Social distancing marketing is now available on a smart speaker, thanks to MoonPie.
MoonPie has debuted MoonMate, an Alexa skill that the brand is positioning as a virtual "roommate" who can provide company and conversation to those craving for more "human" interaction at home. Users simply say, “Alexa, launch MoonPie MoonMate,” and the fun begins.
The MoonPie MoonMate pulls the expected move of offering recipes involving MoonPies (such as adding ice cream and toppings), but it goes way beyond that. When Ad Age tested it out, it asked the user what day it is, what the weather was like and if they were the same horoscope sign. It also offered up some timely advice, telling someone who has been home for weeks, “Do not cut your own hair. Just don’t.”
MoonMate also gives glimpses into its own interior "life," such as mentioning it’s terrified of going outside and doesn’t quite know why the grass is green.
And if you ask, it says it will pay rent—after all, it’s billing itself as a roommate. Don't look to Venmo, though. That comes in the form of a code good for a free MoonPie item with the purchase of another one.
So while "MoonMate" plays the useful role of keeping the sheltered entertained at home, it's a clever product plug too.
The idea comes from creative agency Tombras, which weighed whether brands are permitted to have a bit of fun at this moment. MoonPie's brand voice has been all about fun, with social media antics that included calling dibs on being the first brand on the moon.
Tombras CCO Jeff Benjamin says the agency wondered if such a voice would be out of place at this time. "We saw some beautiful things from brands but they all seemed to play on the same note and we wondered if there was an opportunity for a different more fun approach."
The agency then saw a Mayo Clinic article about the benefits of laughter on immunity, anxiety and general health. "It was the reassurance we needed that MoonPie’s voice had a purpose and role in helping people through social distancing," Benjamin says.
In creating the MoonMate, the agency also paid careful attention to making it as human as possible while trying to address the quirks of A.I. and voice platforms. For example, in situations when voice assistants can't process what a user says, "we saw an opportunity," Benjamin says. "Instead of a scripted 'sorry, didn’t catch that,' MoonMate gets distracted and starts new conversations or blames it on the coders who weren’t smart enough to anticipate that response."
During development, the agency held Zoom sessions with hundreds of MoonPie employees and MoonMate to evolve its personality and AI. Tombras also carefully studied the finalists of Alexa Prize Socialbot, Amazon's voice tech competition, for examples of best-in-class voice interactions that the agency could build on.
The skill is only on Alexa devices for now but is set to be added to Google Home.