Jelly's first jam

By Published on .

Most Popular
It will be hard to top growth spurred by a personal endorsement from a U.S. president, but Jelly Belly Candy Co. will try to do just that with its first TV brand campaign and other consumer-driven marketing tactics.

The fifth generation, family-owned candy company has built its jelly beans into a roughly $80 million brand with more than 90% awareness levels, mostly through grass-roots efforts. Since Ronald Reagan named Jelly Belly as his favorite candy in 1981, the company has used PR and event sampling as its main marketing vehicles, including sponsoring a Jelly Belly Nascar truck, and welcoming more than 500,000 visitors a year to its Fairfield, Calif., headquarters.

Now, after joining the former Herman Goelitz Candy Co. and Goelitz Confectionery Co. units under the moniker of its signature product-Jelly Belly-the $100 million company is ready to extend the ubiquitous brand even further with a targeted cable and outdoor campaign in nine cities.

"We're just at that point in our life cycle where to continue the growth of the brand, we needed to test TV," said John Harrington, director of marketing. Mr. Harrington joined Jelly Belly two years ago, bringing to the 132-year-old company classical brand management training earned during his decade-long stint at Nestle USA's Stouffer's Food division. At Stouffer's, Mr. Harrington helped double the size of the company with the introduction of Lean Cuisine; he said he plans to similarly double sales at Jelly Belly over the next five years.

"The company needed someone who understood branding, advertising and package design. For a while now, we have been focused on the [retail] customer, and now we just want to focus on the consumer," he said.

The new "Show your flavor" campaign, from Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Clear Ink, kicks off Sept. 10 in cities including Boston and San Francisco. The creative is a result of research, Mr. Harrington said, that showed consumers are very passionate and intense about Jelly Belly's true-to-life flavors. Such passion is evident from the hundreds of e-mails that flood in from consumers on a daily basis, he said. One Stanford student suggested that if he destroyed the world by fire it wouldn't be as big a mistake as buttered popcorn, while another opined that he could relate to juicy pear because the flavor, while shy on the outside, is wild and full of life on the inside.

The TV campaign and a supplemental outdoor effort appearing at venues from movie theaters to malls, is intended to "capture the individuality...of the relationship consumers have with their favorite flavors," said Kim Shugart, president-CEO of Clear Ink. In the spot targeting the 11-to-17-year old mall crowd, a lively Jelly Belly song plays while a smattering of kids stick out their tongues to show off their favorite Jelly Belly flavors. The spot targeting older "empty nesters" plays the same tune but features adults from businessmen in suits to security guards.

The media plan, roughly the same $1.5 million Jelly Belly has previously put toward product-specific magazine ads, is all cable, with buys on networks like Nickelodeon and MTV for kids, and TNT and Discovery Channel for adults. Clear Ink designed the buy to coincide with a large-scale in-store effort it will wage in gourmet stores throughout the test markets to help track the correlation between brand advertising and sales. In fact, Mr. Shugart admitted, it's possible in-store efforts, including giveaways and contests tied to the "Show your flavor" campaign, might drive more sales than the TV. "The awareness levels for the brand are so high and people are already right there," he said. "Everybody knows we're good, everybody has a favorite flavor, the crux of the problem we're trying to solve is how to get consumers to buy one more bag a month, to buy every two weeks."

The same ubiquity that makes TV advertising a not-necessarily needle-moving endeavor is what has drawn the attention of potential suitors for Jelly Belly. By all accounts, many offers have been extended to buy Jelly Belly and the Goelitz brand of gourmet confections. They were rebuffed by hands-on owner and Chairman Herman Rowland. The 60-year-old great-grandson of candy company founder Gustav Goelitz developed the all-natural Jelly Belly jelly bean in 1976 and has said definitively he will not sell the company. To ensure family ownership continues, three of Mr. Rowland's four children and a son-in-law are on board learning the business. A second cousin of Mr. Rowland's, Bill Kelley, is vice chairman.

Mr. Harrington said Jelly Belly plans extend the brand beyond jelly beans next year, and to extend distribution to gourmet and specialty stores as well as national accounts.

In this article: