Sexing Up Wheat Germ

Photo credit: Bern@t on Flickr

The request came in from Cam Brown at  King Fish Media: “We need you to make wheat germ sexy.” He went on to say that they had just landed the Kretschmer Wheat Germ account and the brand — which had been languishing in relative obscurity since 1936 — was ready to get some attention.

I know, “sexy” is not the first word that pops to mind when you hear “wheat germ,” right? In fact, I’m going to Google “sexy” and “wheat germ” now and see what I get … hold on.

Results? Something from a site called Male Weight Loss Now that reads, “Wheat germ is the reproductive part (oooh, sexy) of the wheat plant.” (That’s actually a really good line. I wish I’d Googled sooner!)

So how did we sex up wheat germ?

The first step is the same as it is for any project: Make sure nothing is lost in translation.

Yes, the client was saying they wanted sexy, but what does that mean to them? (They’re a good old-fashioned Midwestern company, after all!) Upon deeper digging, it turned out they really meant, “We need to bust out of our current rut and make wheat germ appealing to a younger audience, or at least an audience that extends beyond our core following of 1970s-era hippies.”

Next, find what I call your “parallel brand.”

In other words, who is going after a similar audience with a similar product and getting it right? There’s often more than one, but in this case, the clear frontrunner was Fage Yogurt. Like Kretschmer, they had to grow beyond their hippie roots and reach an enthusiastic audience of health-conscious eaters.

Then ask, “So why is our brand struggling?”

Lots of reasons: People didn’t know what wheat germ was. “It’s a spice, right?” People didn’t know how to use it. “Sprinkle it in your cooking like a spice, right?” And they didn’t know where to find it. “In the spice aisle, right?” No.

Make sure your site addresses those issues.

Clearly, education had to be our primary goal. And clearly, we had our work cut out for us.

  • But first, find a good hook. That’s what ties everything together and gets people talking or “hooked.” We decided to play off the company’s long history with a campaign that promotes Kretschmer Wheat Germ as “an original superfood.”
  • We knew we needed to feature the “use story” prominently. That’s industry-speak for “What the heck are you going to do with this?” That was easy: Feature appealing recipes on every page and a separate “Recipes” page.
  • We also created a page on the main navigation bar called “What is Wheat Germ?” (Answer in case you’re curious: Wheat germ, short for germination, is the vitamin rich-center of the wheat kernel — and, unfortunately, what gets milled out when you make white flour products.
  • And finally, my favorite page: “Where to Find Us.” 99.9% of “Where to Find Us” pages are so boring, don’t you think? They don’t need to be. Here, I recreate an imagined conversation that begins with, “Are you guys with the spices?” I still can’t believe they didn’t ask me to tone it down (a request I hear a lot when I write something people might actually enjoy reading).

Would I describe the final site as “sexy?” Nope.

But it is approachable, informative and fun, and makes me really want to bake muffins. It’s also getting a lot of attention.

Read more about this campaign’s success in a recent New York Times article. (Woot!)

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