April 23, 2024

Advertising: Tabasco and Frank’s RedHot in a Buffalo Wing Sauce Duel

Now, a hot sauce war has broken out in time for the Super Bowl, perhaps the most snack-centric day of the year. According to a survey from the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, consumers who plan to watch Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday will spend $11 billion on food and other goodies, compared with the $10.1 billion they said they would spend before Super Bowl XLV last year.

One hot sauce warrior is the McIlhenny Company, which is introducing a seventh flavor in its Tabasco line, Tabasco Buffalo Style hot sauce, joining varieties like the original, known as Tabasco pepper sauce, and chipotle pepper sauce.

The new flavor is celebrated in a campaign by Ogilvy West in Los Angeles as “from the people who perfected hot sauce,” offering “classic Buffalo flavor with just the right amount of heat.”

As those ads begin, Tabasco’s principal rival, Frank’s RedHot sauce, is expanding to national television a sassy campaign, previously in print and on radio, that carries the theme “I put that — — on everything.” ( The campaign, with a budget estimated at $15 million, is created by Euro RSCG New York.

In the frank Frank’s commercials, a bleeping sound is heard over the word as it is uttered by a mischievous older woman named Ethel. On screen, her mouth is covered by a splat, as if a censor spilled sauce on the film.

Ethel adds “a little bit of heat” to everyday life, “and not only metaphorically,” said Rahul Sabnis, executive creative director at Euro RSCG New York, part of the Euro RSCG Worldwide unit of Havas.

Because “we want to be clever and fun, but we don’t want to go over the top,” he added, the intent is to portray her as “your grandmother being a straight talker.”

The maker of Frank’s, Reckitt Benckiser, also plans to send a branded bus on a cross-country Frank’s to the People tour. It starts this week in Indianapolis, this year’s host of the Super Bowl.

When Buffalo wings were first served, in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1964, Frank’s RedHot was an ingredient in the sauce. Frank’s also offers a RedHot Buffalo Wings sauce, introduced in 1996, and even sells a flavor called Frank’s RedHot Hot Buffalo Wings.

The heating up of the hot sauce category is indicative of the increasing efforts by marketers of packaged foods to take advantage of a trend that began in 2008, when consumers seeking to economize started eating at home more often. That dovetailed with another change, a yen for bolder, intensely flavored foods.

For instance, the inside front cover of the Feb. 6 issue of Time magazine carries an ad for Lay’s Kettle Cooked Mesquite BBQ potato chips, sold by the Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo. “BBQ so real,” the headline promises, “you’ll want to wipe the sauce off your face.”

(Hmmmm. Maybe Lay’s could flavor a chip with Tabasco or Frank’s RedHot.)


“We did a ‘needs gap’ study with consumers in 2010,” said Martin Manion, vice president for corporate marketing at the New Orleans office of McIlhenny, and “over 80 percent of the people we talked to thought that Buffalo would be a great addition to the Tabasco portfolio.”

Although “Frank’s is aligned with chicken wings through the story of Buffalo wings,” Mr. Manion said, in taste tests with consumers “six in 10 preferred the Tabasco formula to the one we tested against.”

The campaign promotes the product as “a Louisiana twist on something you’re familiar with,” he added, echoing a commercial that declares, “Buffalo, New York, meet Buffalo, Louisiana.”

“What McIlhenny has done is try to understand and remain on the leading edge of how palates have evolved over time,” Mr. Manion said. “When we introduced chipotle sauce, 90 percent of people couldn’t pronounce it.”


The campaign for Tabasco Buffalo Style, with a budget estimated at $3 million, includes television, radio and online ads; the Tabasco Web site, tabasco.com; and social media like Facebook and Twitter. The campaign carries a theme, “Are you one of us?,” created by Ogilvy West for the Tabasco brand.

“There are people who get hot sauce, and those who don’t,” said Colin Drummond, senior partner and head of planning at Ogilvy West, part of the Ogilvy Mather Worldwide unit of WPP, and Tabasco is particularly interested in those “we call ‘zesties,’ who share a zest for life and the food they eat.”

His colleague at Ogilvy West, Peter Kang, senior partner and executive creative director, said: “It’s kind of like life turned up to 11. Zesties carry Tabasco with them to put on their Egg McMuffins in the morning and on their dinners at four-star restaurants.”

As Reckitt Benckiser confronts competition in hot sauce, it is introducing a $20 million multimedia campaign — also by Euro RSCG New York — for another of its pantry staples, the French’s line of mustards, which carries the theme “Friends. Family. French’s.” In mustards, too, flavor is a focus, with ads for products like Spicy Brown and Dijon With Chardonnay along with original yellow.

Although they are “so different as brands,” said Paolo Zotti, vice president for marketing in the food division of Reckitt Benckiser in Chester, N.J., each campaign is about “trying to leverage and nurture a brand experience” centered on variety.

“I’m a romantic marketeer,” he added. “You’re successful if people love your brands.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=aff80e06ac7e6ffe76243e8662e52ad2