The latest case in point: Hershey made themed house parties the centerpiece for its kickoff of its new Hershey's Bliss chocolate line, using marketing services company House Party.
Irvington, N.Y.-based House Party charges companies between $100,000 and $250,000 (depending on the number of parties desired) to line up "consumer advocates" to host parties for their friends and relatives; supply the product samples and other party elements; encourage hosts and attendees to blog and post photos in dedicated areas on the House Party site; and monitor the results.
Depending on the marketer's goals/needs, host candidates may come through the brand's own customer/prospect databases--in this case, opt-ins to Hershey's e-newsletters and Web sites--or the House Party site, where consumers can look through a list of upcoming parties and apply to host ones that appeal to them. (House Party vets applicants with questionnaires, choosing ones who fit the target demographics, are eager to blog/post and network around the event, have positive perceptions of or histories with the brand, etc.)
They may also be recruited through on-air promos, in-store promos, bag stuffers at checkout, statement stuffers, direct mail, online, email, or even distributed leaflets. Hosts receive thank-you gifts, but are not paid.
The "Taste of Bliss" parties mesh naturally with the brand's message and female target audience, says Hershey Director of Product Publicity Jody Cook. Rather than being touted as an end-of-day reward or escape, Bliss is positioned as a part of "celebrating and appreciating the everyday joys of life"--and for many women, time with family and friends is high up on the list of those joys, Cook points out.
In addition to samples of the three Bliss varieties, hosts received goodie bags for attendees. Those interested in having a party where attendees created their own "Blissful Memories Scrapbooks" could access downloads of scrapbooking supplies. Other hosts chose to use a "Bliss or That" trivia game theme.
The 10,000 Bliss parties held over the weekend of April 25, just as the chocolates were hitting store shelves, drew more than 129,000 attendees and resulted in postings of over 22,000 digital photos and 15,000 blog entries.
Cook--who says Hershey was "very pleased with the coverage generated by the parties"--notes that the company also used House Party, on a smaller scale (1,000 parties), for its Cacao Reserve launch.
In September, Hershey will follow up the Bliss parties with a contest on the brand's site that gives consumers a chance to win one of 10 different parties, Cook reports.