By Obele Brown-West, Piston Agency

In 2014, the line between digital and traditional advertising has completely blurred. With time spent online outpacing time spent watching television, as well as consumers experiencing the world through multiscreen channels, successful marketers have been forced to develop integrated advertising approaches in order to reach consumers and break through to them.

However, while marketers shift toward integrated advertising strategies, every marketer has its own unique consumer and business challenges to consider. A plug-and-play solution to how to launch an integrated advertising campaign is impossible, but the launch of Yakult U.S.A.’s September 2014 “Forever Yakult” campaign can provide guidance into the steps marketers may consider taking.

Understand goals, target audience

When Yakult U.S.A. Inc. (a subsidiary of Japan’s Yakult Honsha Co.) asked full-service ad agency Piston to plan its 2014 integrated campaign, both parties understood that clearly defined goals and a clearly defined target audience were crucial foundational steps. First, Yakult U.S.A. and Piston defined two primary goals:

1. expand brand awareness in the United States

2. educate consumers on probiotic benefits.

After defining these goals, Yakult U.S.A. and Piston were able to home in on the target most likely to be receptive to Yakult U.S.A.’s message: the nutrition-conscious mother and health striver. Answering these two foundational questions helped Yakult and Piston move to the next step: knowing limitations and identifying communication approach.

Know your brand

Having a gecko in an ad or demanding that the consumer “just do” anything only works for very specific brands. After knowing goals and the consumer, and before a marketer can do anything else, it is also important to understand the brand, challenges and voice. For Yakult U.S.A., paying homage to the brand’s 80-year history and its founder Dr. Minoru Shirota — after whom the good bacteria (L. casei Shirota) in Yakult and Yakult Light is named — was a huge consideration in the development of creative identity and voice.

Additionally, Yakult’s presence in the United States was also important. It is only available in seven states and it is a nondairy product (but made with skim milk powder) that is found in the dairy aisle. Yakult’s integrated campaign had to balance these facts. Finally, budget identification was key to understanding how the campaign could come to life.

Define communications approach

While Piston has handled Yakult’s social and digital media buying in the United States since 2011, the new effort required a broader approach. By identifying goals and understanding the target audience, Piston worked with Yakult U.S.A. in the development of a communication approach to speak to consumers across advertising channels.

First, we launched an awareness campaign in September with key-market television and print advertising. Next, the campaign progressed with the national launch of online video, display and paid-search advertising, all working in congress to both build awareness and further education. Finally, to further attract Yakult’s target, Piston developed a social sweepstakes asking Yakult Facebook fans to take a “selfie” with Yakult for a chance to win a one-year supply of the probiotic.

Break-through creative

Goals, target, brand, voice and communication approach. All of these defined steps help outline how the creative comes to life. However, to ensure that Yakult U.S.A. was able to grab the target consumer’s attention in a cluttered probiotic marketplace, Piston knew the creative needed to stand out.

By employing a mix of animation and live action, Piston told Yakult U.S.A.’s story in a captivating way that was rare for the probiotic category. By building the creative as 30-second and 15-second television and video ads, Piston was able to leverage the animation as a base for the print, digital and social creative — essentially creating a new visual identity for the brand.

All brands have their own unique challenges. But, as brands consider how to plan future marketing efforts, integration is a necessity. Yakult U.S.A.’s approach to integration is a model that can teach us all.   

Obele Brown-West is an account director at Piston Agency, San Diego, Calif. She has led national and global marketing initiatives with Fortune 500 companies.

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