Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
Morinaga & Company's Hi-Chew fruit candy has been a staple in Japan for decades, but only made waves in the U.S. in the last decade after an MLB-focused marketing push helped grow the candy's U.S. sales from $8 million in 2012 to more than $100 million in 2021, according to The Atlantic.
But as buying power — especially in the confectionery industry — continues to shift from Gen X and older millennials to younger millennials and Gen Z, Morinaga decided it was time to create a dialogue with these younger consumers.
"We have seen a lot of similarities between our brand and Gen Z," said Joanne Hsu, senior brand marketing manager at Morinaga America, Inc., of the brand's research. "They all wanted to be part of a community, [but] they also wanted to be unique… We believe that uniqueness is the mutual language where we can build that emotional connection between our brand and Gen Zers."
The brand's first move in forging that connection is a 30-second spot airing across digital channels that launched last month. The ad, which dares viewers to "Choose Different. Choose Fun. Chew Hi-Chew," imagines a world dominated by its candies, from giant fruit that cuts through the sky and butterflies with wrapper bodies to skateboards that explode into candy and a bus full of fruit-festooned passengers driven by a strawberry.
Created with agency Gigasavvy, the campaign looks to translate Hi-Chew's long-lasting chewiness and true-to-life fruit flavors into an appeal that connects the brand with young consumers and their lifestyle.
"Hi-Chew is very unique and different in that it has a very strong cult following, the 'band before they got big' kind of vibe," explained Mitch Fait, Gigasavvy's creative director. "How do we hold on to that niche audience … while still playing in that same league?"
Apart from elevating the candy without alienating core fans, the brand and the agency were wary of making a commercial that had a disconnect with the product and didn't move the needle on brand recall.
"So many times, people make a great commercial and then you're left like, 'Who was it for?'," Fait said.
To avoid that trap, Gigasavvy worked to bring High-Chew's unique, chewy, fruity eating experience to life in a way that felt authentic to the audience and forged an emotional connection. That led to the vibrant, brightly colored final product.
"We wanted to make sure that we really tapped into that really fun, happy experience that you get [and] bring people back to what it was like eating candy as a kid," added Gigasavvy President Kyle Johnston. "I feel like I can almost smell the fruit while I was watching the spot."
The ad has some nostalgic touches, with Hi-Chew candies that look like Lego blocks or giant fruit that seem to nod to "Pac-Man." But the ad also strives to feel like the content that consumers are already seeking out and the formats they're used to, like when it cuts to a vertical video in selfie mode.
"I just love where we go from the vertical video to then expanding of the real world," Fait said. "If you want to geek out about the symbolism, [it's about] getting off your device and Hi-Chew breaking you out of the digital constraints."
In 30-seconds, Hi-Chew invites young consumers to its vibrant world and dares them to try something new and different that isn't part of a major candy marketer's roster. For Fait, it all comes back to preserving that insider feeling and enduring loyalty people often have when they knew and loved a band before it got big.
"We want to hold on to that love and appeal," he said.