Ice Breakers reminds people to pop mints before putting on masks
Ice Breakers has a tip for all of the new mask wearers out there: beware of your breath. Or, to put it in the brand’s terminology: #MintBeforeYouMask.
Mask breath is an issue healthcare workers used to wearing masks are accustomed to dealing with. Now that the general public is donning masks to head outside they are learning that smelling their breath behind the mask isn’t always a pleasant experience.
Ice Breakers is pointing out the issue in an in-house campaign that thanks people for wearing masks while also suggesting they have a mint—an Ice Breakers one, of course.
“I’ve always told people around the company if you have an insight, if you see something that you think is compelling, just reach out to me and share it,” says Ryan Riess, senior director of social strategy and content at the Hershey Co., which makes Ice Breakers.
That’s what Michael Jenks, associate brand manager, innovation, did. He emailed Riess after hearing about mask breath from his fiancée Dr. Carissa White, who is a radiologist at the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
“This is actually shockingly relevant right now,” says Riess.
Plus, the ad may serve as a reminder to people to buy mints, which is something they haven’t been doing as often during the coronavirus pandemic.
The 15-second spot begins with a thank you message to those wearing masks "for grandparents, neighbors and cashiers," before asking “how about a mint before you mask?” It ends with the voiceover saying, “because mask breath? It’s real.”
Sales of mints and gum have plunged during COVID-19. Fewer people are going out and, as a result, there's a steep decline in impulse buys at places such as gas station convenience stores and airports. The travel retail business was seeing declines of 75 percent to 80 percent, Hershey Co. CEO Michele Buck said on a conference call in late April. And rival Mondelēz International said it expects to see “material declines” in the gum category, where it sells brands such as Trident. According to Nielsen, sales of mints fell 37.5 percent in the week ended May 2.
Hershey Co. took the Ice Breakers idea from email to ad in a matter of weeks. Riess says he got the email from Jenks on a Friday afternoon. By Wednesday, the Hershey internal creative team, known as the C-Sweet, was ready with its concept.
Hershey floated the idea in social media posts from the Ice Breakers accounts before investing in producing the 15-second spots.
“We decided to do a little bit of a gut check, putting it out on social,” says Riess. Along with some responses to the brand’s posts, people were already posting on their own with hashtags such as #maskbreath.
Hershey already said it was spending $1 million to set up a line to make disposable masks. Now, when it ships those masks, it will include some Ice Breakers as well.
The campaign is a departure from Ice Breakers’ most recent work, somewhat quirky product-centric ads featuring a unicorn that came from CP&B. Ice Breakers is currently working with Droga5, says Riess. But the “mint before you mask” work was done internally by Hershey’s small creative team, C-Sweet. It’s the internal agency’s third TV spot, following spots for the Heath and Rolo brands.
The team looked through stock footage of people wearing masks and spotted the video of a woman who puts on her mask, then blinks. The way she moves her eyes seemed like it could be used to convey mask breath, says Riess. Text and voiceover were added. Hershey’s team made a rough cut of what it wanted and shared the idea with Cutters, and then the Chicago-based production company edited the final cuts.
Riess says as everyone was working remotely, that situation kept the process sharp and tight. He’d text rather than schedule a meeting to see what the brand team thought. “There was no PowerPoint, there was no dog-and-pony show,” says Riess.
While Jenks wasn’t involved in the campaign, Riess says he kept him up to speed. “Post-quarantine I’m excited to have lunch with him,” says Riess.
Followed, no doubt, by a mint.