Canadian business icon Maple Leaf Foods didn't anticipate the impact a new insight-driven, digital-first strategy for Ready Crisp Bacon would have on sales, and ultimately its marketing culture. Eschewing traditional media, YouTube was chosen to deliver a highly targeted, consumer-friendly "Change Your Life With Bacon" campaign. The impact was immediate and dramatic—sales grew 14% year-over-year without the support of any other marketing or sales program. Learn more in our "Digital Bacon" case study.


  • Grow market penetration of Maple Leaf Bacon products by appealing to moms


  • Developed four entertaining made-for-YouTube videos that show how Mom can change her life with bacon
  • Used TrueView (skippable/user-choice) ad format to minimize wasted impressions and maximize consumer engagement


  • +14% sales lift on Ready Crisp Bacon (Nielsen MarketTrack)
  • The campaign was so successful, the marketing team decided to extend reach by airing the lead spot on TV
  • Included a CSR component by donating over 10,000 lbs of food to Canadian food banks
January 2014

Maple Leaf Foods delivers double-digit sales lift on its Ready Crisp Bacon business with a made-for-digital campaign on YouTube

Faced with the challenge of growing market penetration on its bacon business, Maple Leaf Foods needed to rewrite its marketing playbook. The big idea came to life in the form of four made-for-YouTube videos. In a fun and humorous way, the ads showed how Mom can change her life using the power of bacon. The results were wildly successful. Sales of Ready Crisp bacon, the hero product, were up 14% during the campaign period, without any other support in market. What's more, the team had unlocked a new formula for growth: coupling powerful consumer insights with a highly efficient way of reaching its consumer.

The challenge

It's a challenge familiar to many consumer packaged goods marketing managers: How does one grow a profitable, but small, business segment? For Maple Leaf Foods, this business was Ready Crisp Bacon. For years, the segment had held steady without much marketing support, but the intervening years had eroded top of mind marketing awareness amongst Canadian Moms. The team, which included Digital and Social Marketing Director Jerry Sen, VP Marketing Chantal Butler and Marketing Director Dave Grachnik, set a goal of growing market penetration (and consequently driving sales lift) on its product category by reengaging Moms.

In hindsight, it was a bit of good fortune that this group of marketers was faced with such a tough task. Maple Leaf, under the leadership of Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Graham, was undergoing a transformation. The heart of this transformation was to develop more consumer-centric insights, products and communications. This challenge, then, would serve not only to grow the business, but to galvanize the team to rethink the way it had traditionally approached video advertising. If successful, it would effectively rewrite the Maple Leaf marketing playbook. The team set about to do just that. It started by building on a deep insight and a rich creative idea that would appeal to Moms across the country: Bacon can change your life. The "Change Your Life With Bacon" campaign was born.

TrueView: Finding your most engaged audience

As a digitally native campaign, "Change Your Life with Bacon" liberated the team, allowing it to forego the traditional structures of made for TV video campaigns. YouTube allowed the team to tell a more complete story. The videos were not limited to a 30-second ad format. Case in point, the main video had a total run time of 1:13. Using TrueView, YouTube's skippable pre-roll advertising format, the Maple Leaf team would only pay when viewers actually chose to watch the spots.

Consumers are changing. Their media consumption habits are changing, their purchase paths are changing, and the way in which we need to communicate with them is changing.

After running the TrueView ads for a period of six weeks, it was clear that the team had found a winning formula. Sales lift on Ready Crisp Bacon was immediate and dramatic. Sales grew 14% year-over-year, without the support of any other marketing or sales program. Following the strong performance of this initial campaign, the Maple Leaf team decided to extend the reach of this message by airing the spot on television.

Late into 2013, the campaign continued to run in market and what started as a small digital test, meant to rethink old habits, is now a platform to grow an entire product category.

While there are many lessons brand managers can take away from the Maple Leaf's approach, three stand out:

The digital-first mentality

For many brands, digital is a second consideration or simply a way of extending the reach of their traditional campaigns. It can be an afterthought. With 82% reach of Canadian women ages 25 to 54 (Comscore Mediametrix, October 2013), what Maple Leaf knew was that YouTube has the reach necessary to impact the sales of national brands. What's more, it is more flexible and cost-effective, so you can test new insights and creative ideas quickly and efficiently.

The importance of storytelling

Brand marketers have long known that great stories build brands. Traditional media vehicles often leave marketers with just 15 or 30 seconds to tell a story. Many times, this is not enough, and it can leave brands as well as consumers wanting more. The digital canvas is more flexible. In this case, Maple Leaf was able to tell a deeper, more emotionally resonant story because the TrueView pre-roll format is not limited to a specific length. The team also smartly leveraged YouTube annotations (links within the video), and drove consumers to watch other videos in the series.

The power of user choice

To launch "Change Your Life with Bacon," Maple Leaf needed a platform that offered mass reach that was also very efficient. With TrueView, YouTube's user-choice ad format, Maple Leaf was able to target Canadian Moms across the country, but only pay when a viewer was actively engaged with the spot. It was a win-win for the consumer and for Maple Leaf.