A year after Ferrero Group acquired the Keebler brand, Ernie the Elf is spreading the word about “real” cookie ingredients combined with magical family moments.
It’s a multi-faceted campaign that seeks to modernize Ernie by immersing him in various digital settings—including shoppable ads on Hulu.
In a deal consummated last July, Ferrero picked up Keebler and several other brands from Kellogg Co. that are now managed by Ferrara Candy, in partnership with Ferrero.
Given that the Keebler brand was more than 150 years old, “What we knew is we had a beloved brand. We knew we had a lot already to work with,” Natalie Hagstrom, general manager of cookies at Ferrara, tells Marketing Daily.
Consumer research led to the decision not only to keep Ernie and his elfin friends, but give him a more prominent role in product packaging and marketing.
“In prior iterations, Ernie was different sizes, in different places. He was being hidden either behind a bucket of fudge or holding a chip or pecan. He is now front and center and prominent as the [master of ceremonies] on our package,” says Hagstrom.
Moments of family bonding were an essential element of the new campaign even though the genesis of its concept predated the onset of COVID-19 by more than six months.
Given the pandemic, “What we learned through consumer engagement is that Ernie and the magic of the elves is absolutely still relevant—even more so,” says Hagstrom.
“Made With Real” video spots for Pecan Sandies, Fudge Stripes and Chips Deluxe Originals open with Ernie peering into binoculars from his legendary hollow tree abode. His view takes him into homes where families enjoy the sweet treats as he touts the virtues of “real” chocolate and fudge and such ingredients as Madagascar vanilla.
“Made with magic, loved by families” is the recurring tagline.
To further emphasize ingredients, Keebler is leveraging Instagram Lenses to enable users to “catch our cookies in order to have the opportunity to be transformed into Ernie and virtually visit the hollow tree” where the cookies are made, says Keebler senior associate brand manager Ryan Nolan.
In a similar vein, an activation with mini-game platform Giphy Arcade involves three games “where users are lifted from our social platforms and are tasked with helping Ernie add the real ingredients to our cookies,” Nolan adds.
To initiate consumer trial, Keebler is beta testing shoppable ads on Hulu that viewers can activate to obtain a coupon redeemable at Walmart.com.
Additional campaign elements include bringing Ernie’s voice to Pandora and an experiential initiative with the Fooji platform through which people can send “cookie bouquets” to loved ones, coinciding with Grandparents Day on Sept. 13.