We’re being bombarded with content, insights, and information from myriad sources. And when we’re staring at our phones and screens, some of the most creative concepts seem to fly by. It’s a problem I deal with every day, especially while on the road in my “travel mode.”
It’s a constant struggle to not just keep up, but stay ahead of the game. But when we’re looking down, there’s a chance a great idea may elude us, especially if it comes from an unlikely source. Add our shrinking attention spans to the equation, and identifying those great concepts can be challenging.
That’s the story behind a new campaign for a venerable brand you all know: M&M’s.
And oddly enough, the idea came out of an HR slide show for new VP of marketing for Mars Chocolate North America, Berta de Pablos-Barbier. Now with all respect to the Human Resources department, their presentations don’t tend to be especially riveting. But on this day, de Pablos-Barbier was paying attention and noticed the M&Ms brand first debuted in 1941. A little math-on-the-napkin told her those colorful chocolate candies were about to celebrate their 75th anniversary, a milestone that was about to go unnoticed.
And then she did something revolutionary – instead of creating a celebratory campaign using television – the predictable route for M&M brand marketing – she focused on digital as the starting point. Once she shifted the marketing mindset, the “Celebrate with M” campaign came to life.
As she explained to AdAge, “We started the other way around. We started digital-first versus TV-first; we actually focused a lot on cultural integration; and we allowed ourselves to have some creative freedom to make sure that we met our creative ambitions.”
Our radio consulting company has been involved with helping many client stations celebrate milestone anniversaries like M&Ms. Too often, these become adventures in nostalgia, rather than using the occasion as an opportunity to reinvigorate the brand. In the case of M&M’s, the different approach they took in building this multi-tiered campaign contributed to its success.
1. They weren’t slaves to the anniversary date
So often, stations tie themselves to a particular date, as if the cume audience somehow knows September 19th is the actual anniversary date. In this way, M&M’s was able to spread the celebration throughout the entire year without being tethered to a hard date.
2. They utilized video and music
Brand mavens know the power of music and video, so that became a central part of the campaign. M&M modernized Sammy Davis Jr.’s “Candy Man” classic (which was more than 40 years old) with an online video and accompanying commercial.
3. They introduced new products
So often, these station anniversaries simply celebrate the past. M&M took a different route by introducing three new flavors to their candy line: Chili Nut, Honey Nut, and Coffee Nut, allowing consumers to vote on their favorite. In this way, the brand demonstrated a commitment to always coming up with new and different twists on the historic appeal of its candy. (Coffee Nut was the winner.)
4. Reverse nostalgia was a key to success
de Pablos-Barbier credits what could have been just a historic, self-congratulatory milestone as the catalyst that created “the perfect excuse to start doing things differently.” By taking a “digital first” approach, M&M was able to celebrate its past by adding a new and modern focus.
5. User-generated content was a plus
Consumer voting was the mechanism M&M used to choose the new flavor, and de Pablos-Barbier hints it will become an event bigger part of their customer interaction this year. That could even mean commercials created by M&M lovers.
For a heritage brand, the “digital first” mantra proved to be an effective way of unlocking creativity and identifying new avenues of audience engagement.
But who knew that an HR presentation would be the catalyst for this successful campaign? And in case you’re interested, M&M enjoyed a 3% sales increase last year, reversing a three year trend of down numbers.
You just never know.
Tomorrow, our blog post takes a look at one of America’s great rock stations, celebrating its 50th birthday this year. Like M&M, they’ve taken a “digital first” approach to this milestone event.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,000 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.