Last spring, Mars Wrigley Confectionery was ready to run a new marketing campaign meant to leverage the forthcoming occasions of Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduation and the Fourth of July. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. and lockdowns began in March, the confectionery giant quickly shifted its strategy to address the resulting, rapid change that occurred in shopper behavior.
In an Oct. 13 Path to Purchase Institute webinar titled “How Mars Wrigley Reinvented the Impulse Buy for a Changing World,” Tracy McElligott, shopper marketing manager at Mars/Wrigley shared how Mars Wrigley retooled its spring and summer program for retail partner CVS Pharmacy to roll out a consolidated, COVID-19-friendly mobile campaign focused on scale, impact and sales. They key: providing escapism and gamification.
“COVID-19 had changed everything in our lives and we needed media to amplify fun while standing out in the masses,” McElligott said, noting the significant increase in digital activity happening as consumers spend more time online. “To accomplish this, we needed a plan that could give us a big impact online with an engaging message. We also had to do it in a responsible way to not promote overconsumption or too many trips to the store.”
Mars Wrigley's media agency MediaCom changed the direction of the program, connecting the confections CPG with Aki Technologies to rapidly create a short Tetris-like game to make exploring Dove Chocolates and M&M’s fun, while driving consumers to CVS. The partners leveraged scale by combining budgets for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations and the "red, white & blue" occasion into one media buy for a large-scale campaign.
“Throughout the course of the program, thinking of this as a scale program with four separate pods within gave us the ability to personalize to those different moments, those micro-moments and do it from a gamification standpoint," said Risa Crandall, Aki Technologies' vice president of strategy, who was the webinar's other presenter.
The game, which ran on lifestyle websites as well as gamified and shopping environments for web and mobile apps, enabled users to catch as many individual falling M&M's or Dove Chocolates (depending on the occasion) as they can within 10 seconds, using a coffee mug or bowl controlled by panning left-to-right for 10 seconds. The games depicted an "Available at CVS Pharmacy" banner ad that linked to a separate cvs.com page corralling corresponding products (e.g. M&M's "Messages" SKUs for Father's Day), though the game did not reward players with a coupon or other type of incentive. In CVS stores, dedicated displays rotated each brand as it was spotlighted within the game based on the specific occasion, such as Dove Chocolates for the first two weeks of May for Mother’s Day, and red, white & blue M&M's for the month of June.
Mars leveraged Aki’s moment marketing technology, a mobile marketing solution which the company says predicts when a consumer will be receptive and then targets ads by more than 160 individual moments to drive sales. Aki customized a moment strategy specifically for CVS shoppers, Dove and M&M purchasers, plus drug store shoppers, Millennials and chocolate candy shoppers to ensure consumers were influenced during key moments throughout their day, matching the creatives to the occasion and mindset, according to Crandall. For example, the Mother's Day Dove Chocolates aesthetic was different than the M&M "Messages" creative the game leveraged for Father's Day.
Aki utilized rich media interstitial ads in addition to standard banners. For the Father’s Day-themed M&M’s gamified program, Aki aligned to “moments that work” including the after-dinner moment and the relaxing after-work moment. Plus, the creative and messaging aimed to encourage safe, CDC guideline-compliant celebrating and provide comfort to people in uncertain times.
Aki and Mars saw gamification as a major asset during a pandemic. With the majority of the impressions being served to users while they were at home, McElligott and Crandall said they found consumers were highly receptive and willing to engage.
Media results also did what they hoped they would. “We were able to drive impressions and clicks to ultimately drive consumer traffic. We gave our consumers fun reminders that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were soon and that they should add something special to their gift," said McElligott. "We also wanted to pull at the heart strings of our consumers by communicating our 'red, white and blue' cause marketing program with the [United Service Organizations nonprofit]."
Crandall said gamified rich media interstitial performed exceptionally well with a click-through-rate well over the companies' 1.00% benchmark. Banners also exceeded their 0.40% CTR benchmark. But she noted that the main reason this program had the life it did was because of scale. The bigger budget meant more access to more program measurements and sales lift studies from Aki.