With Chobani announcing its Super Bowl advertising plans today and Yoplait launching a new taste-test ad campaign aimed directly at the segment leader, things are really getting interesting in the Greek-yogurt war in the US market.
Yoplait's new broadside is a campaign called "The Yoplait Greek Taste-Off" in which the General Mills brand calls out Chobani by name and claims that 65 percent of consumers prefer Yoplait's Greek to Chobani. Of course, this is a true hail-Mary gambit for Yoplait because its latecoming to the Greek-yogurt derby has left it with only an 8 percent share of the single robust part of the American yogurt market, versus Chobani's 39 percent share.
"We thought it would be great for consumers to know that we are a great-tasting Greek yogurt even when compared with something they are very familiar with,"
Carla Vernon, Yoplait's marketing director, told Advertising Age.
The test isn't apples-to-apples because Yoplait Greek is a blended variety while Chobani's classic product is fruit-on-the-bottom. But Yoplait claims that its brand—reintroduced last year with a new formula after "many consumers were not fully satisfied with the fruit on the bottom and aftertaste" of the original offering, according to General Mills CEO Ken Powell—more closely adheres to authentic Greek straining methods, whatever those are.
Such by-name comparisons in TV ads aren't all that common these days, AdAge explained, in part because social media mavens will make brands pay virally if they're too tough on competitors. Gevalia, for instance, ran into some trouble with US regulators recently over a campaign targeting Starbucks. Exceptions have been Prego's long-running campaign targeting Ragu and Kraft's Oscar Mayer broadside against Ball Park wieners which eventually led to a legal settlement between Kraft and Sara Lee, the magazine noted.
In any event, Yoplait has so much ground to make up on Yoplait, and on No. 2 Greek-segment player Dannon, that it's got to try at least some relatively daring stuff. General Mills and Dannon were asleep at the switch several years ago as Chobani introduced and then quickly popularized a mainstream Greek-style yogurt product. Dannon since has been catching up furiously with its Oikos brand, but Chobani's market-leading position seems secure (despite some setbacks): Chobani told FoodNavigator-USA that it was the only major Greek brand to increase dollar share in the last month compared with the previous month, per Nielsen data.
Chobani also noted that its competitors have outspent it "dramatically" lately in advertising.
By appearing in the Super Bowl for the first time on February 2, Chobani aims to further buttress its market-leading position even though Dannon will be advertising Oikos during the Big Game just as it did last year. Chobani promises to use a new theme, "How Matters," as part of a multimedia campaign that will continue after the Super Bowl with commercials during the Winter Olympics and The Oscars.
"I love competition," Chobani Founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya told the New York Times. "I am excited to put this on a show everyone in America watches."