Welcome back to Convene. Challenge. Change., an editorial partnership between The Drum and the 4A’s that explores the secrets behind successful brand-agency partnerships. This time around, 4A’s CEO and president Marla Kaplowitz speaks with Kellanova’s Diane Sayler and Grey’s Jason Kahner to explore the history of Pringles’ Super Bowl marketing strategy and what we can expect from the brand during gameday this weekend.
Super Bowl season – one of the most important times of the year for marketers in the US – is once again upon us. And with millions of people across the country preparing to host and attend their own snack-laden viewing parties, the Big Game has special relevance for brands in the food and beverage industry.
Pringles is a perfect example. Owned by Kellanova (formerly Kellogg’s), the iconic snack brand known for its cylindrical packaging and mustachioed mascot, Mr P, has partnered with marketing agency Grey to maintain an advertising presence during the Super Bowl for the past seven years. This year, it will be returning with a gameday ad campaign that draws on some of its preexisting marketing themes while also expanding into some new territory.
According to Diane Sayler, a senior director in Kellanova’s salty snacks division, Pringles’ first foray into Super Bowl marketing in 2018 revolved around a core differentiation strategy: “We like to think of ourselves as unique within the salty snacks category,” she says. “We have a very unique shape, a unique vehicle in which we serve you this snack, and we believe our flavors set us apart from some of our competition. So as we began to build campaigns … [we leaned into] our distinctive assets.”
In that spirit, the brand’s first four Super Bowl marketing campaigns played upon the concept of “flavor stacking,” a snacking trend it had noticed among some of its audience in which multiple flavors of Pringles were stacked atop one another – a feat made possible by what Sayler describes as “the iconic shape of the crisp” – and eaten simultaneously, allowing for novel tastes.
Then, beginning in the 2022 Super Bowl, Pringles’ marketing moved away from flavor stacking and began to play instead with the brand’s distinctively tubular – and sometimes frustratingly narrow – can. In a campaign dubbed ‘Can Hands,’ the brand showed a brief visual story of a young Pringles enthusiast reaching into one of these cans to retrieve the last chip at the bottom only to get his hand hopelessly stuck. Rather than trying to force it off of him, he shrugs and proceeds to live his life with a Pringles can prosthesis. The 2022 Super Bowl ad was accompanied, fittingly, by Lionel Richie’s Stuck On You.
The brand enjoyed such strong success with ‘Can Hands’ in 2022 that it extended the campaign into the Super Bowl the following year with ‘It Happens to the Best of Us,’ a spot that showed a variety of fictitious professionals – from judges to bowlers – going about their jobs with a Pringles can stuck to their wrists. This time, the soundtrack was Tina Turner’s Simply the Best.
This year, according to Sayler, Pringles’ Super Bowl marketing campaign will continue its “pattern of distinctiveness.” The new ad – which was teased this morning on The Today Show – is oriented around the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, also known as the frequency illusion, a form of cognitive bias that leads people to suddenly and frequently notice a particular object or idea after they first become aware of it or begin to pursue it in some fashion. (It might seem, for example, that you start to see the latest iPhone everywhere after you view a particularly compelling ad for the device.)
“What you’re going to see us doing is helping everyone see Mr P,” says Sayler, “and then you can’t unsee him.” The ad will be accompanied by a social media campaign in which “consumers can actually spot Mr P in everyday objects – think latte art, clouds and their dog.”
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The brand’s new Super Bowl ad stars actor Chris Pratt as a Mr P doppelgänger. According to Jason Kahner, global chief client officer at Grey Group, recruiting the right celebrity partner for Pringles’ marketing is about more than the social prestige of the celebrity – it’s about finding that rare individual who will actually be able to authentically represent the brand’s ethos and identity. “Our talent strategy is … [aimed at making] sure that we are strategically and intentionally choosing the person that feels right for the brand, feels right for our audience and [who] can create not only engagement but entertainment.”
Watch the full conversation in the video above.
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