Russell Stover doesn't want to be your grandma's chocolate anymore
Russell Stover, the 96-year-old chocolate brand, is refreshing its image for the modern chocoholic.
The company, whose box once served as a prop in this heavily quoted scene from Forrest Gump, is updating its packaging, ditching its least popular flavors and, this week, launching a multimillion-dollar television buy, the company's first big TV spot in two decades.
"Russell Stover is seen as your grandma's brand. We wanted to modernize it and make sure people realize it was a brand for everyone and all different occasions," says Greer Gonerka, group account director at Cutwater, the company's agency of record.
"It's still an iconic heritage American brand," says Christian Hughes, principal and president at Cutwater. "We just wanted to blow the dust off it rather than try to reinvent it to be a brand that it's not."
The TV spot, #MakeHappy, is airing across all major networks, backed by social and in-store promotions. It features characters gifting boxes of chocolate to people they care about, like their teacher, a returning soldier, friends and family members.
"When we looked at what the other premium chocolate brands are doing in the marketplace, it was always about sort of personal self-indulgence. What's the chocolate doing for me?" Gonerka says. "Russell Stover is about the joy of giving."
The ad features an original song from musical artist, Victory, called "I Wanna Make You Happy," released on Jay-Z's Roc Nation Records label. The Cutwater team says they wanted to avoid a generic Hallmark-style jingle, enlisting an up-and-coming artist to add authenticity to the spot. "Victory just brought a lot of soul," notes Gonerka.
Russell Stover, which was acquired by Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Sprungli in 2014 for a reported $1.5 billion, is promoting its TV campaign on social media with the hashtag, #MakeHappy. The Kansas City, M.O.-based company is active on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, but is missing from Twitter and only recently joined YouTube in August of last year. Its hashtag, #MakeHappy, could help the company grow its presence across social platforms.
"The idea of #MakeHappy is the campaign. That's what everything's going to hinge on," says Hughes.