How a Blasé Approach Helped Swedish Fish Reach Gen Z

ClickZ at Advertising WeekMondelez got more Millennials thinking about Swedish Fish, not only through video content, but an entrepreneurial and somewhat relaxed attitude.

This summer, the brand launched a video, the first in its #1 Fish Shaped Candy series, centered on a student answering the classic “What did you do this summer?” question with a series of ridiculous Swedish Fish-related adventures. The video was funny and silly. But most importantly, it was executed very quickly, said Farrah Bezner, marketing director for Halls and candy at Mondelez International at an Advertising Week panel entitled, “Moving Your Brand at the Speed of Culture: Making Swedish Fish Part of Gen Z Conversations.”

“The video isn’t about getting the [The #1 Fish Shaped Candy in the World] tagline out into the universe,” said Bezner. “It’s about starting with social listening – what are people talking about, whether it’s the end of summer or a movie that’s coming out – and creating content that’s about that. The [tagline] is just the wrapping.”

With Swedish Fish, it’s easy to get a little carried away. Whoops.#1 Fish Shaped Candy In The World

Posted by Swedish Fish on Friday, August 14, 2015

Swedish Fish have been around forever, though they’re not especially popular among Millennials and their younger Generation Z counterparts. Video is a good way to reach those demographics; the entrepreneurial part came in by, rather than making the series a huge project, releasing content quickly, cheaply and one at a time.

“There’s a reason we didn’t do seven videos all at once. We put the first one out to see what people talk about, what they care about,” said Bezner. “Who knew putting a bun on the guy’s head would be a huge topic of conversation? People are tagging their friends who have buns and the next thing you know, everyone in the country with a man bun is talking about Swedish Fish.

According to Gary Vaynerchuk, engagement is good, but doesn’t determine ROI, something he thinks too many marketers overcomplicate. In Vaynerchuk’s opinion, there’s one way to prove ROI: just look at sales. 

“If the reports are great, but business is down 41 percent, something is wrong: the reports,” said Vaynerchuck, remembering when his agency worked with Nilla wafers, a Nabisco cookie brand. “It was an entrepreneurial brand – a.k.a., no money. We only did Facebook and Pinterest, and miraculously after years of being flat, the business grew 9 percent. Companies should try going rogue before selling a brand off. It’s very easy to do it; the dirty little secret is that 99 percent of brand marketers and CMOs don’t want to.”

Only a few weeks old, the video’s effect on ROI is yet to be determined. For Mondelez, going rogue meant doing something quickly and just seeing what happened without doing months of qualitative research, as is often the custom with larger brands. If the first video flopped, the company planned to regroup and try something else.

For marketers looking to follow in Swedish Fish’s footsteps, both Bezner and Vaynerchuk recommended trying new things and not overthinking them too much. Bezner pointed out that the old-school way of doing advertising, planning everything out a year in advance, doesn’t allow brands to keep up with the culture and what’s trending.

Vaynerchuk added that you shouldn’t just try new things, but keep trying new things.

“I think brands hold onto something that’s worked and try to squeeze it forever,” he said. “One of the biggest mistakes in marketing is not putting yourself out of business. You have to have the foresight to say, ‘This series is over.”

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