April Fool’s Day comes every April 1st, and beyond all the fake engagements and the fake new jobs, you’ll find the brands trying to leverage the day to create awareness and engagement around their brands. I’ve seen it all, from Quilted Northern Rustic Weave, to the disgusting looking joke from Cheesecake Factory that was “Nacho Cheesecake.”
With so many brands trying to create that “viral” April’s Fools campaign each year, it can be tough to trust any of them, but the one that stood out above the rest in 2015, was actually real (how’s that for a trick?!). In 2015 Hamburger Helper dropped a mixtape called “Watch The Stove.” People everywhere were left scratching their heads as to if this could even be a real thing, but it was. It was a very real thing. And it was loaded with songs like “In Love With The Glove” and “Food For Your Soul.” Those who downloaded the mixtape could sing along to lyrics like, “Hamburger helper/ Eat it all and then we dip/ On the stove so long I burn my lip.”
The Hamburger Helper mixtape was a huge marketing success and win for the brand, who many had forgotten about, and few would have previously called out as relevant. I grew up eating Hamburger Helper meals, but as I’ve gotten older, I think my tastes have changed, and I’m just not eating as much “Cheeseburger Macaroni” as I once did. The mixtape prompts nostalgia, reminding people of how universally relatable the brand actually is. Even as I write this I’m thinking of my own favorite meals from the box, and the memories I have eating them with my family. Of course, they are also hoping it will strike up a renewed interest in their meal kits. The album had Hamburger Helper trending on Twitter, and all the sentiment across social was positive, even ecstatic from most people.
So, what can marketers learn from this success?
Hamburger Helper embraced nostalgia and relevancy at the same time with the mixtape by:
- Using the word “mixtape”, which conjures up images of sitting in front of a boom-box, creating a carefully curated playlist, and transferring songs from one cassette to another (or timing it just right to tape a song from the radio!). I remember writing the songs on the liner card as if it were a work of art. With digital music, mixtapes have become a thing of the past, but people are still trying to figure out ways to recreate that simple joy of sharing a collection of songs. Plus, the memory of a mixtape should resonate well with the demographic of families looking for affordable meals — many of today’s parents grew up creating mixtapes.
- To attract the younger generation, Hamburger Helper partnered with current DJs and artists and mirrored one of the most popular styles of music. They gave themselves permission to have fun with their brand. Atlanta-based restaurant (and waffle purveyor) Waffle House has actually done something similar for years, stocking the jukeboxes in their diners with songs like “They’re Cooking Up My Order” and “Make Mine with Cheese.” Waffle House has started their own record label, and has amassed a wealth of Waffle House-centric songs over the past 30 years. Being playful, connecting it to current trends, and being mindful of your distribution medium help you engage with customers in new ways. Brainstorm ways that you can connect your brand to something trending or relevant in a way that seems natural. A few years ago here at Pardot, we connected with Game of Thrones for one of our most popular blog posts ever.
Hamburger Helper really clinched April Fool’s Day this year by putting out a very real — but humorous — asset on a day when people were expecting things to be false. The element of surprise was a bonus for consumers, upping the fun factor. They carefully planned the release around the day of prank, and the LA Times even went as far as to call it “possibly the greatest April Fool’s prank of all time.” Think about how you can leverage seasons, holidays or trends to get your content out in front of an already-engaged audience. Take advantage of less popular dates, when you can still get a lift but you won’t be drowned out. For example, in a previous role, I created a successful social post for a brand around Dr. Seuss’ birthday. It captured the spirit of the brand, and was true to their audience.
Take Calculated Risks
Hamburger Helper leveraged social data to see that it’s primary audience on Twitter wasn’t the Mom at home, but “a young, urban, millennial guy making Hamburger Helper in his dorm room,” said Liana Miller, a marketing communications planner for General Mills who worked on the campaign. The album was launched on Soundcloud the morning of April 1st. By 5 p.m. it had more than 270k hits, and it lived on well past the launch — with more than 6 million plays to date. By leveraging the demographics data from their social channels, they were able to determine what their ideal audience looked like on those platforms, and craft a campaign that met that audience right where they already were. It didn’t seem like something Hamburger Helper, the traditional family meal brand, would do, but that was the point. Miller said, “Millennials didn’t hate it because it wasn’t trying so hard. We didn’t try to overdo it.” It was a calculated risk based off of real data they collected from their social media channels. You, too, can utilize tools like Salesforce Social Studio, Facebook Audience Insights, Twitter’s native reporting, and other reporting to help you dig deep to find out who your audience really is on those channels. That will help you craft just the right type of content, and adapt it appropriately for each medium. Calculated risk can pay off, big time.
This campaign was not only a hit with consumers, but also garnered a lot of positive buzz in the media. A quick Google search about the Hamburger Mixtape will uncover article after article from places like Mashable, Forbes, Bloomberg, Adweek, and so many others about the success of this campaign that clearly won April Fool’s of 2015. The principles applied can an inspiration to any brand, even if you sell to a totally different audience. Be relevant, consider a timely campaign, and don’t be afraid to take calculated risks to reach different audiences in different places. Next year YOU might have one of the best, most talked-about marketing campaigns of the year!
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