The Hershey Company, the iconic candy manufacturer and second largest snacking company, has a lot riding on its recently introduced Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch bar, a chocolate-and-cookie mash-up. Michele Buck, president and CEO of Hershey, says the company is “very bullish” on the creation, and a Wall Street analyst says it could become a $100 million product.

So when Hershey rolled out Cookie Layer Crunch in what reportedly was one of the largest product launches in the company’s history, Ronalee Zarate-Bayani and other marketing executives wanted to make a big splash.

“At Hershey, we’re determined to continue winning the hearts and minds of our consumers. Doing that demands that we meet them on the platforms they use and the mediums that entertain, inspire and inform them,” Zarate-Bayani, head of global integrated marketing communications and digital advancement at Hershey, wrote on the company’s blog.

Zarate-Bayani will be a keynote speaker at DMA’s &THEN marketing conference, scheduled for Oct. 8-10 in New Orleans.

For the premiere of Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch bar last December, the company sought to win the consumer’s hearts and minds through Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform.

“Marketers in a digital world face the many shiny, new objects that pop up daily,” Zarate-Bayani wrote. “Finding the right channel and producing the right content is an exercise in strategic rigor. A fundamental place to start is to understand pervading consumer and behavioral insights.”

For the reveal of Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch bar, the brand turned to Facebook Live to host a first-ever streaming event.
“It was modeled after famous tech launches where an executive stands on stage describing the innovation of its latest hardware as product beauty shots were flashed on screen,” Zarate-Bayani wrote. “In our case, we highlighted the bar’s multi-textural eating experience with mouthwatering product images.”

Within 24 hours, the Facebook Live campaign had garnered more than 18 percent engagement, according to Zarate-Bayani. Over a four-week span, Hershey reached more than 65 million people and achieved double-digit brand awareness, she wrote.

“One of the most recent exciting advances in social has been the growth of ‘live’ video,” Zarate-Bayani wrote. “Facebook has been instrumental in driving this new behavior by making it easy for more consumers to leverage this function and share their ‘live’ stories with an audience that matters to them.”

She added: “It’s connecting with a broad audience, from teens who live to share their unique talents and life moments with peers to activists who want to spread their messages for social good. The key to all of this is the power of experience and its ability to connect each of us as if we were there ourselves.”

In her blog post, Zarate-Bayani offered these broad insights about digital marketing:

  • Mobile is king (or queen). People spend an average of 177 minutes a day on their phones.
  • Winning in the moment is paramount. One-third of smartphone users have purchased from a brand other than the one they had intended to because of “in the moment” information they came across.
  • Facebook is the leading platform for marketers. More than 90 percent of marketers say their businesses are actively using it.
  • Video drives engagement. Nearly 52 percent of marketing professionals around the world cite video as the content type with the best ROI.

“While successfully marketing in a digital world is much more complex today, the journey to winning the hearts and minds of consumers is paved one step at a time. Transformational marketers will be advocates, change-makers and digital leaders,” Zarate-Bayani wrote.