Kraft Campaign Gets 'Cheezy'

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The Internet will play a pivotal role in Kraft Foods' decision to reposition its Cheez Whiz dip brand toward college-age students instead of mothers.


In an effort breaking next week, Kraft will use a combination of e-mail, banner ads and a Web site, at www.cheezyguy.com, to promote its cheese sauce turned dip. The star of this effort will be the new Cheez Whiz mascot, Cheezy Guy, a slick, pompadour-styled male. Print ads, promotions, sponsorships and sweepstakes will support this new stance targeted at 18-to-24-year-olds.


"In America, you always say that 'Oh, that's cheesy,' and we want to turn that thing into a positive and to celebrate the word and own it," said Greg Oreskovich, senior copywriter at J. Walter Thompson Co., Chicago, Kraft's agency on the account.


The repositioning comes after Kraft noticed a steady 10-year decline in Cheez Whiz and cheese sauce category sales with its traditional audience. Hence the decision to change the sauce into a dip with a wide-mouth bottle and focus on Generation Y -- frequent snackers who do so 3.5 times per day vs. 2.7 for the general population.


Underpinning this push, which will continue through year's end, is a targeted e-mail effort. Kraft will send e-mails to 250,000 college-age individuals whose names are sourced from list supplier L90's database.


Incorporating digital streaming and video technology, the e-mail touts a fictional 23rd Annual Cheezy Guy Film Festival. The e-mail includes 30-second clips of specially created films or vignettes to which the young demographic can relate. Five films will air in all.


The e-mail also links to CheezyGuy.com, where visitors can view the ever-grinning character enjoying his Cheez Whiz dip at home, in the bedroom and kitchenette.


"Our Internet objective is to build awareness of Cheez Whiz among the Gen-Y target," said Chitra Ebenezer, Cheez Whiz brand manager at Kraft, Glen View, IL. "Cheezy Guy is extremely important because it connects us to this audience."


Interested visitors to CheezyGuy.com can submit their names, e-mail and home addresses and telephone numbers. The e-mail can be forwarded to one to three friends. Names collected through the site will be contacted for upcoming Cheezy Guy promotions and news.


"We're going to be doing other online tactics like sending out direct e-mails, so we're building up a database," Ebenezer said. "We're also getting names through our Web site and through games and sweepstakes running on other sites."


Banner ads on ESPN.com, Real.com and other sites will push Cheezy Guy, aiming to tap Generation Y's interest in sports, entertainment and music sites. Kraft next year will create content on Snowball.com and UGO.com's network of sites.


The Cheezy Guy effort arguably is one of the marketer's most ambitious efforts to tap the Internet for repositioning a brand. And when the spotlight for Cheez Whiz turns from mothers to Generation Y, fun and a sense of humor play important roles.


"How boring will it be just to show Cheez Whiz with cheese sauce in it, especially to this target?" Oreskovich said. "That's why we invented this character, and as far as we're concerned, the character is the essence of the product."
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