Kraft Foods/Nabisco Wheat Thins is employing the upcoming Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival as a high-visibility platform for its ongoing "The Crunch is Calling" marketing message.
The cracker brand's presence at this year's festival -- held each June in Manchester, Tenn. -- will include a centrally located "Crunch Den" where attendees can relax, sample Wheat Thins snacks and use a digital kiosk to send friends/family video content, as well as both an advance sweepstakes and on-site opportunities to win brand-sponsored prizes.
The sweepstakes, currently being heavily promoted on the brand's Facebook fan page (which has attracted about 70,000 fans since its launch in December), offers consumers who become Wheat Thins Facebook fans and provide their email addresses, etc. the chance to win a grand prize of a trip, with three friends, to attend Bonnaroo -- and to act as the Wheat Thins "Crunch Correspondent" during the June 10-13 event. (The correspondent will video and blog about his/her adventures at the event.)
In addition to a mini HD camera, the winner (and guests) will receive on-grounds RV accommodations, VIP meals, gift vouchers and prime viewing spots for the entertainment acts. Twenty-five other sweeps entrants will also win mini HDs.
The Crunch Den will feature large screens showcasing the user-generated videos and video postcards (all with Wheat Thins branding) that are being created and shared via Facebook and other social media.
Why Bonnaroo? The festival is not only a large event (some 80,000 attendees per year), but draws an extremely diverse crowd as a result of its broad variety of entertainment offerings (artists spanning a wide variety of music genres, comedians, theater performers, an old-fashioned arcade, on-site cinema, a beer festival and more), says Jim Low, director of wheat snack crackers for Kraft Foods. And that artistic/cultural diversity meshes very well with Wheat Thins' emphasis on the "rich" sensory experience of the crackers, he explains.
The "richness of experience" platform, summarized in "The Crunch is Calling" campaign tagline, was implemented last summer, and reflects both the brand's core strengths and product changes designed to enhance those strengths, Low tells Marketing Daily.
"About 12 months ago, we went back to consumers to get a deeper understanding of their experience with the product, and realized that [the marketing] hadn't been giving sufficient credit or attention to the complexity and richness of that experience -- the crunch, flavor and texture," he says.
With that and other consumer insights in hand, the brand moved to strengthen its key elements of appeal, starting last August, by significantly boosting the whole-grain content in key varieties (Original, Reduced Fat, Hint of Salt and Big), eliminating high fructose corn syrup, introducing new packaging with a more contemporary design (highlighting wheat images and conveying the crunch factor via an image showing the cracker being broken apart) -- and, of course, a new advertising campaign.
The campaign's two 30-second television spots, also launched last August and being continued this year, are a decided departure from the brand's previous, more mainstream-toned approaches (such as the still-remembered Sandy Duncan campaign of the late '80's). The current "Crunch is Calling" commercials -- one featuring Ann Markley of "America's Top Model" fame (though she's not identified), the other featuring a buff, hip-looking young male -- show the principals moving to a rock guitar beat as they reach out to grab and crunch on one cracker amid a swirling sea of Wheat Thins.
"The commercials convey people's passion and enthusiasm for Wheat Thins and the energy and vitality of the brand," says Low. "They convey that Wheat Thins is a snack for today's adults."
The Bonnaroo sponsorship activities follow Wheat Thins' significant presence in March at the NCAA tournament, where hundreds of thousands of Wheat Thins and other Kraft product samples were distributed as part of Kraft's new multi-season, multi-brand sponsorship agreement with NCAA and CBS Sports.
"All brands need to continue to evolve in order to stay contemporary and relevant to consumers," says Low -- noting, for example, that the whole-grain content levels in the rest of Wheat Thins' product line are also being increased in this year's first half.
The line's varieties and flavors have expanded significantly in recent years, the most recent additions (launched last August/September) being Wheat Thins Flatbreads and Artisan Cheese extensions.
Wheat Thins' television/general market creative is handled by Draft FCB, and its digital creative is handled by AKQA. Edelman handles public relations.