One of my favourite ads from the back end of last year was from UK organic dairy brand Yeo Valley. This was an ad that caught me completely by surprise – two minutes long, taking up an entire break during reality-TV show The X-Factor, and completely out of the ordinary for its category. The ad, by BBH, depicted the farm at Yeo Valley in the form of a music video featuring farmers rapping about the quality of their produce.

The mock-rap-video-in-crazy-environments is hardly a new motif (see Nokia's 'MC Farmer' ad in China from a few years ago for another great example), but this particular ad was shot with no little wit (the highlight was undoubtedly a second-long shot of an owl apparently dancing along) and panache. Its long running time helped lodge it in the brain too.

However, I didn't see much of the ad on television after that initial showing, save for a couple of cut-down versions, and I've been wondering ever since whether we'd see any further breakdown of the strategy behind it and some results to go with it. So it was great to see BBH Labs provide exactly that over the Christmas break.

Their post goes into some depth about the brand's background and why it felt it had to change the way an organic brand could speak to consumers. In particular, it underlines how keen the brand was to pursue volume sales, and how it needed to break out of the 'organic=premium=niche' silo it was lodged in. With that in mind, one of the most interesting aspects of the campaign was the communications strategy it adopted, and the way it started from an examination of the way paid, owned and earned media could contribute.

With a limited budget, BBH focused on a single major impact, taking the whole of the first break in the UK's top-rating show (also a show with a significant family audience). Under a deal between ITV (the broadcaster) and Fremantle (the production company), the later, shorter ads only ever appeared during editions of The X Factor.

The campaign used TV for instant mass recognition. It then moved the focus of the campaign to owned outlets (packaging), and relied on the power of the campaign to generate earned media via social channels (with encouragement in the form of extra content via YouTube, Facebook and Twitter). Fans were rewarded; for example, the best remixes of the campaign's music track were acknowledged by the brand.

But importantly, the TV campaign came after months of under-the-radar repositioning work (for example, a blogger outreach programme). That meant the TV ad met a receptive environment online; there was an underlying trajectory, and TV gave the brand the necessary acceleration along it. That underlying, and ongoing, work also gives the brand the foundation for future big-hit campaigns.

The agency summarised the plan as follows – even though the TV spot is the star of the show, look at how little of the activity is in classic paid-for work:

Yeo Valley Live in Harmony
(Click image to enlarge)

And so to the results (thanks to BBH for allowing us to republish them here). The following figures are from Nielsen Scantrack.

  • An additional 500,000 British households are buying the brand since the relaunch.
  • Household penetration of Yeo Valley's four-packs of yoghurt has doubled, with more than one million additional consumers buying.
  • The four-packs have seen volume growth of 88% (vs market growth of 6%) and value growth of 57% (vs market growth of 7%).
  • Four-pack sales have seen volume share jump from 1.8% to 5.3%, with a peak of 6.9% at the time of the campaign launch.

There are plenty of softer measures too, including 1.6 million YouTube views, 20,000 entries into a campaign-related competition, a 400% increase in site traffic and the sale of 12,000 iTunes downloads of the song.

This looks like a potential awards candidate for the future. We'll be keeping an eye out for it in effectiveness competitions to see whether the initial sales boost can be sustained.