How to mint a brilliant marketing idea during a pandemic

Now, this is one of the most wonderfully original marketing ideas I have seen in recent times.

Owing to social distancing norms and lockdown/stay at home calls, it seems sales of chewing gum and mint are seriously down.

The logic is simple, actually – we usually use gum/mint not for ourselves, but to be able to interact confidently with others, without repelling them with our bad breath. If you are stuck at home, away from people, the use of gum/mint is similar to use of pants in a video conferencing call – unnecessary 🙂

Hershey’s owned mints brand, Ice Breakers, is also affected by the sales drop. But, in a brilliant demonstration of marketing ingenuity, they turned the whole thing on its head – ‘How about we make people use mint for themselves, instead of for others?’. Now, how could you make someone take a mint for themselves?

Hershey’s in-house creative agency is called C-Sweet. Ryan Riess, C-Sweet’s senior director of social strategy and content had an email from an employee in their innovation department who wrote about his fiancée’s experience. The fiancée works at a hospital and used to joke with colleagues about ‘mask breath’ – due to prolonged use of masks these days, we are forced to smell our own breath very, very often!

C-Sweet used this fantastic insight to launch their campaign, #MintBeforeYouMask.

What is the change in the audience insight?

Earlier mint/gum communication: focused on creating reason-to-buy for *others*. That is, if we have bad breath, others will find us uninteresting/revolting etc. That played on social-rejection as a fear.

This new communication: focused on creating reason-to-buy for *self*. That is, if we have bad breath, we’d suffer ourselves inside our masks. This plays on our own emotion, more than the emotions of others around us – we obviously won’t self-reject ourselves so there’s no fear, but it alludes to self-annoyance, and hence a reason-to-buy.

Also, toothpaste brands have been using the imagery of a person cupping his/her hands to detect if they have bad breath in their communication. But they did not push that narrative any further and branched it off to others discovering our bad breath. Our own emotion around our bad breath was not framed as a reason-to-buy.

The most interesting aspect of this campaign is that you may not know that you have mask breath, but once you are told about this potential issue, the next time you wear your mask, you cannot not think about mask breath 🙂

This morning, after having my morning coffee, I wore my mask to head down to the main gate of my apartment to pick up my newspaper. Wearing a mask immediately after drinking coffee is a repulsive nightmare 🙂 Funnily, I have been doing the same thing for the past 2 months, and today morning I was particularly and acutely aware of ‘mask breath’!

The video C-Sweet created for #MintBeforeYouMask is barebones and I don’t think it truly justifies the kind of insight they are sitting on. But I love the idea.

On social media, they have been replying to people who allude to mask breath directly or indirectly. Smart work.

The same insight could work perfectly for mouthwash brands too, though mouthwash is not as portable as mints and gum and is restricted to our bathrooms.

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