Mentos Campaign Proves the Value of Consumer Generated Branding

It’s becoming more commonplace to see campaigns that leverage the strength of the consumer’s viewpoint and deliver a spectacular product from a grassroots view. Mentos is among those that has succeeded in this realm.

Yonge-Dundas Square on August 13 was a scene of fun in the sun, with giant slides, gladiator challenges, and hilarious Sumo wrestling competitions. This was an adult fun park, conceived by Toronto resident, Danielle Lamarche, winner of the 2009 Mentos Campaign, “Make your World Go Rounder“.

Cossette was the agency responsible for this campaign. The premise: Make Your World Go Rounder was meant to be light-hearted and fun, and make Canadians smile by reminding them about life’s simple pleasures. According to Alison Neil of Cossette, “In the competitive and cluttered gum market we wanted to bring attention to a product feature of Mentos Gum, their roundness (the only round gum on the market), hence “make your world go rounder… we certainly consider this campaign to be non-traditional. We decided to develop an experiential/User Generated Content campaign to engage consumers, develop a dialogue with them and enhance their brand experience.”

Danielle Lamarche, who received a cash prize of $5000 summed up the day this way: “The event was extremely well received. An unbelievable amount of people came to the fun park. It was so well set up and had blow up games that even adults loved to participate in. It was steady all day and fairly long lines actually began to form after 6pm.”

Lamarche’s winning response : “Put up an Adult Fun Park in Dundas Square with blow up slides and more. We all want to be kids again!” Says Lamarche, “I really wanted to give a suggestion that would be something adults could do to let loose. I knew that it also had to the affordable and executable. It also needed to be an idea that could be Mentos Gum branded. I always watch out of the corner of my eye when kids play on the blow up toys these days and wish I was still able to do it as well. I’m sure many other adults feel that way so why not give them a chance to do it for a day?”

What does she think of the Mentos brand now? She sees a brand that tries to encourage positive thinking. “A lot of the responses that I saw were about giving to others, donations to charity, and making a mass audience happy. … People want to be happy and want to see the world become a better place. We’ve come to a time now where people are becoming much more aware of what is going on in the world and I think it’s important for brands to be aware and responsive to it.”

The campaign focus was the website: ( and but was heavily supported by out of home, transit, radio and web advertising. The latter also included social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr to support the contest, communicate the new line of products, begin developing brand loyalty, and help with Mentos Gum SEO.

The response to the contest was overwhelming. Close to 20,000 idea submissions in Canada were received.
According to Neill, “We feel that we’ve accomplished our goals of increasing brand awareness and communicating that Mentos Gum is a great, fun product that is close to consumers.”

In using consumer generated content to help fuel conversation, Neill agrees that UGC (User-generated content) works. Says Neill, especially ” when you listen to your consumers, participate in the dialogue and give back to them. We are big believers in experiential marketing at Cossette.”

Cluetrainplus 10: Thesis #89 We have real power and we know it. If you don’t quite see the light, some other outfit will come along that’s more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with.

I have been privileged to take part in the 10th Anniversary of the Cluetrain Manifesto. I was made aware of and signed up for a blogging event in which 95 bloggers each write a post on the same agreed date, April 28th, about one of the “95 theses” from the Manifesto. Details about this event and Cluetrain’s history are found here. I will provide viewpoint on thesis number #89.

For years marketers like me have believed that advertising had the strength to influence consumer attitudes and behaviour. Advertising had more power when ad vehicles were few. As consumers, we were easy to get a hold of – we read the same papers, listened to the same radio programs, and watched the same television shows as everyone we knew.  Marketers had it easy…but it was rare for consumers to see an ad that was relevant to them. That was ok for marketers because 2% response rate or a break-even ROI was all they required to deem a campaign successful.

These days, technology has made it increasingly difficult to reach consumers. Media has become fragmented. Access profileration has allowed the consumer to be in multiple devices simultaneously including:  access from radio, TV, mobile, MP3s, search, print, billboards, videogames, IM, email, video consoles etc. Overlay the incredible explosion of the number of radio and TV channels, magazines, newspapers. This pace of change is making it increasingly difficult to pin target consumers down with a relevant message at the right place and right time.


It’s become increasingly apparent that the difficulty in reaching the consumer has been compounded over time. Access proliferation has put the consumer in control of how, when and what media they consume. At the same time these same channels are giving the tools to communicate to many people at a much faster pace. Universal McCann’s Worldwide Comparative Study on Social Media Trends, April 2008 indicates the growth of social media since 2006. Some highlights include:

  • 73% of active online users have read a blog
  • 45% have started their own blog
  • there are over 184 million bloggers worldwide, with approx. 1/4 from China
  • 57% have joined a social network
  • 34% post opinions about products/brands on their site/blog

People are talking about brands to each other and surprisingly many brands are oblivious to this; or if they are aware,  they don’t realize the enormous impact it has to their reputation as a company.  The power shift from the corporation to the consumer is apparent. Advertising messages do not influence as effectively as marketers have always believed.


The very medium that divides the brand from the consumer also has the ability to bring them together. Consider this stat from the Universal McCann Study:  36% of active online consumers think more positively about companies that have a blog.  Start-ups have easily figured this out and from day one are leveraging the conversation with the consumers to help shape and evolve their businesses. They have figured out that unless they listen and respond to the market needs, there will be no market for their product or service offering. Coming from a start-up, the lack of big marketing budgets forced me as a marketer to really understand social media if I was to effectively drive reach:

  • Use the networks to bring awareness of your offering.
  • Engage with relevant target groups to help you fix the current bugs and improve your product over time.
  • Take it on the chin and be willing to accept the good with the bad.
  • Continually engage your consumers for feedback. Develop relationships and nurture them over time. Do NOT bail on your community.

Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” provides the best illustration of the power of conversation. He points out, ” I’m convinced that ideas …. move through a population very much like a disease does….Ideas can be contagious in exactly the same way that a virus is.”  It doesn’t take much effort to pass along a cool idea but the very nature of one idea being passed along from person to person can result in an epidemic. “The virtue of an epidemic, after all, is that just a little input is enough to get it started, and it can spread very, very quickly.”  In this way, the effectiveness of word of mouth begins to produce a clear picture of the power of the individual:


Dell found out the hard way how consumer opinion could negatively impact their business. Now, the emergence of Ideastorm, and Twitter engagement has catapulted the company into social media success and has effectively put their Dell Hell days behind them.

Customers talking about brands are making it clear what they want, how they want to be serviced, and what they consider good value for their dollar. The great thing for marketers is that engaging in these discussions limits the guessing game. Companies can now provide a product or service that the customer wants….what a concept!

Other top brands are getting on the band wagon and they are capitalizing as early adopters:

  • Starbucks Coffee created a site that allows users to submit suggestions to be voted on by Starbucks consumers, and the most popular suggestions are highlighted and reviewed. Their heavy presence on Twitter has also helped the company to disseminate information and gauge consumer opinion in real time.
  • Zappos and CEO Tony Hsieh have become known for embracing Twitter as an essential tool for exceptional customer service. Tony, himself, through his Twitter account has become accessible and has helped personify Zappos as a company who is friendly, trustworthy and helpful. Twitter is ingrained in the company much so in fact that the Zappos site aggregates the Twitter streams.
  • Ford Motor Company and its head of social media, Scott Monty have used the channel as a way to inform the public in real time of company happenings especially during periods of volatility. It was this kind of transparency in communication that helped quell much negative public opinion and, in my view, has helped elevate Ford’s brand presence above GM and Chrysler during the government bailout period.

So, for those brands that are afraid to dip their toe in this new conversation, who are afraid to engage with consumers, it will only be to their detriment.  Consumers will continue to speak about your company and your brand(s) with or without you. Social media is not a fad. It will continue to grow and evolve and as new devices are invented, conversation will multiply at alarming rates. The opportunity for big brands and businesses is enormous. Begin to engage in discussions at a peer level…listen and understand…develop important relationships…and build strong brand advocacy and a sustainable model in the meantime.


Credits for this thesis go to P Furey and A Wong for some really cool slides I used from their presentations.

Redefining the US Political Campaign: Obama’s successful rise to the US Presidency

I had the distinct opportunity to attend the Rotman Lecture series to watch an insightful presentation by Rahaf Harfoush, a key member of Barack Obama’s Campaign that helped reshape the way political campaigns are run.  Ideally, the voice of the people should be represented and to garner that support means listening to their concerns, and persuading them that you will answer those concerns. The Obama Campaign took it one step further: It harnessed this support by arming people with tools to help spread the message and making them feel integral to the campaign.  This provided incredible individual empowerment that caused an explosion of smaller campaigns that fueled the Obama fire. The Campaign unleashed its brand to the masses and the public embraced it and made it stronger.   A great example of this is the Yes We Can Video by Little, an initiative developed by supporters who took Obama’s message, made it their own, and spread the word. It became synonomous with the Campaign and eventually amassed over 14.5 MM views.

For the first time, as far as I know, the financial support for this Campaign truly was bourne out the masses. Traditional political support from constituents  ie the rich, corporate and organized interest groups have strongly influenced and directed the decisions and policies of past presidents.  Could this be the one time that Abraham Lincoln’s view of true government has come to fruition?  “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”  I urge you to view this presentation and share it. I think it’s a great model, not only for modern politics, but for modern business.

Social Media Success Stories: Final with Alejandro Reyes of

I apologize for my lateness.  I’ve learned so much from two very cool people who have given me amazing insight into this space where there are no established rules. Joselin Mane and Alejandro Reyes, you guys are a few of a handful of people in this space who just “get” it; are willing to try new things, stumble along the way and carve out new paths for the rest of us. Thanks again for allowing me into your world. I strongly encourage everyone to follow Joselin and Alejandro on Twitter. Here are their accounts: Joselin Mane ; Alejandro Reyes

Here is Part IIc of Social Media Success Stories – my interview with Alejandro.

HJ: It looks like you believe that there is a future in display advertising. I was having a conversation with a friend, who says “People’s purchase behaviour will always be based on emotion”. Regardless of what medium you end up using, people will purchase based on what their mindset is at the moment, whether or not it’s planned or impulse. That has not changed regardless of new formats that are introduced into the ad world. Whether you use an SEM, social media or display format, the consumer will get to where they’re intended to go.

AR: Very interesting… Carlos and Lupe talked about behavioural and targetted type of advertising. When they do their ad buys they’ll go off of demographics and they’ll do a split test on a certain product, and see what converts. So , know your demographics and incorporate tests. These guys do split tests 5 to 7 times a day. So banner advertising is all about split testing. Also, Gmail, Yahoo! and Facebook are using profile information to target relevant ads ie if I’m interested in cars, I’ll get served a Mustang ad. It’s more intuitive type of advertising. Before advertising used to get me so upset because they were so irrelevant. But now if I go someone’s Facebook whose interested in knitting, for example, they are probably going to see a knitting ad. So it’s interesting to see ads tied to people’s profiles and interests. I think that’s where advertising is going.

HJ: Having worked at Yahoo!, they understand that exposure from an ad needed to move away from impressions and more towards performance ie click-through (CTR). Taking it one step further, the addition of behavioural targeting provides a better way for the advertiser to increase CTR performance, but it’s also more expensive to do that. And for advertisers, are they willing to pay the cost for the targeted group they are trying to reach? As well, there are not a lot of places that are doing it well except for Yahoo!. Now, social media sites are under pressure to monetize their sites and they’re starting to incorporate more advertising opportunities. Facebook has received backlash because their users were made aware that their profile and behavioural information was being used to target them for advertising purposes. In this sense, it defeats the purpose of why Facebook was launched in the first place. Everybody talks about the inability to monetize a social media site. You’re talking about it from the perspective of creating authenticity, building credibility and selling it on your terms to your friends and followers as opposed to using the tools on the site.

AR: You’re totally right because it worked for me and I think it can work for other people as well. I just think that people can go out there and for people that want to monetize their site, they have to follow a process to get to there. So why not take that timeframe and add value to people’s lives even though it takes you 3 months or 6 months. Go out there and start it. Don’t completely stop your business but do it as a side project simultaneously. Go to Twitter and connect with your audience – they are out there anyway. But test it and see if it’s working for you.

HJ: How much as your traffic grown: now vs. April when you launched?

AR: It’s so funny because people get on me because I don’t really track all that stuff. On I grew 17.9% last month. When I started my site (I don’t know what people think of Alexa) I was at 1 million (est) and now I’m at 120,000. I did that really fast. I went from 600,000 to 300,000 to 120,000 in Alexa. And I’ve been so busy with projects lately that I’ve only blogged about once in the last few weeks. If I would’ve blogged the 3 days a week that I started out with, my site would just be crazy right now. And that’s why I’m revamping my blog to really take that traffic to the next level. But you know, earlier on (June) I started seeing 20,000 visitors then it dropped because I had the baby. Then it started to go back up last month and towards the end of this month I’ll boost it again with a big contest to find the best impersonation of me. Because I’m very loud and crazy and very passionate guy and that’s how my videos are. So, I’m going to give people an opportunity to make fun of me and impersonate me and hopefully that contest will go viral and promote the new blog post. And that’s what people have to do: they’ve got to mix it up and do interesting things that are unique and different to get people coming back to their site. Some people get to the point where they’re not posting enough. Eventually they don’t post at all and they abandon the blog. If people love you and you have a good audience, you will be forgiven and you can be right back to where you were if you do some creative, unique things. And that’s what I’ve done with my blog: I’ve mixed things up and made things different and with this impersonation contest I’ll be right back where I am and get that little boost of energy that I need. I’m getting a green screen, an HD camera and I’m going to do produced show-type videos. I just want to take it to the next level and give people what they deserve. I’m also going to do a lot more podcasting.

HJ: You’re actually using a lot of the social tools out there. And for those looking in, it seems like a daunting task. They’re saying, “Why put in the time? But it’s not really all that difficult, is it? Do you have to be tech savvy to do all this stuff”?

AR: No, it’s funny because I do internet marketing all of my offline friends and family think I’m a tech geek and they ask me, “Hey I have this issue with my computer, can you fix it for me?” and I say, “Dude, I’m a marketer, not a tech guru.” I have an i-phone, I have a Macbook Pro and when it comes to those things on the internet: search, Skype and recording an interview like this – I can do that stuff. But one thing about social media is that you have to like people because if you don’t like people it’s NOT going to work for you. If you are a jerk, it’s just gonna be magnified online especially in social media. First, you have to be interested in people. Secondly, you have to be interesting and to do this, you focus on your passion and you‘ll build your brand around your passion. And for me, I’m all about momentum. In the first 30 days from launch, between Monday and Friday and sometimes on Saturday, I was on Twitter for 2-3 hours a day and people may say that’s a lot of time. But what happened after that was that I created so much momentum that other people started talking about me. Now I’ll spend 30-40 minutes a day on Twitter and people are still talking about me; people will still connect with me, message me and will still follow me. So, when you create momentum, you can maintain that momentum. It’s going to cost you something now in terms of your time or it’s going to cost you later on in your business where you didn’t take the time. Your results long term are going to be impacted: your traffic, your conversion, your effectiveness and your influence online. I’m the type of guy who likes to pay for things up front even though it might stink to sacrifice some time. But long term, I believe that if you build it right the first time and your work really hard, opening the lines, you will create so much momentum that you’ll be all over the place on the internet. You can’t argue with 17,000 backlinks to your site. That’s insane and I have friends who are SEOs and they can’t believe it. A 4 month linkbuilding campaign – a “spammy” link building campaign will give you the same results. But this was authentic; it was about connecting and getting in the trenches, working side by side with people. I believe it’ll hurt you in the long run if you’re not willing to take the time out right now, work the extra hours ie get up earlier and go to bed later —- just do some of these things. People will say, “I can’t afford the time”. I’m a believer that you can’t afford NOT to do it right now because your business depends on it. Some people think it will magically happen because you have a Facebook account and a Twitter account that will make you this interesting social media person. It just doesn’t happen that way à you have to go out and be willing to put the work into it.

HJ: This has been really inspiring. And I connected with you because it’s evident you have a lot of value that you have given to so many. There are a lot of small businesses looking for that holy grail. I think part of it is within social media and if you have the right approach and the commitment then anything is possible.

Thanks again Alejandro.

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