Turning the Frown Upside Down: Kraft's Jell-O Plans Twitter Mood Monitor

TV, Social Media Pushes Pudding, Which Has Become 'Second Class Citizen'

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Kraft Foods' Jello pudding brand wants to turn your :( into a :D. And to do so, it's willing to bribe you.

In its latest social-media twist, the food giant plans this summer to unleash a "Mood Monitor" on Twitter, in which it will randomly send coupons to users found typing the internationally accepted symbol for a frown face, which, of course, is ":(". But here's the catch: users must reply not by typing ":)" but by typing ":D" -- which the marketer will tout as the symbol for "pudding face." And Kraft will only activate the program if Twitterverse is in a bad mood.

Kraft will "constantly monitor and visualize how many smiley faces or frown faces are being tweeted at any given moment," Cindy Chen, Kraft's director-marketing for Jell-O, told Ad Age . "Whenever the national average of smiley faces dips below 51%, Jello-O will take really quick action by doling out Jell-O pudding incentives, probably in the form of coupons to Twitter users who recently tweeted a frown face."

"We're just going to scrub the universe of Twitter," added Chris Miles, director-advertising for Kraft's grocery unit. A similar program is being planned for Facebook.

The effort, part of a comprehensive campaign for the pudding brand, is the first Jell-O campaign by MDC Partners' CP&B, which took over the brand late last year from Interpublic Group of Cos. DraftFCB. The highly interactive campaign has similar traits to Crispin's "Mac & Jinx" effort earlier this year for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. In that program, the foodmaker sent links to two people who at any given time tweeted about the brand. The first one to call "Jinx" by clicking the link was sent a prize package, including free product and a T-shirt.

The initiatives, in essence, are sampling programs for the modern age and come as Kraft sharpens its advertising across many of its brands to appeal to a younger, hipper audience. "What we've noticed when we've done couponing initiatives like this through social media is that when done correctly you can really achieve some critical mass in terms of the number of people who are tweeting [and] posting," Mr. Miles said. Indeed, "Mac & Cheese" became a trending toping on Twitter one day in March.

Kraft did not reveal exactly how it will monitor Twitterverse. But it seems there are plenty of sad tweeters across the globe. A random search by Ad Age revealed dozens of frown faces, almost by the second, accompanying tweets in different languages. "Just played my last softball game :(," said one user. "Too much depression is not helping :(," said another.

The Jell-O campaign debuted last week with a TV spot in which a dad tries to hide his "pudding face," an extra-wide grin meant to evoke the delight felt after downing pudding. The campaign exclusively focuses on pudding for the first time since the late 1990s, Kraft said. Recent efforts had plugged both Jell-O gelatin and pudding within an overall trademark campaign. Kraft is switching gears because it fears pudding -- which is facing increasing competition from yogurt brands -- was overshadowed by Jell-O gelatin.

"As much as we would like a trademark effort to work for this brand, trademark marketing is problematic" for Jell-O because pudding became "a second-class citizen," Mr. Miles said. Kraft is now working with Crispin to "reorder the house strategically" he said. Gelatin will get a separate campaign that will likely focus "on the fun and experiential nature of this product," he added.

Sales of Jell-O mixes and prepared products -- including pudding and gelatin brands -- edged up by 0.07% to $584 million in the year ending April 17, according to SymphonyIRI, which does not include Walmart. Sales of Jell-O refrigerated pudding and gelatin desserts dropped by nearly 5% to $532 million.

Kraft spent $69.5 million in measured media on Jell-O last year, up from $23.5 million the year before, according to Kantar Media. This year's budget will grow again, Kraft said.

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