100-Year-Old Pretzel Brand Finds Its Digital Voice

Rold Gold's marketing vp talks tactic twist

Rold Gold reinvented its pretzel and its marketing strategy. With its new Pretzel Thins, the nearly 100-year-old Frito-Lay brand decided to have a little fun for its first major ad campaign since the 1990s, said Ram Krishnan, vp of marketing.

Previously, Rold Gold had a minimal presence on Facebook and Twitter. But then it produced this pretzel-mation soap opera it called House of Gold, starring its new product.

“We were pretty much launching a completely new line of products through social media,” Krishnan said. “We launched with five videos and got pretty impressive performance.”

This was the first significant campaign from the brand since Jason Alexander starred in commercials in the Seinfeld era.

“The campaign is targeting working women longing for a break in the middle of the work day,” he said. The pretzel chip is quite the booming category, one Rold Gold had to pursue. (One indication of the popularity for this pretzel innovation: Rival Pretzel Crisps sold two years ago for $340 million.)  

Why go digital now? Rold Gold was lured by the new promises from companies like YouTube and Facebook, which are doing more to measure how their ads affect sales.

“We have to justify every single dollar that we spend,” Krishnan said. “We feed that social media input into the model and see the impact on sales.”

Rold Gold would not reveal how well its pretzel thins are selling, but the company is not alone in demanding better sales metrics from digital marketing that historically has been hard to quantify.

Facebook works with Datalogix on point-of-sale data, and Google has been developing its consumer tracking technology.

There are signs that the campaign at least is drawing interest online. The playful Web series, featuring lifestyles of the "rich and salty," is promoted on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Tumblr. On Twitter, Rold Gold only has about 250 followers and sees little engagement, but its YouTube videos show more than 1.3 million views.

Its Facebook page, which was fairly inactive before the launch of the pretzel in March, has seen increased engagement.

Rold Gold only joined Facebook in July and was virtually ignored for its first few months on the platform. Krishnan said they are now paying to promote there. It shows because posts that once only got one comment now typically receive 100 or more, and even thousands of comments.

‘We’re under no misconception,” Krishnan said. “We do need to put paid media to promote this stuff.”