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Purpose, Strategy & Culture

Decoding the S’mores Success Story: Right Product, Right Place, Right Message

As COVID-19 cases spiked and consumers spent more time at home, families turned to S'mores for moments of goodness. With a holistic marketing strategy and dedicated team members, we delivered record breaking amounts of S'mores six-packs when they were needed most.
Alyssa Smith
Brand Manager, Hershey’s

Key Takeaways:

    • As consumers looked for safe ways to engage with friends and family and have fun, the demand for S’mores increased exponentially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • While the demand quickly increased, Hershey successfully pivoted our strategy—leading to a 30 percent and $70 million increase in Hershey’s Milk Chocolate six-packs sales. By using real-time insights, we were able to pinpoint how best to reach consumers in such a changing environment.

Last year, there was very little that felt routine as we were all stuck at home with offices closed, virtual schooling and summer travel plans canceled. But, under the stars, lit by the flames of blazing campfires, something changed. Families came together in moments of goodness through our iconic Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar. Perfectly roasted marshmallows, melty Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars and crispy graham crackers made the perfect summer treat: S’mores. And suddenly, a sense of normalcy filled the air.

When COVID-19 cases continued to spike, so too did the demand for S’mores across the country as people continued to search for ways to connect and create new memories at home. We recognized this demand and quickly adjusted our strategy to ensure:

  1. The right product was in
  2. The right place with
  3. The right message

Successfully executing across these three pillars led to a 30 percent growth in our Hershey’s Milk Chocolate six-packs last summer. And while people this year are looking to widen their S’mores circles with extended family and friends, doing so outdoors this summer is still a priority. With these insights in mind, we are doubling down to be part of even more S’mores moments this year.

The Right Product

In 2020, making S’mores was a fun, safe activity that people could do outdoors. People “traveled” to the comfort of their own backyards with loved ones to share in moments of goodness together with all the fixings for S’mores in hand. This meant our namesake Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar was top of mind for consumers, because Hershey’s is the key ingredient!

Looking ahead to summer this year, as more people receive the vaccine and consumer optimism improves, our consumer insights indicate people are excited to safely gather together once again. Additionally, people investing in their homes and outdoor spaces is here to stay—driving S’mores participation even further. In fact, this summer:

  • 80 percent of households with children plan to make S’mores
  • 60 percent of all consumers plan to make S’mores
  • 26 percent of consumers will make S'mores more frequently than last summer

To account for and meet this increase in demand, we started to build our inventory earlier this year to ensure a steady supply. Knowing people were ready to gather around the fire pit with warmer weather returning, we started our S’mores seasonal support four weeks earlier this year with a fully integrated media strategy.

The Right Place

Location, location, location. In order to reach more S’mores lovers, we built an agile strategy—rooted in real-time data—to meet and understand where the demand for S’mores will be strongest. Understanding that both play a role in increased S’mores occasions, we created an insights dashboard to help us follow consumer mobility trends and COVID cases. This central intelligence equips our retail team to respond to store level demand and manage merchandising and inventory to meet local needs.

The Right Message

Ensuring consumers are met with the right message is no easy feat. When we started to see consumer engagement in the S’mores activity rise in 2020, we began to gather significant insights to inform our messaging and create the right content that resonated with our current at-home environment. Specifically, we held focus groups and monthly panels to see how S'mores behaviors were evolving.

These insights also informed our approach to this season and led us to increase our media investment by 50 percent (and start four weeks earlier). Our new S'mores creative will lead to sales across in-store and online over a six-month period (mid-March through mid-September), focusing on distinct seasonal phases. Early in the season, the creative will focus on spring awakening and warmer weather, encouraging people to get out of the house. Then in mid-summer when the heat starts to pick-up across the country, we’ll inspire consumers to make the most of the summer that is flying by. The goal: encourage consumers to include S’mores making in their summer activities, driving sales for Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar six packs and even more moments of goodness to be shared.

A Strong Summer Ahead

Last year, our team was able to quickly adapt our strategy and remain agile to respond to the shift in consumer demand for the entertainment and experience S’mores provide. Working seamlessly across business functions, including supply chain, logistics and category management, we successfully executed a multi-pronged, multi-channel approach fueled by real-time, meaningful data that resulted in an increase of more than $70 million in Hershey’s standard bar six-pack sales—outpacing the growth of CPG peers overall.

With no signs of slowing down, we’re confident 2021 will be another strong year, allowing us to be part of special moments across backyards and communities this S’mores season.