As Easter Sunday nears, many iconic candy brands are capitalizing upon the holiday with Facebook campaigns and Twitter parties to ensure Easter baskets are filled with their goodies.
Perhaps the most remarkable story comes from the marshmallow chicks brand Peeps, which started out with about 2,400 likes on Facebook on April 3. That figure has subsequently grown to more than 72,000 in the three weeks leading up to Easter.
Just Born, which produces Peeps, is using the Peeps Facebook page to promote new chocolate-dipped offerings this year as well as digital coupons, an Easter sweepstakes and recipes like Peeps Pool Cake and Sweet Peeps Macaroons.
According to a Just Born rep, a digital coupon for $1 off two new chocolate Peeps products first appeared on April 4, but had to be removed three days later because fans gobbled up 40 percent of the coupons the company produced for the month. It was later reposted.
Peep'’ Easter sweepstakes, which runs for three weeks in April, awards ten fans a $100 gift code each week that can be used to purchase merchandise on the Peeps website. It has had nearly 333,000 entries, the rep says.
Hershey's, too, has been busy this season, promoting its Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs. The Reese’s Facebook page, which boasts 6.8 million likes, has posted Easter questions for about the past week. It has also posted a number of Egg photos.
Hershey's held what Anna Lingeris, public relations manager at Hershey's, calls a "Twitter party" on April 7 "to get excited for the Easter season." In it, the candy maker partnered with Amy Lupold Bair of the Resourceful Mommy blog. Using the hashtag, #Hersheys, the brand gave away a number of Easter-related prizes throughout the hour-long online party.
According to Lingeris, Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs, a seasonal version of its Peanut Butter Cups (which has a different ratio of peanut butter to chocolate), become available as soon as Valentine’s Day wraps up.
While Reese’s also offers specially shaped Cups for Valentine's Day, Halloween and Christmas, the Easter Eggs are Reese’s most popular seasonal shape, Lingeris says. What’s more, she says the Eggs are the most popular product Hershey’s offers at Easter altogether.
Hershey's also has a holiday-themed website, hersheys.com/celebrate/easter, which changes throughout the year. It highlights seasonal products and features recipes, crafts and, for Easter, basket ideas.
It also enables Hershey's to highlight its partnership with the new Universal Pictures movie, "Hop." Hershey's is the official candy of the movie and has created new products - like the solid milk chocolate Hop the Movie Magic Bunny and Cadbury Egg Scepter of Destiny - as a result.
Hershey's licenses Cadbury products in the U.S. And, despite the popularity of Cadbury Crème Eggs on U.S. soil, its online promotions hail from other shores. A "Goo Dares" competition, in which fans upload photos of themselves performing a predetermined dare using the goo of an Egg, hails from the U.K. Another, "Return of the Goo," which asks users to enter an address and then uses a catapult to launch an Egg onto a map of the location, is from Canada.
Cadbury Creme Eggs have 1.7 million fans on Facebook.
These promotions come on the heels of news that brands may find stiff competition from gourmet chocolate retailers.
According to MyWebGrocer, which provides e-commerce and e-marketing products to the grocery and consumer packaged goods industries, online sales of gourmet chocolate have been on the rise in the four weeks leading up to Easter over the past three years.
Rebecca Roose, product marketing manager, says she thinks the driver is quality.
"If I want to give (my kids) a treat, I don't want chocolate with high fructose corn syrup," she says. "I'm going to spend the extra money and give them a few pieces of more expensive chocolate that is better for them and has ingredients I can pronounce."
MyWebGrocer also notes the size of chocolate purchased is getting smaller.
"There may be a shift toward a smaller but nicer piece of chocolate," adds Senior Marketing Analyst Catherine Workman.
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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