2015 Bronze Anvil Winner Highlight: The Evolving Story of PEEPS: From Easter Baskets to Christmas Stockings


PEEPS, the colorful marshmallow chicks and bunnies from Just Born Quality Confections, are known as an Easter essential. But the Easter basket battle has been growing. Hershey, Mars, Cadbury (Mondelez) and Nestlé have much larger brands and marketing muscle. 

Of the $59 million spent on Easter television advertising in 2014, PEEPS only accounted for 0.05 percent of the total. And while Easter remains crucial for the marshmallow candies brand, Christmas has become an important “second season” for the PEEPS brand, despite facing the same major challenge – small marketing budget versus the larger competition. 

The writing was on the wall: the brand needed earned media coverage, so the PEEPS brand team set the following objectives:

  • Help increase brand sales at Easter by 10 percent
  • Help increase Christmas sales year-over-year
  • Contribute to sales for the Just Born Retail Group online retail division
  • Generate 20 billion media impressions at Easter
  • Increase Christmas media coverage over 2013

Easter PEEPS CakePEEPS research on its target audience of moms aged 25 to 54 discovered that they focus on holiday traditions, festive celebrations with family, and spontaneous fun. Demographic research found three components that drive moms to purchase:

  • Buying products that will make her kids smile and make her feel good about the choices she makes
  • Getting new ideas from friends or online
  • Wanting to make every occasion special

A 2012 A&U study commissioned by PEEPS revealed that consumers utilized the brand’s marshmallow candies for alternate uses, including for recipes (28 percent) and for non-edible occasions such as crafting projects and decorations (65 percent). 

The marshmallow candies brand’s public relations agency, Coyne Public Relations, meticulously researched media outlets and reporters who previously covered Easter products – identifying “gaps in coverage” from previous public relations campaigns to focus on for PEEPS. 

Coyne’s strategies included:

  • Resonate with moms by infusing PEEPSONALITY, the fun nature of PEEPS, into all campaign messaging
  • Showcase the brand’s versatility through recipes, crafts and decorations
  • Broaden the brand’s message by leveraged brand partnerships including Dunkin’ Donuts, Yankee Candle and Wilton
  • Highlight consumers’ passion in participating in annual diorama contests featuring PEEPS.

Fun facts and engaging imagery painted the picture of the brand’s PEEPSONALITY.  PEEPS expert and Just Born Retail Group executive, Matt Pye, brought the brand to life through compelling stories in interviews. In addition, Coyne worked with “Good Morning America” to arrange a Deals & Steals segment featuring exclusive offers for viewers. 

Newsworthy images from diorama contests such as the Oscars selfie were leveraged for media outreach. Unique mailings were designed for key media, including bonnets adorned with PEEPS for “Today Show” co-hosts, Kathie Lee and Hoda. 

Recipes and crafting ideas inspired media and bloggers to highlight PEEPS-infused creations. Coyne worked collaboratively with all PEEPS strategic partners to maximize media exposure. 

Following execution, the marshmallow candies brand hatched sweet results with Easter sales growing 26 percent from 2013, as measured by IRI MULO. PEEPS led the dollar growth figures for all candy brands during Easter, achieving 2.6 times the average growth seen by all candy brands. Furthermore, Christmas sales in 2014 increased by 52 percent over the previous year. 

The “Good Morning America” Deals & Steals exclusive offers led to booming online activity for the Just Born Retail Group. 90 percent of sales that day were attributed to the segment’s offer. Transactions increased 47 percent and product units sold increased 112 percent compared to 2013. 

Coyne doubled public relations results from the previous Easter season by achieving more than 41 billion impressions. 2014 Christmas media coverage was increased by 45 percent from 2013, reaching 3.5 billion impressions. 

In total, the campaign secured seven “Today Show” segments, two “Good Morning America” segments, seven articles each on Huffington Post, Delish and Parade, and partnership coverage on BuzzFeed Food, E! News, and Epicurious, among others.

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