Kraft Foods' Stride gum has been quite busy on the social media front lately. The brand last week launched a Facebook application, called "Change Your Flavor, Change Your Life," that lets consumers have a little bit of fun with life. (Possible "outlandish scenarios" include "adventure kayaking, fortune telling" and even being a clown.) The app, developed by JWT, promotes its newest, flavor-changing product, Stride Shift, and is part of the gum brand's strategy to use social media—especially sites like Facebook—to create and share new content while engaging with consumers. Gary Osifchin, the marketing director on both Stride and Dentyne gums, chatted with Brandweek about what the gum brand's been up to lately, why its Twitter guru answers followers in "Ramglish" and how it continues to generate buzz.
Brandweek: Stride last week introduced a new Facebook application.Tell us about it.
Gary Osifchin: The intent was to offer an engaging, fun application for our target, whom we know is on Facebook. We have more than 700,000 fans on Facebook, and we know they are there engaging with us. The crux of the brief to the agency was, "What's the next thing we can do on Facebook to be honest, and what is the next thing that is tied to our newest innovation, which is Stride Shift?" We looked at a lot of ideas the agency came up with and together thought the best one was the idea of changing your flavor, changing your life. It speaks to what the product—Stride Shift—is all about. No one ever thought that anyone would develop a flavor-changing gum. And so, "Change Your Flavor" obviously integrates with the brand proposition, and "Change Your Life" is something that is relevant to them.
Who is Stride's target consumer?
It's teens and young adults who are interested, from a product [standpoint], in long-lasting gum, and we are the ridiculously long-lasting gum. We bring a distinctive personality to the table that has resonated over the last four years with our target. These are very independent, engaged young teens and adults who like the idea of a long-lasting gum because they are always doing so many things. They are a bit bored, and they're looking for something to distract them. All of our gums—from a product and communication standpoint—offer that.
You've also sent the Stride Ram tweeting under the Twitter handle @stridegum recently. What's the thinking behind that? And why does he speak in Ramglish?
Consumers really get our ads. They love the story; they love the characters of the Stride [brand] and these random kinds of interactions between animals and humans—with the animals trying to do everything they can to get people to spit out their [Stride] gums. Consumers have come to associate the ram with Stride [from previous spots], so we decided to go with it and make the ram the face of the brand on Twitter. We're going to be letting him show up in other places as well. And, why Ramglish?...Do rams talk? Well, no. They need to be trained to talk, and they don't speak in English. So, in what language would a ram speak? Ramglish.
What ROI have you seen from Stride's involvement in social media thus far?
Social media is a space where ROI is difficult to measure. We are continuing to look at where we gain traction on "Change Your Flavor, Change Your Life." We'll look at how many people engage with [the app], how much talk value there is. When we think back to what we did with the launch of Stride Mega Mystery [the brand's mystery-flavored gum], we launched that ad on Facebook. That ad garnered a ton of comments on our Facebook page. So we're really looking at it not just from the numbers, but also the quality of the conversation we see from our consumer. The more engaged and the more they talk with each other, the more affection they have for our brand and they'll really become brand advocates. A lot of the things we're doing today build on some of the more traditional stuff we did two years ago. So, for instance, when we launched our Nonstop Mint flavor in 2009, we didn't have time to come up with the name of the new flavor. So we asked consumers to tell us what they thought the name should be. We launched a whole "Rename the Gum" [sweepstakes] that was not on Facebook, but we managed it on our Web site. It got more than 300,000 entries.
Ads for confectionery products from Starburst to Skittles seem to have gotten more absurd lately. Why is that the case, and might Stride also be taking this direction?
Confectionery is a fun category. It's chocolate, candy and gum, and consumers like to have an emotional connection with these brands and these products. Many advertisers are tapping into what is most relevant from a brand personality or consumer perspective for their specific target. Stride, since launch, has been very much about the type of humor that our consumer responds to. It's always really important, as we develop advertising, to make sure that our consumer will look at our ads and know right away that it's Stride, even if we didn't put our [brand name] on the spot. We've been very consistent about the personality and tone of our brand, so that it really resonates with our target. And when you hit it right, it works.