Headquartered in Italy, Barilla is a world leader in pasta and pasta sauce. Here in the United States, Barilla is a relatively new brand, establishing itself in 1996 and rapidly growing to be the market leader in pasta, popularizing “al dente” quality with American consumers. Insight to Action led brand strategy workshops with the US leadership team.
Challenge: Develop Insights to Guide Expansion
With the brand primarily focused on pasta and pasta sauce, the US leadership team wanted to develop a “blueprint” for innovation that would identify the categories the brand should expand into as well as fill the new product pipeline. The goal was also to understand the current equity of the brand and to develop the strategy for expansion and to use the insights to inform the pipeline. The commitment was to develop a long-term brand vision, for five to ten years.
Multiple Brand Strategy Workshops Fueled by Rich Quantitative Insights
Insight to Action customized the approach, with five brand strategy workshops. Each workshop built on a shared foundation of knowledge, and was informed by robust market research insights.
The market research process included:
- a thorough review and immersion of historical data
- new qualitative focus groups with Barilla consumers to understand how they perceive the brand
- a large scale quantitative study of 1,366 US primary grocery shoppers
Multiple market research insight analytic approaches were used to examine category extension, including:
- product illustrations
- direct fit and indirect fit using equity bridges
- packaging structure or form
Brand strategy workshops were powered by a cross-functional team, with leaders from the innovation brand team, R&D, sales, pasta brand leadership (base business), insights (market research) and the advertising agency. Each collaborative workshop focused on reviewing and understanding the insights, identifying brand strategy options as a team, and then making choices for the brand.
Examples of Brand Strategy Workshop Work: Brand Equity Pyramid
The brand equity pyramid for Barilla was developed as a first draft in a half-day brand strategy workshop with the cross-functional team. Before the workshop, each team member competed a draft brand pyramid. The quantitative summary of the current consumer perceptions of Barilla and competition was reviewed. The goal was to define “what we want the Barilla brand to stand for in the future,” not just the current brand perceptions.
For example, the brand personality and personification was considered carefully. Several alternatives were discussed. For instance, is Barilla an Italian mom who knows how to cook, and is warm and caring? Is it your female best friend who is of Italian heritage? Is it a professional chef? Is it someone who is full of surprises and always bringing something new to the table?
In the end, the selected personality was “an Italian friend who is passionate about sharing the simple joys of good food.” We agreed that there were two viable options to personify this:
- A romantic, elegant guy you’d like to be your friend (at the time of this work, this is how the consumers in the focus groups perceived Barilla)
- An approachable, close girlfriend who is warm and likes to cook (potential future personification)
The workshop provided clear direction that was enduring. As might be expected, over several years, the brand pyramid was further refined by the leadership team as it was used to guide new product development for the Italian-style entrees business.
Category Expansion Guidelines: Brand Strategy Workshop
Since a major goal of this work was defining the new product pipeline and the expansion categories beyond pasta and sauce, the team considered multiple analytic approaches before arriving at the category expansion zones guidelines in the workshop.
A wide range of categories were tested using direct fit (asking consumers about the appropriateness of the extension) and also derived fit (considering the Barilla equity pillars and the category equities). Categories with significant equity overlap are considered ones that Barilla can “bridge” to by leveraging its strengths. These included Italian inspired (is Italian), premium quality, good value, high quality wholesome, and others.
Another approach used was testing packaging illustrations, with over fifty categories tested. Single serve entrees in the grocery aisle emerged as a top opportunity, along with biscotti and olive oil. Wine, dipping snacks and cereal were not a good fit.
The team prioritized the category expansion zones for Barilla, and used this to inform the new product pipeline.
Results in the Market
Coming out of this work, one of the high priority new categories that Barilla entered in 2012 was shelf stable Italian-Style Entrees. Today, this includes flavors like tomato basil penne, meat sauce gemelli, Italian sausage, chicken alfredo, spicy marina penne and marinara penne.
Driving Results for Your Brand
If you’d like to explore more examples of brand strategy extension, you can find them at the Insight to Action brand strategy resource page. Or, contact us to schedule a brand strategy workshop with the Insight to Action team.