Keebler brings the brand into the real world in far-reaching refresh

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • Ferrara Candy Co., which is owned by the Ferrero Group, is launching a new multichannel marketing campaign to revitalize the 167-year-old Keebler cookie brand, according to a press announcement shared with Marketing Dive.
  • Debuting the slogan “Made with Magic, Loved by Families,” Keebler’s new ads feature the brand’s longstanding animated mascot — cookie-making Ernie the Elf — as well as live-action shots of modern, multicultural families in their homes enjoying the brand’s signature sweets with updated packaging and more “real” ingredients.
  • The new campaign includes TV spots on ABC, CWTV, Fox, NBC, CBS, ESPN, MTV, A&E and streaming services like Hulu. It also features digital ads, digital couponing and in-store displays for retail. The brand will also test Ernie’s voice in an audio environment through Pandora. The effort includes a big social push and will leverage digital tactics like Instagram Lenses, Giphy Arcade and a beta test of shoppable Hulu video ads through a partnership with Walmart.

Dive Insight:

The new Keebler campaign is the first major push for the brand since Ferrero Group purchased Keebler, Famous Amos and a series of other businesses from the Kellogg Company in a $1.3-billion deal in July 2019. The goal is to broaden the appeal to adults and nod to the coronavirus pandemic, during which Keebler has benefited from an increased desire for comfort food and seen a 55% life in cookie sales since early March, according to the brand.

Recent changes to Keebler’s classic yellow packaging are showcased in the new campaign as well as updated recipes that promise a bigger focus on “real” ingredients like “real Keebler fudge,” “real Madagascar vanilla” and “even more real chocolate chips.” The ads’ creative choices bring the brand into the real world, featuring not just the cartoon, fictional realm of Ernie in his hollow tree — a staple of recent Keebler ads — but live-action shots of real families enjoying Keebler treats at home together.

The strong focus on digital tactics also helps modernize the brand and nods to the growing importance of voice activations and e-commerce for major CPG brands.

The refresh aims to encourage adults to view Keebler as more than just a brand for kids and to consider it for their own snacking needs. Many consumers think of Keebler fondly as the “cookies of their childhood,” said Natalie Hagstrom, general manager for cookies at Ferrara.

“But in terms of relevancy and recency, [Keebler] kind of fallen off,” Hagstrom said.

Keebler is looking to capitalize on how consumer behavior has changed in 2020, providing an opportunity for consumer packaged goods brands as consumers stock up their pantries, often with comfort food.

“We saw summer camps, vacations, and social outings looking different this year, and families looking for fun activities for a different kind of summer, whether it’s a road trip, camping or backyard fun,” Ryan Nolan, senior associate brand manager at Keebler said. “We noticed that S’mores was trending and we were able to insert ourselves into the conversation with a ‘S’mores hack’ approach, using our classic fudge-striped cookies as a fresh spin on classic S’mores.”

The sales surge Keebler experienced starting in March was part of a larger trend. Snacking increased substantially following lockdowns at the beginning of the year, according to data from the snack-food giant Mondelez, which reported an unprecedented demand for its products in April. But even as sales of packaged foods and other consumer packaged goods are strong, consumer packaged goods marketers are striving to build brand equity and hold on to their current gains as they face an uncertain future in which consumer behavior may be altered by the economic and public health consequences of the pandemic.

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