3 steps to mastering tentpole marketing moments

Just about every brand has a tentpole marketing moment — a peak moment in the year when buzz runs high. Like championship games for snack and beverage brands or the opening weekend for a film, learning to ride the tide in these critical but noisy, and sometimes pricey moments, can mean the difference between a positive or negative ROI.

Enter Pringles, which aced its key tentpole moment, the Super Bowl. You may remember its 2018 “flavor stacking” Super Bowl TV spot that encouraged people to stack different flavored Pringles together to create new flavor combinations.

But that was only the tip of the iceberg.

The brand also executed its largest-ever campaign on YouTube to maximise reach and efficiency. In turn, it garnered over 120 million impressions, netted a 2 to 1 return on ad spend (ROAS), and saw a 3% lift in sales — a boon in the highly competitive snack category — among those exposed to the campaign.

The three-step approach Pringles took can serve as a template for other brands looking to make the most of a tentpole marketing moment.

1. Go beyond the focus group to find a marketing insight

You know the adage, “If you want to know how a lion hunts, don’t go to the zoo. Go to the jungle”? The Pringles team found creative inspiration for this campaign in the wild — on YouTube — instead of a focus-group room.

The team conducted what it called a “digital audit” in an effort to learn what people were doing with the product across various channels. This social listening led them to discover a wealth of existing rituals around Pringles on YouTube.

Turns out, people loved playing with their Pringles. From guess the flavor challenges to creating stack rings, they were using the chip’s unique shape and flavors to try new things.

Drawing on these marketing insights, Pringles created a campaign that would inspire people to think about the brand in a new and similarly playful way: combining flavors in stacks to create new combinations.

Pringles not only drove new household penetration on its core flavors with this creative, but saw incremental shopping trips from current buyers and an overall rise in buy rate across 2018. In other words, even if people already had a can of Pringles in their pantry, they hit the stores to get more to try out new flavor stacks.

2. Whet people’s appetites

Planning for a tentpole moment itself can be an all-encompassing task, but consider your pregame strategy equally important. Laying the groundwork ahead of time can give you valuable insights and inform your next steps to cut through the noise, making maximum impact.

A month ahead of the Super Bowl TV moment, Pringles ran six-second bumper ads on YouTube to generate excitement, receive feedback, and build momentum. Hammering home a simple actionable message, the short-form ad packaged the consumer behavior the team saw play out on the platform: stack your Pringles to make chicken wings, without chicken wings, BBQ pizza, and game-day jalapeño poppers.

Pringles saw an opportunity to share a succinct message that consumers could easily understand through the sight, sound, and motion of the bumper ads. And as soon as the ads were released, the brand received an immediate uptick in feedback volume, far exceeding its typical advertising.

“Consumers’ minds were blown by the creative, and they began tagging friends and commenting to get in on the fun,” said Zach Wyer, senior brand manager at Pringles.

This quick and constant feedback loop was something Pringles hadn’t previously seen on other channels and platforms, and the positive reinforcement informed its decision to take their creative concept to the big stage.

Before game day itself, Pringles took advantage of an earned media moment in the press. It was the first-ever Super Bowl spot for Pringles and its parent company Kellogg’s. The team then got fans excited with teasers for the Super Bowl spot, including a behind-the-scenes Q&A from the commercial shoot.

By teasing the campaign with earned media, in addition to the bumpers, the brand was able to not only create buzz, but learn what resonated with their audience to ensure Pringles was top of mind leading into the big game.

3. Make the most of the tentpole moment by following your audience

When buzz peaks, amplification is the name of the game. And that requires thinking in multiple mediums channels and following your audience where they are. Many tentpole moments may unfold on live TV. But that doesn’t mean TV is the only place to make a splash.

The Pringles team wanted to effectively reach a wider audience than it could on TV alone.

Since people on YouTube were already experimenting with Pringles, the brand followed its audience and complemented its big TV moment with a simultaneous burst on YouTube.

As soon as the TV spot debuted, Pringles used multiple formats to reach as many people as possible in the height of the moment on game day, and launched a YouTube prime-time push with six-second bumper ads, TrueView for reach, and TrueView.

The amplification reached millions of consumers in a short amount of time with incredible efficiency. With this campaign, Pringles had great creative and effective reach combined with efficiency — a formula that yielded a low CPM, and strong sales lift and ROI.  

Clocking in its biggest-ever YouTube campaign, in terms of both spend and reach, Pringles found the winning flavor combination for success.

What flavor will they create next?

How brands can lean into the right moments in 2019