Kraft Foods/Nabisco Wheat Thins will take social media marketing integration to a new level this week, when it debuts the first of at least two 30-second national TV commercials featuring consumers who have tweeted positively about the brand.
The TV spots employ two of three videos already posted on Wheat Thins' "The Crunch is Calling" YouTube channel and in a tab on its Facebook page, which have collectively drawn more than 623,000 views since being posted just over three weeks ago.
The videos show a team of brand representatives, in a van prominently displaying Wheat Thins' "The Crunch Is Calling" theme, tracking down and surprising tweeters who have indicated their attachment to the crackers. Each tweeter is presented with a Wheat Thins gift that ties into the content of his/her tweet.
Each video starts with a close-up of a screenshot showing an actual brand-related tweet (the tweeter's "handle" is visible), with the mobile team discussing the tweet's content as they arrive to have a close encounter with a fan.
The first video to be aired as a TV spot (for two weeks, starting July 26) shows a tweet from Tabitha, a young woman who had lamented: "AAAHHHH ... I'm outta Wheat Thins ... Mi [sic] life is officially over!" As she opens her front door to the Crunch team and verifies that she indeed tweeted that message, an entire pallet of Wheat Thins boxes is being deposited in her driveway -- the brand's gift to ensure that she has plenty on hand for the foreseeable future. As the team zooms away, the stunned but smiling fan gives them the thumbs-up as she stands beside the pallet, with a dumbfounded neighbor looking on.
The second video/TV ad captures the team presenting a set of custom-made "Crunch is Calling" headphones to Timmy (on a restaurant deck among friends/onlookers), who had tweeted: "Does anyone else have to turn up the volume when they eat Wheat Thins? Someone needs to invent crunch-proof headphones." After testing the headphones (a brand rep crunches a Wheat Thin, amplifying it through a megaphone), Timmy is left eating a cracker as he wonders aloud: "Don't I have to sign anything?" This ad will begin airing Aug. 30.
A third video -- which may or may not be used for a TV ad -- shows the team surprising Dan, who had tweeted that he was using a Wheat Thin to pick his air guitar, with a Wheat Thins-branded guitar case containing ... nothing. Dan demos his cracker-pick air-guitar moves, and also receives a custom Wheat Thins box bearing his photo and tweet.
The brand is being mysterious in responding to social media queries from fans wondering how Wheat Thins located the folks shown in the videos ("The videos are the real deal, but, unfortunately, we can't reveal our intervention secrets!"), but a spokesperson confirms that the subjects were tracked down with the help of their Facebook friends and family members.
Interestingly, to enhance the surprise factor, Wheat Thins chose to video consumers who were selected based on "random" tweets picked up about the brand, rather than approaching Wheat Thins Twitter followers/Facebook fans.
The TV spots will be aired on a variety of network prime-time shows and cable outlets with high viewership among the recently repositioned brand's new core target audience, women and men age 25 to 45, reports Jim Low, director of wheat snack crackers for Kraft Foods.
The videos will also be employed in new online advertising, as pre-rolls for Web-posted episodes of targeted TV shows. Adjacent ad blocks will encourage viewers to click into the brand's Facebook page/Twitter presence.
The social media-driven videos and their use as TV spots and pre-rolls represent a natural next step in the evolution of the brand and its marketing, Low tells Marketing Daily.
The brand's repositioning process began over a year ago, when Wheat Thins used consumer research to identify the cracker's crunch, flavor and texture as its key attractions to a younger and more gender-balanced demographic group.
Last summer, the brand introduced product changes to further enhance its appeal to this group (adding more whole-grain content to many varieties and eliminating high-fructose corn syrup); unveiled a more contemporary package design; and launched its "Crunch is Calling" tagline and an integrated campaign that included crunch-focused TV spots featuring young adults.
Low reports that efforts in this year's first half focused on in-person engagement with the target audience through event sponsorships -- including high-visibility sponsorships during March's NCAA tournament and June's Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival (where Conan O'Brien serendipitously mentioned the brand from stage).
The TV campaign and events helped drive engagement with Wheat Thins' new, app-heavy Facebook fan page (which has drawn nearly 111,000 fans since its launch in December '09), as well as its new Twitter. com/crunchiscalling presence (about 900 followers to date) and its revamped wheatthins.com site.
The tweeter videos/TV spots/pre-rolls are designed to build on that engagement. "The social media conversations about Wheat Thins and viral effect are really underway now, and the enthusiasm for the brand is very clear," says Low, noting that celebrities (including "American Idol"'s Kris Allen and R&B singer Chris Brown) have tweeted about the brand.
"These conversations continue to become increasingly important, and we're actively engaged in them on an ongoing basis" -- taking care to engage as a meaningful participant, rather than come off as promotional or intrusive, Low adds.
To date, all signs point to substantial success in engaging the new target audience via social media and the other "Crunch" marketing efforts, according to Low. Importantly, these younger fans view Wheat Thins as a snack product to be enjoyed on an everyday basis, in contrast to the brand's traditional consumer base of women 45 and older, who viewed it "just as a traditional cracker," he points out.
Escape Pod developed the new videos, and AKQA implemented social media/online elements. Edelman handles the brand's public relations.