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Lollipop brand Dum Dums is leaning into its heritage as a simple, sweet treat in a fresh creative campaign that debuted this week. A series of Shel Silverstein-style black-and-white sketches features the iconic candy as pops of color, like balloons or a bouquet of flowers, that bring joy to animated characters in relatable stories from the 95-year-old candy maker.
While "Make Life Pop" is the Spangler Candy brand's first campaign in 30 years, the flagship product has established a ubiquitous association as a giveaway candy, often up for grabs at doctor's offices and hair salons. This omnipresence raises the question: How can a brand creatively market an unchanged product that virtually all consumers already know about?
"It boils down to listening to folks' stories about how delighted they felt finding their favorite flavor in a bowl as a kid and how that's stayed with them as they've grown up," Milla Stolte, head of strategy at agency Smith Brothers, told Marketing Dive.
Stolte's team worked with Dum Dums to replicate those feelings and evoke the brand's playful nature through simple, smile-inducing visuals — a goal spurred by research that found that lollipops give both kids and adults optimism in our uncertain times.
"This brand has the gift of being multigenerational, so there's always a new generation of kids and teens to discover it and an older generation who still loves it," Stolte said. "When you think about the many brands that have been around a while, not all of them share that dual audience."
Relying on legacy
The first two 30-second clips — along with 15- and 6-second cutdowns — debuted online this week, and will run as ads on Hulu, YouTube and social media. Dum Dums plans to rebrand its social channels to match the new creative and debut a special landing page for the brand. According to Stolte, the candy maker is quietly kicking off the campaign with plans to extend it into early next year.
After a 30-year hiatus, Dum Dums' return to advertising comes on the heels of significant growth. The past decade saw the brand gaining market share and jump to the country's best-selling lollipop, Barron's reported.
"We wanted to really see the power of this brand and what it means to folks. A marketing refresh was one of the arms to do that," Stolte said. "But because everyone already knows the brand, our strategy was less about the hard sell and much more about reminding people of the place Dum Dums has in their lives and hearts."
Before drafting any campaign ideas, the brand and Smith Brothers organized a listening tour to get a stronger sense of what Dum Dums means to people. Feedback signaled that simplicity would be essential, urging Smith Brothers to strip away flashier, bolder elements that are common in modern ad creative to cut through to consumers.
"We didn't want to add anything to the brand story but reveal what's already been there and has been established over generations," Stolte said. "We wanted to give the brand the respect it's earned."
At the same time, a key creative challenge in developing the assets was achieving an air of timelessness — the perfect balance between a modern feel and not leaning too far into "nostalgia land," she added.
"We didn't want to add anything to the brand story but reveal what's already been there and has been established over generations."
Smith Brothers, head of strategy
While Spangler Candy doesn't have a massive budget for the new campaign, it's relying on the legacy status of Dum Dums to snag people's attention during the back-to-school and upcoming Halloween seasons, particularly as it faces steep competition from deep-pocketed candy marketers like The Hershey Company and Mars Wrigley.
Other established candy brands have introduced fresh marketing efforts to stand out in the crowded space. Perfetti Van Melle's Chupa Chup lollipop brand and Hershey's Jolly Rancher line recently deployed more modern tactics like social media campaigns, influencers and partnerships with major designers to reach younger consumers.
"As a creative agency, it's not all the time you get such a powerful brand to work on that's also family-owned and independent," Stolte said. "It's a good kind of shock to the system in the world of candy marketing."