Occasion marketing in the age of COVID-19


The Hershey Co., the candy manufacturer, is adopting a flexible approach as it maps out a strategy for Halloween, a major sales occasion in the annual calendar, but an event surrounded by uncertainty due to COVID-19.

Michele Buck, chairman/president/CEO of The Hershey Company, discussed this subject on a quarterly conference call with investors.

“We are proactively planning for Halloween and partnering with our retailers to be prepared for a strong recovery, while also making smart choices to mitigate risk if consumer behavior remained impacted,” she said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Occasion marketing in the age of COVID-19: Insights from The Hershey Co.)

Halloween may be six months away, but Hershey is necessarily seeking to discern when its marketing efforts should begin. “Activation timing is [something we’re]really trying to keep our pulse on,” said Buck.

Treats like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Hershey’s Kisses are central to the Halloween experience – and the company believes it can pull some levers to help kickstart the season if necessary.

“We know that we can impact these seasons based on when we set the season,” Buck said. “We know that consumers will buy a season to bring the product into their house – and there’s some celebration in the house before the community events of trick or treat.

“So, leaning in a little bit earlier on some of the timing is a very reasonable option that we’re discussing with our retail partners to be able to capture more celebration outside of just the trick or treat occasion.”

Packaging is another consideration within its strategy. “One area we’re looking at is how do we mitigate potential risks … by really optimising what’s the right balance of seasonal and everyday-type items?” said Buck.

“We have seasonally-dressed items for Halloween,” she said. “We also have everyday assortment bags that play a key role.”

Given that a recession is forecast, “We’re evaluating the price points, relative to understanding that some consumers may be financially strapped,” she added.

This article first appeared in www.warc.com

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