Coinciding with the 30th Anniversary of Elvis's death next summer, Hershey will shimmy onto the shelf a limited-edition peanut-butter-and-banana-creme variety inspired by the rock 'n' roll legend. And the rollout will be accompanied by a significant promotional outlay.
The push comes as part of Hershey's effort to regain momentum for its brands, which have lost share to Mars during the last three months. Sales for Reese's -- No. 1 in the chocolate category -- fell slightly during the last year to $412 million. And while many retailers question the appeal of the new flavor itself, the power of the pompadoured pop star is expected to bring attention to the item in stores.
Trip to Graceland
"Even retailers who don't do much with limited editions will with this one," said an executive close to Hershey. In part, that's because Hershey plans to promote it with far more pomp and circumstance than is typically put against its limited editions. Peanut-butter-and-banana-creme, which features Elvis (the skinny one) on package graphics, will include an under-the-label instant-win game offering a trip for two to Graceland. Other prizes include Elvis memorabilia and a limited-edition Elvis Nascar car.
Hershey will also place Elvis on the side of its Reese's Nascar car and will tout the Elvis tie-in heavily with advertising, in-store efforts and a major public-relations outreach during August and September, especially during Elvis Week 2007, which will be held Aug. 11-19. Because 2007 represents the 30th anniversary of Elvis' death, the event, according to the website of promoter Elvis Presley Enterprises, is expected to "be the biggest, most exciting Elvis Week ever."
A proven icon
This year's buzz aside, Elvis has done well hawking products posthumously, ranking first in Forbes' 2005 list of top-earning deceased celebrities with $45 million in sales last year. The King is featured in ads for the Honda CR-V, he'll be touted in a TV Guide tribute CD on the magazine's Dec. 11 cover and he has recently been licensed for everything from revolvers (the Elvis Presley "Taking Care of Business" Smith & Wesson) to keys. Zippo has sold out its limited-edition Elvis lighters annually for the last 20 years.
"Elvis is such a tried-and-true icon, using him is going to work [for Hershey]. The question is how big it will be," said Landor managing director Allen Adamson. That said, though, he added there is "potential upside and very little downside."
Steven Addis, president of Addis Creson, agrees that using the borrowed interest of Elvis couldn't hurt and is actually a great way to test a product. Given the promotional efforts around the variety, he suggested Hershey is thinking of rolling out a banana-creme Reese's variety longer term, and using Elvis is "a good way to get trial early on."
Retailers agree, even those who aren't crazy about the flavor combination. "I didn't like the way it tastes, but anything with Elvis has a possibility," said one Midwest grocery executive. "The girls in my office are thrilled." Even 30 years dead, Elvis still has a way with the ladies.