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Nostalgia Inspires New Candy Campaigns

October 28, 2019 Sarah Cavill

halloween candy in pumpkin bowl

‘Tis the season to eat candy, a whole lot of candy — Americans spend more than $2 billion on Halloween candy every year. Candy brands, however, need to sell candy all year long, which could explain the recent surge in heritage candy brands advertising for the first time in decades, nostalgia-tinged commercial spots and embracing the joys of eating chocolate.

“There is a little bit of a retro trend going on with confection, a bit of nostalgia,” said Ed Rzasa, Chief Client Service Officer at Colorado-based agency Sterling-Rice Group, whose firm has worked with Hershey and other sweets brands. “[Candy] Brands people grew up on are being resurrected. The competition is fierce. The thing with confection is everything tastes delicious. How do you stand out in that marketplace?”

Nostalgia Can Be The Golden Ticket For Candy Brands

Tweaking the memory bank is often a good way to garner attention. There’s a reason so many brands have lined up to partner with Stranger Things, which is set in the eighties, or that Nintendo has released (and re-released) its original game console. Gen X, in particular, responds to eighties and nineties throwbacks, and may engage positively when they see vintage brands advertising again.

The first Dum Dums campaign in 30 years, “Make Life Pop,” features simple black and white drawings with Dum Dums as the only pops of color. The spots are meant to be sweet and positive, capitalizing on the image the brand already has. “Dum Dums is one of those rare, iconic brands that is already so loaded with positive emotion... Our job was to keep it simple — remind people what Dum Dums already means to them and then kind of get out of the way,” said Lindsey Smith, Co-Founder of Smith Brothers, the CPG-focused advertising agency that delivered the Dum Dums campaign.

Tapping Into The Escapism Of Enjoying Candy

Calories, sugar, carbs, etc, etc, etc. There isn’t often a lot of positive chatter about shamelessly eating candy, a fact candy brands would like to change. “A lot of people like to demonize anything that's not quote-unquote good for you,” said Randy Hofberger, President of Wisconsin-based R&D Candy Consultants. “[These brands] are trying to make [candy] a permissible treat.”

Godiva’s latest campaign “Wonder Awaits” fully embraces the transformative joy that eating chocolate can bring, while also being loosely built around the founder’s origin story. The new Russell Stover national campaign, their first in 20 years, encourages loved ones to make someone happy by gifting them with chocolate. Embracing the simple joys of chocolate allows these brands to avoid the prickly questions of health and wellness, and instead focus on the pleasure of a tasty sweet.

A Multichannel Campaign Is Required To Turn Funny, Sweet Ads Into Candy-Aisle Sales

Candy shopping that doesn’t revolve around Halloween is often a spontaneous purchase for a “favorite” candy, so getting a shopper to choose your product in a crowded marketplace can be tricky. “When you're going down that aisle, if you are not predisposed and already craving a brand, it's going to be difficult to be selected,” said Rzasa. “What's not happening is continuing that [affection for nostalgic brands] story in-store.” In their new campaign, Russell Stover went bold with their copper-colored candy boxes, which may more easily set them apart in stores. Rzasa encourages other brands to embrace innovative packaging.

A multichannel campaign that is offering consumers opportunities to see new products –or products they’d forgotten about – on social media channels or through activations can also offer the brand-stickiness necessary to get shoppers to throw bags of Dum Dums in their carts. The new Skittles Halloween spot is airing across YouTube, Hulu and Amazon and, Mark Riegel, VP of Marketing at Russell Stover said, “We'll also do a lot to tailor ‘Make Happy’ for a social or video context.” Adding, “Ultimately it's about having an engaging message that people see and it's a part of their day.”

When relaunching a product or marketing campaign, brands should try and reach consumers through a mix of targeted and trusted outlets, reminding them what they’re missing and inviting them to engage across platforms. A heritage brand may have to adapt to new audience preferences, but can appeal across segments, engaging candy fans young and old.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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