How Knorr harnessed the power of advocacy to drive behavioural change

Richard Cox, Founding Partner at MullenLowe salt on how Knorr placed purpose at the heart of its business and what brands can learn from it.

Richard Cox

Founding Partner MullenLowe salt


How do you get people to grasp that they can, through their food choices, make a collective impact on something as big and intangible as soil erosion or climate change? This was the challenge we faced, as part of a team of IPG agencies working on the global food brand Knorr.

Knorr products are chosen by people 3.2 billion times a year, in more than 78 counties, making it difficult to find a unifying idea that could unite the world of difference in the habits, tastes and cuisines of the people who use it. The answer lay in using purpose to break the three major barriers to changing the way people eat, desirability, accessibility and cookability and, crucially, explaining in a simple, compelling way, which enabled anyone anywhere to act. Then building an eco-system of brand-led communications around that idea, making purpose the accelerator for growth and Knorr an agent for positive change. And, of course, committing to that purpose-led plan in the long-term, not chopping-and-changing with each marketing cycle.

The IPG team wove together five campaign elements:

1.       An ambition: by 2025, Knorr will have helped get food that is good for people and the planet on seven billion plates. Designed to guide the way Knorr does business, this ambition will become proof of Knorr’s commitment to ‘reinvent food for humanity’.

2.       A unifying idea that can drive all activity, from NPD and recipe ideas to marketing and communication: Eat for Good.

3.       Identification of a target audience we call Eativists, ordinary people that want to have a positive impact on the planet through their plate, but need help believing they can, and that it’ll make a difference.

4.       A brand call to action to ‘Change the world by changing what’s on your plate’; 75% of the global food supply comes from only 12 plant and five animal species.

5.       An integrated, multi-channel campaign, linking paid media and social, digital, PR and influencers.

What are the benefits of this sort of purpose-led approach? It’s early days, but in our experience, these are likely to be in:

  • Sales impact, through innovation, portfolio management and increased retailer engagement.
  • Brand impact, through exciting new creative briefs for advertising and new content for storytelling that works in ‘earned’ channels.
  • Regulatory impact, through improved licence to operate, an important factor for food brands like Knorr.
  • Employee impact, through focus and pride, improving engagement and productivity.

What would be the lessons for other brands? Every brand is different, but our ASCEND model is a useful checklist for brands engaging with purpose. Plus these criteria guard against the pitfalls of ‘purpose-wash’ which can haunt brands that don’t take an honest, robust approach. A winning purpose should:

Align to the corporate mission and strategic goals of the organisation. Unilever’s vision is to be the global leader in sustainable business; Knorr using the reach and power of its brand to improve nutrition and protect the environment fits this perfectly.

Strongly link the purpose to the product or service the brand provides. Knorr’s products make vegetables taste great and easier to cook, making it easier for people to change to these.

Commercially work for the brand, something which should be openly communicated to be credible. The more people Knorr can convert to eating better, the more Knorr products will be sold. Doing well, by doing good.

Encourage others to join in. The campaign is all about taking action, changing the world by changing what’s on your plate, which consumers, employees, food bloggers, even Mr. Potato Head can have a go at!

Narrate a broader story about the brand. Knorr is well known and loved by older people. This story gives younger people, new to the brand, a reason to try.

Drive engagement with everyone who comes in touch with the brand. Eat for Good is simple, memorable and action-oriented. Anyone anywhere can get it and act on it.

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Guest Author

Richard Cox

Founding Partner MullenLowe salt


Richard co-founded salt in 2000, after roles in-house at Burmah-Castrol and agency-side at Pettifor-Morrow and Burson-Marsteller. His passion is helping brands and businesses move from a TV-centric to an integrated communications approach, using the agency’s focus on purpose to bring new value in sales, marketing, employee engagement and regulatory challenges. Richard’s ideas have been recognised with the PRCA’s Outstanding Contribution Award for changing the way PR is viewed by multinational businesses. salt is now part of MullenLowe Group UK, adding purpose to the agency’s world-class mix of advertising, media, digital and shopper capabilities. MullenLowe salt’s work is recognised with awards, from content (the CFI Best Sustainability Strategy Advisor award in 2020) to culture (2019 PR Week awards for Best Culture and Best Mid-Size Agency). The agency was one of the first UK companies to be B-Corp accredited. Richard coaches leadership teams, is on the Board of Prior’s Field Foundation and works with the educational charity and social enterprise, SATRO (Science and Technology Regional Organisation).