Shawn Johnson Flips Over New Nestle Crunch

Nestle is promoting its revamped Nestle Crunch Bar via a YouTube and social media push, featuring Olympic speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno and gymnast Shawn Johnson.

Two videos, which debuted during Christmas week, have garnered more than 1.5 million views on YouTube. One shows Ohno skating down a luge track at breakneck speed to prove his point: That it’s the chocolate that makes the Nestle Crunch Bar taste better.

Another video has Johnson flipping over an oncoming bobsled to win points for “Team Crunch.” Webisodes showing the Olympic-style rivalry between Ohno and Johnson stemmed from actual conversations the athletes were having about the new product, per the company.

The webisodes are part of Nestle’s goal to drive awareness and sales of its 60-year-old candy bar, which went through a recipe change and began hitting shelves in late November. Nestle is supplementing the push with a “Crunch Challenge,” where consumers can join a team (“Team Chocolate” or “Team Crunch”) and play a trivia game to win prizes. The candy maker is also giving out 1,000 free Nestle Crunch Bars on a daily basis to consumers who participate on

“As one of the largest confectionary companies in the U.S. we continue to use social media more prominently,” Nestle confectionary rep Tricia Bowles said of the effort. Facebook and YouTube were part of the mix, she added, as the campaign is primarily driven by word of mouth, and “which side of the bar [consumers] like best.”

This is not the first time Nestle has used a social media to build buzz around a new product. In August, Nestle—which also sells bottled water and Purina petcare products—launched a webisode campaign to promote the launch of its new Cranberry Raisinets.

Cherri Joh, marketing manager for Nestle Crunch, said the campaign also taps into Nestle’s heritage. “It’s about the kid in you, no matter what your age is, and really taking a moment to enjoy the lighter, fun side of life. Crunch has a permanent place in people’s memories,” said Joh.

Nestle made improvements to the Crunch Bar—which is its flagship candy bar brand worldwide—as part of its commitment to “quality” and using the best ingredients, Bowles said. The new bar contains a “creamier milk chocolate and crispier rice,” she added.

WPP-owned Ogilvy and Dailey in West Hollywood, Calif., handled digital and creative duties, respectively, MS&L was the PR agency, and Zenith oversaw media buying. Print and radio ads will follow in February.

U.S. new product chocolate launches, which includes reformulations, fell sharply as consumers and packaged goods companies cut back last year. In 2009, there were 945 new chocolate products (including new packaging, reformulation and line extensions) from the top 10 manufacturers, such as Hershey, Godiva, Nestle and Mars, per Mintel. Nonetheless, consumers are turning to affordable luxuries like chocolate in a recession, hence the reason why marketers like Hershey have boosted ad spend—by as much as 50 percent last year– in a recession, per another report by Citi.

Nestle spent $4 million advertising its Crunch Bar in 2008, and $6.3 million through November of 2009, excluding online, per Nielsen.