided the taste holds, consumers are up for it.

“We began building out a product range, under ‘better for you’, such as our cauliflower rice, and had phenomenal success. We looked further into the trend and opportunity for the brand and could see that across the freezer, there was an ability to take small, incremental steps to improve the healthy aspects of the range. It’s about little but compelling changes.”

Sam Woods in the latest Birds Eye campaignCredit: Simplot
Sam Woods in the latest Birds Eye campaign

Saunders pointed out Birds Eye’s latest seafood product range boasts of a four-star health rating and includes fillets of seafood crumbed in a slightly healthier way. The new range also encompasses a variety of raw seafood, such as prawns, barramundi and tuna, plus several pre-marinated options using dry rubs and glazes.

Birds Eye’s ‘better for you’ campaigning kicked off nearly 12 months ago with the ambition to attract a new array of shoppers to the brand. Saunders agreed the onset of the Covid pandemic has also driven people into their kitchens more and more, while elevating the desire for incrementally healthier choices.

Campaign work commenced with an above-the-line TVC execution. “But what we started to see making a real difference was the influence of Sam Woods taking our products into consumers’ kitchens, showing how to use it, why it’s good for them, and talking about the healthy switch,” Saunders said.

“One of the most impactful parts of the campaign has been leveraging someone who is trusted and valued and who has a strong following.”

Saunders said robust data already illustrates new shoppers to both category and brand are coming in. As her team looked to harness the power of Woods’ influence through further content mechanisms, the idea of bringing him directly into people’s homes was born.

“We started jokingly saying if only Sam could make this for me at home. That light insight did come into play as we thought about how to bring this brand more to life in the home. The technology of QR codes - now being so well known and used - meant we could bring Sam to life in your kitchen,” Saunders said.

Launching a fishing game was a further way of driving learning and education around species and sustainability.

Old and new tech

The latest campaign represents Simplot’s first foray into augmented reality (AR). However, as a matter of process, all packs across the portfolio now have a QR code.

“Two years ago, QR codes were something no one was using. It’s a 20-year-old technology. But today, what was old is new. Here we are with a tech platform that connects to QR and brings AR into being,” Saunders said. 

Credit: Simplot

“We are learning to leverage QR codes more and more. Again, that’s where AR comes into play. QRs alone are very two-dimensional. We are looking for interactivity across all our brands. Meal inspiration is one of the biggest drivers of purchase of product in the retail environment. If we can drive meal inspiration through AR in-store, we could really change the game.”

The other big opportunity Saunders spotted for AR is within Simplot’s sizeable food services business.

“One of the challenges for the industry is chefs preparing food on a tight budget and in a very short timeframe. If we have that AR capability on our food service packs, which has never been done before, we could help with recipe inspiration from the experts on our culinary team,” she said. “The whole food service opportunity with QR and AR is a big one. It feels like over the years we haven’t treated them with the same level of engagement as we have consumers. We can see their needs are high, and Covid has added further challenges to this sector.”

Simplot has invested in a tech platform in order to deliver AR and connect digital capabilities directly to QR codes and is now actively working on harnessing both for other brand activities across the portfolio. For the latest campaign, the business worked with AR developer, 8th Wall, plus Wunderman Thompson.

“We’re now looking at what stories to tell across our brands,” Saunders said. “We have been doing a lot of social media to get the mini stories out there, as well as leveraged digital. But I think AR will be a more impactful way to get stories out such as Australian grown, healthier features, fat content or sustainability.”

Saunders also agreed there was a wider FMCG trends towards marketing creative that was functional and practical. Again, she positioned QR codes as a timely, cost-effective way to facilitate it.

“We sell millions of packs – it’s one-to-one engagement strategy where we can talk to them in the moment they’re looking at the pack or when they’re at home looking at what to do with our range,” she said.

Saunders and her team will be using benchmarks from its agency around other AR programs to build an understanding of ‘good’ that can inform further programs of work. 

“As we get our own in-house data, we’ll also look at what we do differently for the next brands. We have plans coming up for another brand in the portfolio featuring AR so this campaign will also help us know what excellent looks like,” she added.

Read more of CMO's reports into brands investing in AR:

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