During a difficult year when everyone was seeking simple comforts and a sense of tradition, candy has been a go-to, feel-good fix for many consumers. With everything from seasonal candy-like, spooky Halloween chocolate to M&M’s, as well as non-seasonal candy like chocolate bars and peanut butter cups, the Hershey Company and Mars Wrigley had us covered from 2020-2021.
We’ll take a look at how both companies’ overall digital advertising strategies had us craving sugar, spice and everything nice from season to season.
The Hershey Company
With a history that goes back to the 1800s, the Hershey Company has a strong, well-known portfolio of consumer favorites. Beyond their namesake chocolate, the company owns several popular brands including Reeses’, Kit Kat, Cadbury and many more.
From January 2020 going into June 2021, Hershey invested $267M in its digital advertising around its candy.
Looking at the seasonal vs non-seasonal breakdown, the brand spent $122M on non-seasonal candy and almost $35M on seasonal candy. Breaking down the different seasons and holidays, Hershey invested almost $17M toward Easter, $10M during Halloween, $4M during the winter holidays and $3.1M during Valentine’s Day.
As a whole, the company focused on Instagram as its main digital advertising platform, which made up 52% ($139M) of its overall budget. Hershey has spent an average of $10M a month on the platform since Halloween of 2020, peaking in March 2021 with almost $17M.
Despite the heavy focus on Instagram, all 10 of the company’s top creatives were Desktop Videos with bright and colorful imagery that would make anyone consider a quick candy break. The video ads were reflective of Hershey’s top brands, including Reeses’ ($87M), Hershey Bar Singles ($63M) and Kit Kat ($43M).
Hershey spent almost double its competitor, Mars Wrigley, but true to consumers’ desire for sweets during the holidays, both companies’ spending patterns were very much alike.
One of America’s oldest candy/snack brands, Mars Wrigley has kept consumers of all ages happy with treats such as Snickers, Skittles, Twix and many others for decades. On average, the company spent half of its main competitor, the Hershey Company. From January 2020 to June 2021, Mars Wrigley invested $103M toward digitally advertising its candy and confection products.
Also similar to Hershey, Instagram was Mars Wrigley’s most invested channel, making up 47% ($48.4M) of its total budget. In 2020, Mars Wrigley experienced its peak with a dramatic jump from $0 in August gradually rising to $5.6M in October ahead of Halloween. Going into 2021, the company’s Instagram spend decreased by almost half in December ($3.2M) and then gradually increased into 2021 with an increase in spending during June 2021 ($6.1M). Similar to Hershey, Mars Wrigley invested a significant amount of budget toward advertising non-seasonal candy ($39M) compared to its season candy ($7.8M).
Looking deeper into their seasonal spend, Mars Wrigley spent $896K toward Easter, $3.1M on Halloween, $2.3M on Winter Holidays and $1.5 toward Valentine’s Day. Unlike Hershey’s Desktop Video-exclusive top creatives, Mars Wrigley’s top 10 digital creatives were a mix of different mediums (only five were Desktop Videos).
The top creative was a whimsical Desktop Video for Starburst candy worth $808K, but M&M was represented the most in the top creatives with five total ads. M&M being represented the most aligns with the company’s investments as M&M is one of Mars Wrigley’s top three brands at $27M. Following M&M, the other top brands are Snickers ($18.4M) and Extra Gum ($11.7M).
While Hershey may reign as the top spender ahead of Mars Wrigley, identical spending patterns for both brands indicate there are optimal ways to digitally advertise sweet treats year-round.
Give me Something Good to Eat
If you’ve ever wondered how to appeal to consumers’ sweet tooth, start with a handy calendar. As evidenced by the spending patterns of Hershey and Mars Wrigley, every holiday from October to April is an occasion for seasonal treats.
For non-seasonal candy, companies can focus on promoting a select group of brands and use quick-bite video ads filled with color and whimsy to appeal to everyone’s inner child.
There’s something for everyone at the candy shop and we’ll be watching to see which one of these CPG companies will win the proverbial ‘Chocolate Factory.’ Did any digital ads have you craving something sweet? Let us know!
Both a creative and data-driven marketer, Randi has spent over a decade developing and building brand identity and driving go-to-market strategy for B2B SaaS companies. She earned her MBA from UC, Denver.