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How Activia has moved from annoying digestive aids to a trendy wellness brand

New York (CNN Business)When you hear the word "Activia", the first thing you might think of is Jamie Lee Curtis. not. You might also think of an old commercial ofwhere a woman complains of irregular digestion and poop.

Danone launched Activia in the United States in 2006, a probiotic yogurt that claims to support intestinal health. Curtis became the brand's spokesperson the following year. Advertising campaigns promoting Activia's role in keeping consumers "regular" have caused some ridicule, but have also boosted sales.

After that, the brand moved from Curtis and over the years used other spokespersons to change the way products were promoted.

Today, Activia's marketing campaign is far from what it was ten years ago. The combination of new advertising and evolving consumer trends has allowed Activia to abandon its image as a spoofable digestive aid and instead place it in the trendy areas of wellness and gut health.

So far, the strategy seems to work. According to the company, sales of the brand in the United States increased from $ 472 million in 2019 to $ 506 million in 2021. Activia outperforms Light + Fit and has the potential to become Danone's number one yogurt brand in the United States this year.

However, Activia is associated with Curtis and her digestive dissatisfaction, so care must be taken not to drive away long-time customers who first picked up the product. ..

"This is a very delicate move," said Pedro Sylvaeira, president of yogurt in Danone North America. "We don't want to alienate [core customers]," he said. "But at the same time, we have to adopt a new one."

Activia arrives

Danone first brings Activia to the United States When I brought it in, I had to sell consumers with the concept of probiotic yogurt. Probiotics areliving organisms, including bacteria and yeast, which are found in yogurt and other products. Experts say that eating probiotics can helpwith digestion and other problems, butsome studies have shown that probiotics are for the average consumer. It shows that there is not much evidence to suggest doing so much in.

"Not all probiotics are made the same," said Miguel Freitas, vice president of health sciences in Danone. "Experts suggest that most probiotics have a strain-specific mechanism of action that is associated with a variety of benefits."

On the Activia website, yogurt for a day Eating twice for a few weeks may help reduce the frequency of mild digestive discomfort, such as flatulence, gas, abdominal discomfort, and rumbling. Combine with a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet.

With Curtis as a spokesperson, Danone put that information into a simple message. If you want to get your bowel movements on track, eat Activia. In the commercial, Curtis explained that eating Activia helped keep her on a regular basis. From time to time, she also joined another woman who complained of digestive problems.

No one spoke clearly about defecation, but the meaning was clear.

Not surprisingly, the ad was mined for a parody. Saturday Night Live aired a sketch in 2008, with Kristen Wiig playing Curtis,she constantly spooned Activia into her mouthand smeared her pants while filming the commercial. .. It's not the most sophisticated humor, but it clearly resonated — the following year, Wig replayed her role in themore scatological sequel

. However, in reality, sales were skyrocketing. "At that particular moment, the campaign was very successful," said Silveira. The

brand had "a big growth period when [Curtis] was a brand ambassador." Jeffrey Rothman, then vice president of marketing for the company, told the New York Times in 2014 that
but not everything went well. In 2010, the company, then known as Danone, agreed to resolve the Federal Trade Commission's false advertising accusations. The FTC argued that commercials stating that Activia's once-daily serving provided relief for irregularities were misleading.
"Danone agreed to more clearly convey that Activia's beneficial effects on irregularities and transit times would be seen in three servings a day," the company said at the time. Stated in a statement. The New York Times"The essence of Danon's advertising remains the same, it's true, and it will continue to comply with all laws and regulations," the company added.

Danon did not consider the parody of the campaign to be bad, Sylvaira said, and could "benefit" from such attention and use it to "participate in positive conversations." I can do it. "

Still, Danone has begun to shift away from that type of messaging. Curtis worked with this brand until 2013. The following year,Activia announced a new spokesperson slate, includingReba McEntire and Laila Ali. Instead of emphasizing regularity, the new campaign linked eating Activia to having a "happy tummy." That year, the brand introduced the pop sensationShakira in a commercial
In July 2020, Activia launched a new marketing initiativefor. Intestinal health and wellness.
"Our goal is to connect with young viewers and find out how the gut is the starting point for many things about our feelings," said Danon North America's Deputy Marketing Officer. President Sonica Patel said in a statement at the time"Bright, fun, musical, our new direction is how much of your daily life is your gut. Attention is drawn to whether it is affected by. "
" AtoZ "commercialis an acrostic song and non-eating workouts, dances, kisses and, of course, yogurt. It features a diverse roster of celebrities.

A few years ago, "I saw an opportunity to revitalize the brand," Sylvaira said, explaining it as an evolution rather than a rejection of the original Curtis campaign concept. Danone has tested new commercials to make sure they aren't keeping consumers away, Silveira added. The brand is currently pointing to a renewed campaign as a growth driver.

"You sell to what people want to be, not necessarily what they are," said Bob Sample, Executive in Residence at Western Michigan University, for food and consumer goods. I teach students about marketing. He said the commercial lifestyle may be motivating for older consumers. "If you sell this to millennials, you're probably grabbed by baby boomers."

Intestinal Health Quest

Danone Develops Marketing Campaign As a result, more and more consumers began to look for probiotics and pursue so-called intestinal health.

In a 2021 report, research firm Mintel said that when asked which benefits encouraged more yogurt, about 34% of respondents pointed to gut health. rice field.

Claire Lancaster, senior strategist on the food and beverage team at WGSN, an epidemic forecaster, said interest in probiotics actually began during the pandemic.

"At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw a surge in conversations about [intestinal health]," she said. "Since then, it's gaining momentum."

Online, young consumers are "calling for the particular [probiotic] ​​strains they want to consume," Lancaster said. “Becoming hyper-aware is pretty trendy.”

Samples suggest that young consumers consider probiotics a kind of recovery aid. "The idea of ​​many young people is that if you eat enough yogurt, you can eat a lot of french fries," the sample said.

In addition, yogurt sales are generally growing, especially through the Covid-19 pandemic. According to research firm Euromonitor, retail sales of yogurt in the United States increased from $ 9 billion in 2019 to $ 9.3 billion in 2021.

Activia also takes other approaches to seduce consumers. Example: The drinkable version of Activia, sold in bottles, allowsconsumers to drink the producton the go. "The yogurt drink segment will drive post-pandemic growth," Mintel said in her report.

Among new ads, new varieties, and gut health epidemics, Activia looks very different from today's customers. Sylvaira believes that young Activia consumers were "not exposed to the Jamie Lee Curtis campaign" and does not associate her commercial message with the product. The

sample agreed that consumers generally have short-term memory such as marketing, but said that they remember a few things.

"Everyone remembers Jamie, who led the commercial, but you probably don't know what the message was, except that many people made fun of the yogurt that made you poop.