- The Hershey Company is this summer adding emoji to Hershey's original milk chocolate bars and their packaging, according to a press announcement. The news marks the first change to the look of Hershey's signature candy in its 125 year history — an anniversary the company is currently celebrating in its marketing.
- Hershey's Milk Chocolate Emoji Bars will display 25 different emoji across six packaging types. The limited-run products are intended to encourage sharing and collectability, the company said.
- The emoji featured were chosen by parents and kids based on their potential as conversation starters. Hershey's also said that 87% of kids believed the emoji sweets would be a good product to share with others, citing a BTS Optimization Research Report from last year.
Hershey's historic switch-up to the look of its most recognizable brand nods to how mobile messaging has become a dominant force in American culture, in no small part thanks to tools like emoji. Preference for mobile messaging is especially apparent among younger consumer sets, like Gen Z, that Hershey's is looking to win over through a focus on shareability and a limited product run timed around key summer sales windows like barbeque season and the back-to-school season.
Other legacy brands have recently embraced the emoji trend as a means to modernize their image and appeal more to the smartphone generation. Smokey Bear, the icon of the U.S. Forest Service, was remade in the style of Apple's 3D animojis for its 75th anniversary in April. The extension of the long-running PSA encouraged followers to share stories on why they enjoy the outdoors on social media.
The move is also in line with a recent L.E.K. Consulting report that found 75% of CPG companies plan to spend more on packaging, in part to deliver the message that what's inside is a premium product and to meet the need for product personalization.
Despite the focus on a popular mobile messaging format, the Hershey's campaign doesn't appear to have prominent mobile marketing component at launch. In fact, the packaging play seems if anything more focused on sparking real-world conversations through the choice of emoji. The poop emoji makes a potentially controversial appearance on the chocolate bars, as do less gross-out variants like the cowboy hat face, ghost and heart eyes, according to Ad Age.
The effort comes as candy sales have slumped in recent years amid a demand for healthier, more natural snack offerings. Hershey's is adjusting to meet those headwinds, namely by reinventing itself as a broader snack company as opposed to strictly a candymaker. The change reflects a pivot The Coca-Cola Company has made to move past its soda roots and become a "total beverage company."
In February, Hershey's chief executive Michele Buck said that not diversifying beyond sweets would be a missed opportunity as consumers continue to favor better-for-you alternatives, Food Dive reported. Hershey's acquisition strategy has ramped up to achieve those goals more quickly and restore growth. The company surprised many when it purchased Pirate Brands for $420 million last fall.