From Richmond-based creative agency Familiar Creatures comes a quirky, humorous new campaign for Kernel Season's, the nation's leading popcorn seasoning brand by Sauer Brands. Launching nationally, the “Just Add Interesting” campaign is a laugh-out-loud entertaining, new take on marketing by the food manufacturer for its Kernel Season’s label. A rallying cry to never be boring and always add ‘interest’ to your popcorn and whatever you're doing while eating that popcorn, the campaign encourages popcorn lovers everywhere that they can make their snack-indulging experience a whole lot more awesome by transforming the beloved treat with one of Kernel Season’s 20+ tasty flavors.
This is the first work by Familiar Creatures for the brand since being appointed as its lead creative agency at the end of last year. “Kernel Season's was founded over 20 years ago, but it hadn’t yet developed a strong brand voice and creative strategy. It was getting lost in the sea of other snack brands,” shares Justin Bajan, co-founder/creative director at Familiar Creatures. Tasked with the great privilege to create this first-of-its-kind brand platform and campaign to make people realize they can’t have popcorn without Kernel Season’s, the agency began their mission with one-on-one internal stakeholder interviews, its in-house brand workshop, and a heavy dose of research complete with crunching numbers and studying market insights.
In partnering with Kernel Season’s, the agency really began at building the brand from the
ground up, including cultivating its vision and values, as well as their tone and most importantly
– their positioning. It was after running their brand workshop with the client, that they landed on "Popcorn's Mischievous Best Friend" – aka that playful nudge and ‘kick’ plain popcorn's always needed. “For centuries, popcorn has played it safe with salt and butter. We wanted to convey that Kernel Season’s role is to be that movie character with the spunk and spontaneity to take popcorn on a joyride with popcorn’s dad’s sports car – much to popcorn’s chagrin and or delight,” explains Bajan.
The creative teams worked to create and bring the weird, vibrant visuals to life that would help Kernel Season’s stand out and gain awareness, and to reinforce the much-needed wake up call that plain popcorn is boring and a shake of Kernel Season’s is how to make it interesting. “This big swing further upped the ante on not doing something really basic – we had to go to extreme lengths to prove Kernel Season’s really does ‘add interesting,’” says Bajan. The team ultimately developed several creative platforms and landed on “Just Add Interesting” to launch the brand’s new messaging.
Huge fans of filmmaking duo Ben Hurst + Dave Thomas’ high concept comedy hi-jinx for years, Familiar Creatures enlisted the directors to shoot their campaign in Austin, Texas. “A unique aspect of our videos is that they always feature a giant hand coming from out of nowhere to sprinkle the product onto the scene and popcorn,” reveals Bajan. “Ben & Dave decided the smartest way to pull this off was with ‘forced perspective,’ a technique that allows two very different sized things to exist in the same space without a green screen, as done in movies like “Elf” and “Lord of the Rings.”
On creating the spots, characters were key – relatable, lovable, and expressive with the ability to regard the most absurd of scenarios with relative restraint. For the role of the ‘Miner,’ in “Gold Mine,” Familiar Creatures cast a first-time actor who blew them away with his look and personality. “Ben + Dave had fantastic on-set instincts and Munn Powell, the DP, really helped bring a natural yet quirky look and feel,” shares Bajan.” We always figured we would do the whistling in post, but rolled sound just in case and ended up using our talent's natural whistling abilities in the spot.”
For “Kettle Grill,” the spot’s cutesy-eccentric high school teenage girl shows the flavor-boosting power of Kernel Season’s after eating a handful of popcorn. Her smile, once revealed, shows her braces transformed, bedazzled by a diamond grill displaying the words “KETTLE CORN.”
Kernel Season’s “Just Add Interesting” campaign launches with a series of :30, :15, and :06 ads. The clever spots can be seen across Hulu, Pluto, Samsung TV Plus, Discovery Networks, Sling TV and more. The campaign will also include digital and social media components. Beyond television, Familiar Creatures also worked with animator Ryan Musselman on paid social video and display to add the same kind of silliness through animation. There will also be radio ads and an activation at various Comic-Con shows.
Alina Allen, Kernel Season’s brand manager shares, "We really enjoyed collaborating with Familiar Creatures on launching our brand campaign. From their strategy to the creative platform, we felt like they really listened to us but also pushed us to where Kernel Season’s should be. We never wanted anything to feel like an “ad” and they kept not giving us ideas that felt like ads. In a good way.”
Familiar Creatures’ Bajan adds, "Kernel Season's has been a dream client from the start. Of course, they want to increase their sales but they also really, really care about making the coolest/weirdest/most unusual creative possible. Super refreshing!”
Familiar Creatures was appointed by Sauer Brands to handle its Kernel Season’s brand in late 2022. It was appointed to handle its Duke’s Mayonnaise brand in 2021 and its Mateo's Gourmet Salsa and The Spice Hunter brands in early 2023.