Launching a CPG product line with a classic licensed brand
When Warner Bros. reached out to Matli Group about a potential partnership with Safeway, the 4th largest grocer in the world at the time, it seemed like a long shot that it would turn into much. Matli Group was a small start-up agency that had worked with Warner on licensing strategy and pitch materials but the larger executional projects seemed to always go to much larger agencies. So when VP of Marketing Victor Allen included Matli Group in a pitch competition with three other incumbent agencies to create a new co-branded grocery line of better-for-you kids foods, we were pumped.
Starting with an exploration of how a healthier take on Looney Tunes branded foods might exist in the future, we brought in designers from diverse backgrounds to create an initial ideation series. We pared the ideas down to those that captured both the innate character of the Looney Tunes characters themselves as well as highlighting the health and taste benefits of the food.
The brand must be fun enough to appeal to kids, but the healthier nutritional benefits must also be apparent to moms.
Since most cartoon characters on foods were associated with high-sugar products this was a particularly difficult balance to find.
After submitting our concepts, Warner Bros and Safeway jointly evaluated each concept from all four agencies. After this phase, a selection of only 5 concepts would be put into consumer testing. To our delight three of the five concepts that made it to consumer testing were from Matli Group. After the first round of consumer testing the consideration set had been reduced to two concepts from Matli Group and one remaining concept from a competing (much larger) agency. In the final testing sequence, one of the Matli Group concepts, "mom's helper" as we termed it, emerged as the clear winner. We had won the contract.
The next two months were spent prototyping a workflow, design, illustration, approval and production process in close collaboration with Warner Bros. and Safeway's agency of record, Anthem and their print production vendor Schawk.
Over the 14 month project, Matli Group was the creative and project management hub of this workflow as the project ramped up to eventually produce over 180 individual SKUs of packaging for the US market and an additional 86 for the Canadian market. During this process, Matli Group also produced in-store signage, POP displays, direct mail pieces, point-of-sale flyers, an event tent and promotional marketing support pieces as well as licensing concept work for brand extension.
User research driven brand design, concept and packaging
Design, layout and production of over 250 unique SKUs within 14 months – with approvals from two large corporate stakeholders
In-store, direct mail, online and event launch marketing creative
Warner Bros and Safeway Stores had already decided to develop a better-for-you private label brand featuring Looney Tunes characters... and reached out to Matli Group due to our unique expertise in licensing, brand development, marketing and creative execution.
We identified several possible approaches to take from heavily kid-focused to nutrition-messaged mom-focused. We designed concepts for all of them.
After testing our concepts as well as those from two other agencies, three options were selected by customers (all ours). From this we developed other products so that a whole line look could be tested.
After consumers had overwhelmingly selected for this playful but still mom-targeted approach, we crafted variations and optimized a final look for the line.
Working as project lead and liaison, we produced over 200 individual packages in the line in under 5 months, each with custom-drawn character art by WB artists composited by our design team and printed by Safeway's production agency.
The co-branded line was launched to the trade at Licensing Expo at the Warner Bros booth, where we created a 12 foot tall cereal box and large format graphics.
After creating several retail marketing concepts, we ultimately produced a broad array of signage materials including end caps, headers, shelf-talkers, shelf strips, floor decals and various other displays. These appeared across all Safeway, Vons and Pavilions stores.
We supported the launch with numerous printed and digital pieces for use across campaigns. This example shows a folding brochure sent as a direct mail piece. Other collateral included coupons, mailers, ads, etc.
With any brand co-targeting parents (with a good-for-you message) and kids (with a fun-for-you message) endorsements by schools and similar organizations offer a unique opportunity for brands. We developed a detailed nutrition education activity kit for teachers to use with students.
As part of the launch, street teams travelled from city to city with a tasting tent designed and produced by us where limited-edition Looney Tunes premiums (like this lunch box) were given away along with samples.