The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped the arrival of the usual s’mores cross-merchandising activity at Walmart, though Hershey Co. has modified its corresponding marketing efforts to fit the reality of the current situation.
The Path to Purchase Institute earlier this month spotted the expected pallet train stocking all the requisite ingredients from longtime partners Hershey, Mondelez International’s Honey Maid and Kraft Heinz’s Jet-Puffed that unofficially marks the annual arrival of the summer season. Located in the power aisle segmenting the middle of the store, the display comprises case stacks and half-pallet displays outfitted with side panels activating the “S’mores Saturday” marketing campaign Hershey kicked off last year.
The signage also invites shoppers to text a designated number for the chance to win a $5,000 backyard makeover from Hershey. A response text message delivers a link to a promotional web page (smoressaturdaypromo.com/walmart) detailing an account-specific sweepstakes that runs from March 21 to Aug. 19 in five monthly flights, with one winner from each flight receiving the makeover. Consumers enter by purchasing one six-pack of Hershey’s milk chocolate bars and submitting the qualifying receipt via the web page.
The effort is an overlay to a national sweeps that runs from March 21 to Sept. 6 in two flights. The first flight awards a $25,000 backyard makeover to four winners while the second flight awards a s’mores “mobile experience” to five winners. Each flight includes one winner each among shoppers from Kroger, Meijer and Albertsons Cos. The first flight awards one winner from all other retailers while the second flight awards two winners from all other retailers.
Walmart shoppers may choose to enter the account-specific or national sweeps. Hershey is also encouraging repeat purchases by doling out coupons for $2 off two six-packs of milk chocolate to the first 25,000 entrants to either the Walmart or national sweeps during both the first and second half of the promotion.
So far, Walmart is the only retailer directly promoting the sweeps, but cross-merchandising displays promoting the general S'mores Saturday campaign have been spotted at retailers such as ShopRite. Meanwhile, Kroger is running a home page display ad dangling a $7 s'mores bundle.
The confectionery company has had to adjust the scope of the S’mores Saturday campaign to take into account the social distancing practices currently in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The concept was born in 2019 after Hershey organized a block party in a New Orleans community where many people didn’t know their own neighbors and saw how s'mores were about to bring together entire communities, then-president of Hershey’s flagship U.S. business Todd Tillemans wrote in a corporate blog post. (Tillemans is now chief executive officer at medical aesthetics technologies firm Cynosure.) The current S'mores Saturday sweepstakes instead focuses on making family connections, spotlighting the backyard as an extension of the home.
In 2018, Hershey had also launched a “Heartwarming Project” to help families build more meaningful social connections as a response to the decline of face-to-face conversations in the digital age. In the current age of coronavirus, the purpose-driven mission of bringing people together has become more imperative even face-to-face connections have become more difficult.
Hershey has had to postpone a “Heartwarming Tour” that had sent pop-up s’mores stations across the U.S., but the Heartwarming Project continues with other elements including a special one-hour We Schools Live Facebook event. Held on May 15 in partnership with the educational nonprofit WE Charity, the event kicked off a grant program offering students the opportunity to win $250 to fund meaningful change that would make their local school or community more inclusive and empathetic, including anti-bullying and mental health efforts.