- Pillsbury debuted a new holiday line of ugly Christmas sweaters featuring the General Mills brand's iconic Doughboy mascot, a news release announced. The sweaters went on sale on Dec. 5 and sold out within two hours, the company said.
- The Christmas gear comes in two designs: "Let it Dough" has a blue and white winter theme with the mascot and crescent rolls weaved in. "It's Lit" has a Christmas color scheme of red and green, with gifts, a decorated tree and twinkling lights.
- Pillsbury is holding a contest to give away additional sweaters online at Pillsbury.com/bakememories. The brand is encouraging fans to "don their Doughboy apparel" over the holidays and on National Ugly Sweater Day on Dec. 21 to share photos on social media using the hashtag #Pillsbury.
With the promotion, Pillsbury was clearly able to tap into a pop culture trend to connect with consumers during a key seasonal moment. Ugly Christmas sweaters have become in-demand at holiday parties, evolving past their roots as thrift store finds and home-knit offerings into a mini-industry many retailers try to capitalize on around the holidays, with some offerings selling for up to hundreds of dollars.
More food and packaged goods marketers are making swings at branded merchandise like the Doughboy-branded sweaters, but tailoring them for specific moments can bolster appeal with consumers. KFC last year released several holiday-themed items on its e-commerce site, including fried chicken-themed pillows, a "Colonel Santa" long-sleeved shirt, wrapping paper and more.
Pillsbury is extending its effort via a social media promotion, hoping to encourage sharing around the Christmas week that could keep its brand top of mind with consumers planning their holiday meals. The General Mills line has proven agile at commanding the online conversation before through efforts like its Annual Pillsbury Bakeoff.
However, the brand has struggled in other areas as consumer tastes have shifted to healthier fare and away from processed, packaged foods. Sales for General Mills baking lines like Betty Crocker and Pillsbury have felt a pinch in recent years. J.M Smucker, which owned some Pillsbury baking brands independently from General Mills, sold them off this summer to the private equity firm Brynwood Partners.