Smarties Blue Cat - Blue is Back!

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term (GOLD)

Client Credits: Nestlé Canada Inc.
Terri Tinella, President Nestlé Confectionery (November 2010 - present)
Sandra Martinez, President Nestlé Confectionery
Gary Batey, Leader, Confectionery Marketing
Kate Beresford, Marketing Manager
Sarah Sauder, Marketing Manager
Rachelle Kennedy, Marketing Manager
Acky Dinnepati, Consumer & Shopper Insight Manager, Confectionery
Ted Rideout, Consumer Communications
Ashley Edelstein, Marketing Manager
Ken Mahon, CCSD Leader Confectionery
Joel Martins, AVA Leader Confectionery
Scott Houston, AMM AVA Confections
Shawn Sokell, CCSD Confectionery
Maria DiLeo

Agency Credits: JWT
Martin Shewchuk, Executive Creative Director
Carolyn Bingham, VP Group Account Director
Gord Yungblut, Copywriter
Jason Souce, Art Director
Gavin Nevsky, Broadcast Producer
Andrew Knight, Account Supervisor
Gillian Brown, Account Executive
Kathleen Dusk, Account Executive
Kim Carnahan, Vice President, Group Account Director, ZenithOptimedia
Aaron Wills, Account Director, ZenithOptimedia

Crossover Notes:
Crossover Notes: All winning cases contain lessons that cross over from one case to another. David Rutherford has been identifying these as Crossover Notes since CASSIES 1997. The full set for CASSIES 2012 can be downloaded from the Case Library section at

Crossover Note 1. What a Brand Stands For.
Crossover Note 16. When a campaign stumbles.
Crossover Note 33. Changing the Target Audience.

To see creative, click on the links that are embedded in the case.


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):June to December 2010
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: June 14, 2010
Base Period as a Benchmark: Calendar 2009

a) Overall Assessment
This is the story of how an irreverent Blue Cat reignited a brand.

Smarties is a much-loved and iconic Canadian brand. Many of us grew up with it and it has deep emotional connections to childhood. Smarties helped toilet train us, it taught us about colours, and it even helped us learn how to count.

But its strong connection to childhood has come at a cost. Smarties has become the "Puff the Magic Dragon" of confectionery. [Crossover Note 1] When kids get into their teen years, they see Smarties as juvenile and stop eating them. Smarties has been neglected among this demographic despite numerous and well-supported attempts to change perceptions. [Crossover Notes 16 and 33]

This has led to some serious consequences, since teens play a huge role in category consumption, making up roughly 25% of it.

In the 2 years leading up to 2010, the total Smarties brand was in decline at -4% in 2008 and -3% in 2009.

Single bars (a format of choice for teens) make up the biggest segment in the chocolate category and succeeding in this segment will dictate success in all other segments. Over the same 2-year period, the Smarties single 50g sku was also in decline, closing out 2009 at -4%.

Something needed to be done.

Then an opportunity came along that at first didn't seem like an opportunity. In 2009, Smarties had adopted a “No Artificial Colours” policy. In so doing, Nestlé was not immediately able to produce blue Smarties and for a year they disappeared from Smarties packs in Canada.

People noticed. The number one consumer complaint that year was that blue Smarties were missing. Canadians were upset, and wanted blue back.

Nestlé moved quickly, and by 2010 blue Smarties had returned to the mix.

Meanwhile, in the summer of 2010, Smarties were going to team up with Apple for a MacBook Pro giveaway as a relatively cheap and efficient way to get attention and give 13-17 year olds the chance to instantly win a sexy new gadget.

The challenge was to combine "Blue is Back" and "Win a Mac" in a way that would get teens to reconnect with the brand.

b) Resulting Business Objectives
> Reverse the years of decline by increasing Smarties relevance among 13-17 year olds.
> Increase repeat purchase among current and lapsed users.

c) Annual Media Budget
$1 - $2 million

d) Geographic Area
National - English and French Canada

a) Analysis and Insight
In the 2 years leading up to “Blue is Back” Smarties re-launched under a new brand idea called “Show Your Colours." This was a platform centered around an insight gleaned from ethnographic research -- that youth are happier when they're encouraged to express themselves.

We learned that 13-17 year olds often feel caught between the pressure to conform and an emerging need to find their own identity. The idea of feeling free to express their individualism was highly appealing to them.

When the decision was made to create an ad that would deliver "Blue is Back" and "Win a Mac" it went without question that it would also reflect the thinking behind the "Show Your Colours" brand idea.

b) Communication Strategy
Now remember we're talking to teens. They’re very particular about what they like and what they choose to associate themselves with. If you’re going to be successful you need to be authentic, but more importantly interesting. So while we wanted to leverage the "Show Your Colours" brand idea, we needed to find a way to bring it to life that would spark teen interest. And we needed to do it in 15-seconds.

We found our solution in a curious Blue Cat who embodies "self-expression" in the the truest sense of the word. Irreverent, offish, even moody, he is a cat of mystery and has a sordid past to prove it - he just won't tell you about it. And if you try to touch him, you may be in for quite a surprise. He lives life with an unapologetic ability to say and do as he pleases. If you didn't know any better, you might think he rules the world - he certainly does.

Smarties Blue Cat would be the brand ambasssador, delivering news in a way that would get talked about and shared.

And his attitude and odd ways would be expressed using a device that would allow us to take full advantage of a short format. We created a voice for Blue Cat that would stand out, using a foreign accent that couldn't quite be placed, and a rhyming speach that would help reinforce his message and would go on to be mimicked by many of his fans.

a) Media Used
For the promotion, each pack of Smarties had a unique Pin number in-pack that could be used to enter to win a MacBook Pro. Media touchpoints were:

-National specialty 15-second TV
-Much Music Video Awards key sponsorship
-Brand sell TV advertising pre, during and post MMV Awards
-In-program billboards
-On-line banner advertising
-Green room domination (converted to Smarties BLUE room!)
-Event sampling
-Facebook brand page

b) Creative Discussion
It went without saying that this cat needed to have some serious attitude.

The obvious surprise of seeing a blue cat would certainly spark curiousity and would hopefully create a link to the blue Smarties news, but in order to really ignite conversation and promote sharing, we felt Blue needed to come to life in a way that teens would admire. As noted under Communication Strategy, he needed to have an edge, he needed to be different, he needed to seem like he had arrived from another world entirely, and he needed to have some mystery. The less he said, the cooler he got.

c) Media Discussion
Given modest spending levels media efforts focused on maximum target group impact and found it in a partnership with the MMVAs (MuchMusic Video Awards). These awards are the MTV Awards of Canada and in media weight and status are considered the ‘superbowl for teens.’

As a key sponsor, "Blue is Back" TV ran pre, during and post the MMVAs, along with
in-program billboards, on-line banner advertising and never-done-before Green room domination that was appropriately converted to a Smarties BLUE room!

Smarties was also able to get on air VJ mentions, and the fact that blue Smarties were back got incorporated into some on air events.

We also had three MuchMusic Smarties spots, reinforcing the Blue is Back message. They aired during the broadcast and were timed and written to look like an extension of the show. This linked Smarties to this key property -- in other words, full content integration.

a) Sales/Share Results
The "Blue is Back" campaign turned the brand around with total Smarties growth of +3%. Within that, the key 50g sku solidified its place as the #9 singles bar in Canada, moving from -4% decline at the end of 2009 to +5% growth by the end of 2010 -- a positive delta of +9% (see chart 1). Consumption was also +21% while the advertising was on the air, and at the time of this submission, the total brand has +8% sales growth.

Other brand related success includes:

- Smarties Repurchase increased to +5%.

- The promotion received over 250,000 submissions and has been viewed as "best in class" for the Canadian market.

- The ad led to numerous teen parodies of the “Blue Cat” commercial and created a new "Blue Cat" vernacular amongst his fan base.

- The day after the ad's modest first airing, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook all saw significant jumps in Smarties activity. Without any planned support “Blue Cat” appeared on YouTube and got over 100,000 views in the first week.

- The Smarties Facebook page grew by over 10,000 fans in two days, and the wall exploded with comments and questions. Smarties Blue Cat continues to engage with his now 609,000+ fan base, becoming the #2 Facebook page in Canada.

- Over the course of the campaign, YouTube views grew to over 400,000 (see video A) and the campaign received extensive media coverage.

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion
The following support the causative role of advertising:

1. During the life of the advertising campaign, Smarties single 50g sku grew +21%, and the Smarties Facebook fan base grew from 112,727 fans to 231,736.

2. Over the course of the campaign, continuous ad tracking confirmed that branded recall to Smarties grew to 41%, more than twice the norm.

3. Ad tracking also delivered a strong proven recall response. The ad was internalized at a spontaneous level, and delivered above the expected level of intrusion. We also saw strong communication of “Blue is Back” and motivation metrics:

- "made you want to buy" 36% vs. 20% norm
- "increased your interest in the brand" 38% vs. 17%
- "made the brand seem different" 39% vs. 26%

4. 99% of YouTube viewers rated the ad very positively and Google search trends for Smarties spiked during the "Blue is Back" TV period.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels: The budget for this promotion, including media and production, was just under $1MM and focused on Special TV.

Pricing: There was no unusual pricing activity / discounting during this promotion.

Distribution Changes: Distribution remained the same.

Unusual Promotional Activity: "Blue is Back" was firstly designed to promote the return of blue Smarties, accompanied by an on-pack promotion that gave consumers the chance to win a MacBook Pro.

Other Potential Causes: There were no other extenuating circumstances that may have influenced the success of this campaign.