Last year, candy brands like Reese’s and Sour Patch Kids focused on finding tricks or treats where they belong…that’s at home.
In case you forgot how dystopia Halloween 2020 was, recall that Reese deployed a robotic door rolling around and handing out sweets to the children, while Sour Patch Kids coined the term “trick or reverse treat”, meaning he brought kids to kids via package deliveries.
Brach also found a
raw unique way to grab attention in the unconventional year. The brand made its debut a turkey-flavored version of its signature sweet corn, garnering more than 6 billion online impressions, which was beyond the brand’s “wildest dreams”, according to Katie Duffy, vice president and general manager seasons at Ferrara, owner of Brach’s. Fun fact: Duffy also told Marketing Brew that the idea for the turkey flavors came 100% from the marketing team.
This year’s Halloween candy marketing efforts will likely look a little less stunt-like, mostly because it’s unclear what could be weirder than…all of it.
Other than adding two new flavors to the turkey-dinner pack, Brach’s isn’t making major changes to its Halloween marketing strategy this year – with 86% market share of candy corn, per Duffy, the brand often finds itself leaning on the tradition and familiarity of its products. The main highlights this year? IRL activation and new investments in e-commerce.
Halloween Ghost Past
Last year, Brach’s, which also makes other holiday-themed candies like conversation hearts, jelly beans and candy canes, observed that the “shift to e-commerce” that all retailers couldn’t help but talk.
But rather than jump on the direct-to-consumer (DTC) bandwagon, Duffy told us Brach simply continued to partner with e-commerce engines like Kroger, GoPuff, Walmart, and Amazon to satisfy consumers who purchased products from groceries online rather than in-store. during this first pandemic fall. According to Duffy, he only started working with e-commerce platforms in 2019.
This year, Duffy said, Brach’s continues to invest with its e-commerce partners (although it declined to provide exact numbers). The company expects shopping behavior to be “still quite different” than it was in 2019 for candy corn season. “A lot of people have just changed their habits and moved…to ship-to-home e-commerce,” she explained.
Despite observing the rigidity of online shopping, Brach still isn’t creating his own DTC channel anytime soon, Duffy shared. But Emily Moquin, food and beverage analyst at Morning Consult, told us that’s normal in the seasonal grocery category.
“Direct-to-consumer can be a huge investment for brands in terms of the back-end and all the logistics that need to be in place to make it really work and also be profitable,” Moquin told us, adding that he there are even more obstacles to a successful DTC branch with seasonal products like sweet corn. “It won’t be sustainable for the company to provide this direct-to-consumer offering year-round if their sales increase at one time of the year.”
Moquin added that grocery as a whole has “set back other retail categories” in the shift to e-commerce, and that Brach’s is likely able to capitalize on the online shopping boom more strategically with only e-commerce partners.
Along with the continued shift to e-commerce, Brach’s is also dipping back into IRL events this year, as nothing in-person happened for the 2020 Halloween season.
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Its parent company Ferrara, which also owns brands like Nerds and Trolli, has partnered with experiential retailer/CAMP toy store for an activation that takes place virtually and in its stores.
Duffy said people can visit Halloween.Camp.com for “virtual trick-or-treat activities” or visit Camp’s physical stores in places like New York, Dallas and Los Angeles for “in-person Halloween activities, including candy corn giveaways.”
Ferrara also sponsored Chicago’s “Boo at the Zoo” event. since 2016.
Aside from returning to physical events, Duffy doesn’t see a big difference between the 2020 and 2021 marketing strategies for its seasonal candy corn products. “I don’t know if we’re necessarily doing something very different. We always work with our retail partners to make sure our products are available on the sales floor when people would normally expect them,” she explained. Duffy pointed out that for seasonal products like sweet corn, it’s best to focus on tradition.
More treats than tricks
It turns out it’s a luxury, at least according to Moquin. Corn alone brings about half of Ferrera’s Halloween-related revenue, according to the company. Last year, its candy corn brought in more than $60 million, while Ferrera’s non-chocolate Halloween candy retail sales overall brought in $120 million.
Additionally, Duffy told us that candy corn shoppers have a high rate of repeat purchases throughout the Halloween season, meaning they’re likely to buy candy corn more than once a day. #spookyszn.
“In food and drink and the festive season, there are such strong ties to tradition and nostalgia. And some brands that can really build on that and don’t need to remind consumers how timely and relevant they are around Halloween or Thanksgiving,” Moquin explained.
Duffy told us that social media is one of Brach’s main channels for promoting its candy corn product around Halloween. She said “the vast majority” of Brach’s social efforts here are organic, and Instagram is a primary marketing platform. But on a visit to Brach’s Instagram accountyou will only find two posts on the grid since August 2021…although both are indeed about sweet corn.
Moquin explained that because consumers are already looking for sweet corn because it’s a “traditional food they associate with the holidays,” Brach’s doesn’t need to innovate beyond its strategy over the past few years so long. that they keep things consistent. “Not all brands are able to do this, but some have that luxury,” she said.
For example, every year there’s a debate on social media about whether sweet corn is a disgusting relic of the 1950s, or the best part of the trick or treat. Brach’s could easily draw attention to the brand if it were to intervene in this debate.
But Duffy told us that the brand is trying to engage more positively with its products, and that the marketing team really doesn’t like “engaging with haters.”