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How tech giant ABB changed its perception in the global food & drink industry


By Awards Analyst, writer

January 17, 2020 | 6 min read

Agency Inc won in the ‘B2C Integrated’ category at The Drum Marketing Awards 2019 with its ‘Talk To US’ campaign for ABB Food & Beverage. With the 2020 awards now open for entries, the agency reveals the challenges faced and the strategies used to deliver this successful project.

The challenge

ABB is a pioneering global technology leader, working mainly in the utility, industry, transportation and infrastructure sectors. You may not have heard of them, but, chances are that you have used their products directly or indirectly.

ABB wanted to become a global leader in the Food & Beverage (F&B) sector. But its reputation was a problem. F&B manufacturers saw ABB more as a supplier to heavy industry. As a result, ABB’s brand recognition in this sector was relatively low.

The overall aims and objectives for the campaign were:

● Consistent, distinct, unified communications to the F&B sector;

● Make the ABB brand more relevant and appealing to F&B manufacturers.

Robert Glass, ABB Global Food & Beverage communications manager, told us: “We want to be the first company F&B manufacturers think of when they need automation or powersolutions.”

The strategy

ABB is a massive company. It operates in hundreds of product and service categories in over 100 countries. This led to fragmented and inconsistent communications to F&B manufacturers. Rather than speaking with one voice, ABB spoke with multiple voices that emphasized different things.

In addition, ABB wasn’t speaking to the challenges of F&B manufacturers. So what were those challenges exactly?

To get the scoop, we combined desk research, a competitor content audit, and primary phone interviews with ABB sales and key account managers from across the globe. From this research, we discovered that the common challenges for F&B manufacturing plants centred around:

o Digital transformation;

o Sustainability and traceability;

o Food safety;

o Energy efficiency;

o Reliability and quality.

These insights became our starting point for the re-positioning effort. We decided to change the perception of ABB from being a mere supplier, to a trusted partner. Our research told us what ABB needed to talk about. But how could we get F&B manufacturers to see ABB as a knowledgeable consultant in these areas?

The answer lay in ABB’s reputation as a global industry giant. What had previously been a perceived weakness – ABB as a heavy industry player – now became a strength. It gave us the basis for making the case that ABB’s huge portfolio and expertise can meet any F&B challenge.

The message was simple: whatever F&B manufacturers need, ABB can help them find the right solution “from power to palletizing”.

Once we had clarity on the positioning, the proposition became clear: “ABB is the technology partner that will power, automate and digitalise your future”.

ABB adverts in The Drum

The campaign

We created a tagline that also functions as a call to action: ‘Talk to us’.

This aligns perfectly with ABB’s new position as a trusted consultant. And it invites customers to begin the conversation with ABB and find a solution that’s right for them.

The tagline worked nicely with a series of six headlines, each one speaking to a specific F&B challenge:

o A plant of infinite possibilities. Talk to us.

o A plant that connects to everything. Talk to us.

o A plant that is truly sustainable. Talk to us.

o A plant that maximises reliability. Talk to us.

o A plant that safeguards product integrity. Talk to us.

o A plant that creates certainty. Talk to us.

This messaging set us on the way to increasing ABB’s brand recognition in the F&B sector. It created a distinct sound in this space. Now we needed to create a distinct look.

In a sector where marketing materials are filled with photographs of F&B plants, we did something different. Using 3D modelling, we worked from scratch to create six bespoke hero images. For each visual, a conveyor belt in the shape of a recognisable symbol helped get the message across quickly (e.g. a cloud for connectivity, a recycling symbol for sustainability). This meant that we could visualise the solutions that ABB provides and map them onto the specific F&B challenges that we identified in our research.

The advantage of the 3D visuals is that they were so adaptable. We were able to use them as bold, clear, memorable static images. And we could also use them as visually stunning animations, which we used for the concept film, social, and digital ads.

We used an integrated channel mix for the campaign, including:

● video content;

● direct digital touchpoints;

● social;

● events;

● internal and external print collateral;

● PR and trade partner placements.

We knew that the many ABB teams across the world needed to buy into the campaign if it was going to be successful in the long term. So we provided ABB with a set of campaign guidelines and a communication plan.

These materials took ABB employees into the strategic heart of the campaign. We explained the rationale for everything – from the tagline, to the hero visuals, to the specific assets – and explained exactly how they could be used in their own marketing efforts to ensure consistency in all of ABB’s F&B communications.

The results

We launched the campaign and F&B customers ate it up. It smashed all the targets set. There was double digit growth across the business and sales targets were beaten worldwide.

“Agency Inc just kicks ass. Their approach to client understanding combined with their creative machinery is really what has set them apart from the other agencies I’ve worked with. They make my life easier, and they do this with their professionally guided processes, fresh creative, and good old fashioned belief in keeping the customer happy. The results speak for themselves.” – Robert Glass, ABB Global Food & Beverage communications manager

The project as a winner at The Drum Marketing Awards 2019. To enter or find out more about 2020’s event, click here.

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