Mary Brown’s puts the focus on quality and local roots in new brand campaign

Who: Mary Brown’s, with Blue Ant Plus for strategy, creative and production, and Kensington Grey for media.

What: “When you know you know,” a new brand platform that puts an emphasis on food quality and the company’s Canadian roots.

When & Where: The campaign launches nationally this week, with video running on TV and online, along with digital and social, and additional content marketing running with Postmedia.

Why: The chicken category has gone “through the roof” in the past couple of years, said Jeff Barlow, vice-president of marketing at Mary Brown’s. First there was the chicken sandwich craze sparked by the Popeye’s sandwich in the U.S.—which brought new customers, as well as a host of new players, to the category. “Everyone and their brother has a chicken sandwich,” he said.

But the pandemic also had an impact. “I think people’s mindsets reverted to a bit of a comfort food mentality,” he said. “And I think chicken definitely fits within that.”

Despite the rush of new competitors, Mary Brown’s did not have to change its product (although it did add a spicy sandwich last year). But it did want to step up its marketing to emphasize two key messages: That the product is premium, high-quality, local and fresh, and that, unlike most of the competition, it is a Canadian company.

“We’re kind of in the mood to conquer the world right now,” said Barlow. “The problem is we’re Canada’s best kept secret. Our goal is to let everyone in on what Canada’s best kept secret is, which is Mary Brown’s.”

How (TV): Mary Brown’s has been working with Blue Ant Plus for almost two years now, and as trust levels grow, they’ve become increasingly bold in their strategy and tactics. “Every campaign we do with them, they get more and more ambitious,” said Toni Rufo, head of client services at Blue Ant Plus.

The campaign is anchored by a pair of 30-second spots set in a Mary Brown’s restaurant, with two super fans lovingly explaining what makes Mary Brown’s food so good: In one case it’s a dad explaining (in a very dad-like fashion) how the chicken is prepared, and in the other it’s one friend explaining to the other why the taters are so good. In both cases the characters point out that the food is sourced in Canada and prepared fresh. Both ads use the relatively new brand tagline: “Crave Delicious. Crave Canadian.”

Using the characters in that way allowed them to share details about the food making process but with a bit of personality and fun, explained Rufo. “It was really important that it came from one customer to another, versus just the brand talking,” she said. “It’s the feeling of being let in on the secret, which creates a bit of a cool factor, or even excitement to try the food.”

The campaign tagline, “When you know you know,” was inspired by the belief that Mary Brown’s is Canada’s best-kept secret. “When you know how we make our food, then you know why it tastes so good,” said Barlow. “That’s what we are implying with that.”

How (the  field work): To further emphasize the close connection between Mary Brown’s food and local farmers, Mary Brown’s stamped its logo on a potato field that provides the spuds used to make Mary Brown’s taters—like a crop circle but in the shape of an MB—for another 60-second spot.

The chicken chain worked with Rooftop Agency to create the acre-wide logo in the potato field of Manitoba farmer Lyndon Thiessen, who supplies 900,000 pounds of potatoes to Mary Brown’s each year. “It’s showcasing where our food comes from—a real human being, a fourth-generation Canadian farmer tilling his land and harvesting potatoes,” said Barlow.

Rooftop worked with new technology from John Deere tractors that uses software to precision-spray the field to create the logo. The process is part of the normal harvesting process, said Barlow. “No potatoes were harmed during the making of this spot.”

Five days after that was completed, Blue Ant Plus creative director Matthew Manuge and a small team flew out to the farm to shoot the logo and Thiessen talking proudly about the work he does to grow the potatoes that become Mary Brown’s taters.

“It was always intended to be a supplemental piece, but they are getting such good feedback on it, and we have so much cool behind-the-scenes footage, including the John Deere tractor making the logo, that they we are looking to use it in other ways,” said Rufo.

That could even include running it on TV, said Barlow. “I think that spot is really effective. Whenever I showed it to anyone—our president, family, friends—it evoked emotion,” he said. “And there’s nothing you can do better in marketing than inspire some type of emotion, especially when it’s a positive emotion.”

And we quote: “The reason we believe [our chicken] tastes so good is because of the way we prepare it… Explaining why we taste good, that’s what this campaign is all about.” — Jeff Barlow, vice-president of marketing, Mary Brown’s

David Brown