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Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cups were scheduled for a new product launch in late summer 2016. The thinking behind it was that the mashup of two popular candies – Reese’s Pieces stuffed inside the Peanut Butter Cup – could be counted on to generate interest from devoted brand fans and trade press. But no advanced drumbeats sounded, no PR activities were planned.
Then confusion hit.
A photo of the unreleased product was leaked on a personal Facebook account without the brand’s knowledge or permission, and suddenly Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cups were a hot topic on social media.
People wanted to know if the whimsical-looking confection was real or fantasy. And if real, where could they get them? So, the question then became: how could the brand take back control of its own product? There wasn’t much time for research, and Ketchum knew that the brand’s first response needed to be clever, tone-right and most importantly, fast.
Monitoring the social conversation around the leaked photo, Ketchum found that consumers were confused about whether the product was real, and at the same time excited about the possibility.
The lack of confirmation from the brand itself fueled an almost “too good to be true” chatter. The conversation was being driven by the brand’s best consumers and natural social ambassadors, and their speculation was almost entirely positive, suggesting it would be better for the brand to encourage the speculation, rather than end it. But the timing was crucial. Ketchum could generate fun and goodwill, but it could quickly turn into annoyance, so the social mood needed to be monitored constantly.
It would have been simple to issue an official confirmation and call it a day. But Ketchum recognized an opportunity to play up Reese’s witty brand personality, while connecting and engaging with its most devoted consumers. And so #Cupfusion was born.
#Cupfusion played off two concepts:
- The confusion of consumers who didn’t know if the product was real or fantasy
- The fusion of two of Reese’s most beloved and iconic products, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Reese’s Pieces candy.
Ketchum strategized to tease social media with memes and messages that fell just short of official pronouncements, feeding a fresh wave of speculation and sharing. The campaign would enlist an emoji-inspired graphic—Cupmoji—as its main asset, and most importantly, would maintain constant social listening and analysis to determine how far to push the prank.
The brand began posting a series of cryptic images and GIFs on its Facebook and Twitter channels that neither confirmed nor denied the new product. Instead, the branded content playfully bantered with its fans to keep the conversation—and confusion—going.
A quick glance at the calendar provided two openings to play with. Ketchum quickly created a Cinco de Mayo meme of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup piñata filled with Reese’s Pieces candy, and a Mother’s Day GIF of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup telling its Reese’s Pieces candy, “You’re so cute, I could eat you up!”
The #Cupfusion campaign was originally intended to last about two weeks before the brand would confirm the product. However, the integrated team was keeping a keen eye on the conversation, where Facebook fans and Twitter followers were now telling the Reese’s brand not to be such a #cuptease.
It was time to pivot and fess up. The #Cupfusion ended with an official announcement in an unlikely venue. The Facebook “press conference” invited consumers and top-tier media to tune in to the big news delivered in an irreverent GIF: “Yup…it’s a thing.”
Within minutes, comments and questions from fans flooded the comments section. And within hours, the team launched a real-time social campaign on its Facebook and Twitter feeds, continuing the cheeky back-and-forth between the brand and its fans.
As it did with the original leaked photo, news of the confirmation went viral. The official announcement post on Facebook received nearly 750,000 views in less than 24 hours—topping out at 1.3M views. And media took notice. Within a few days, the news reached more than 1.1 billion people through online news stories and in national and local broadcast segments.
The online conversation generated 43 million social impressions and 2.2 million engagements. And the playful confusion led to real business results. In the weeks following the PR blitz, retailers inundated The Hershey Company sales team with calls asking how soon they could receive the now infamous Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cups.
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