Beyond-Easter push scheduled for Peeps

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In a push to get consumers to think of marshmallow candy Peeps all year round, Just Born plans to up marketing spending significantly to back a full lineup of seasonal marshmallow shapes in 2003.

Just Born will double ad spending on the brand and plans first-time non-Easter TV ads and a first-time print campaign touting Valentine's Day, July 4th, Halloween and Christmas. Peeps will get its first mobile marketing tour, a new loyalty program and a revamped Web site pegged to the sugary treats' 50th anniversary next year.

"If we could sell anywhere near as many [Peeps] throughout the year as we do at Easter, we'd be sitting pretty," said Peeps product manager Wendy Esch. Privately held Just Born sells more than 1 billion individual marshmallow shapes a year, she said, and while the iconic yellow Peeps chick until recently accounted for more than 95% of those sales, the other holiday shapes-among them spooky cats and pumpkins, snowmen, hearts and patriotic stars-now make up at least 20% of Peeps sales. The new integrated campaign, the first-ever marketing outside of the Easter season, aims to take advantage of that growth opportunity.

Beginning in January, Peeps will try to capitalize on the pop culture kitsch of its brand (much like Hormel Foods' Spam brand has) with the launch of a new Peeps Points program. The program will reward loyal users with Peeps merchandise including pens, T-shirts and clocks in exchange for points gained on-pack. Ms. Esch pointed to the already-loyal user base of the 13,000-member Peeps fan club as indication of the potential of the loyalty program.

Peeps will also deploy multiple Peeps buses wrapped with pictures of the various holiday shapes and a four-foot yellow Peep chick on top to roughly 100 major cities next year, touting seasonal recipes and crafts for kids in which Peeps figure prominently. In fact, although Peeps sales dropped 1.4% to $29.9 million for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 6 in grocery, drug and mass outlets excluding Wal-Mart Stores, Ms. Esch said Peeps is often sold in other outlets such as craft stores and dollar stores. Next year's promotions will heavily tout craft and recipe ideas featuring the treats as will Peep's Web site,, which will be revamped in January.

Advertising, from Omnicom Group's Moss Dragoti, New York, will now move beyond Easter, whereas historically, "distribution didn't warrant advertising around other seasons," Ms. Esch said. Next year, an animated Peeps chick will don a sheet in a new Halloween TV spot and a pink bonnet for Easter, and print ads likewise will leverage the original by dressing him up as a romantic Frenchman for Valentine's Day, Uncle Sam for July 4th and Santa for Christmas.

Copy for the Halloween spot reads: "No matter how hard we tried, we couldn't make the original marshmallow Peep scary enough so we made marshmallow Peeps just for Halloween."

Other holiday-themed ads take a similar approach. The ads will target moms of kids 2 to 12, with print running in books such as Weider Publications' Shape and Time Inc.'s Parenting, and TV running on daytime network and evening cable programming such as Lifetime and TVLand.

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