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Better Late Than Never to Adopt Social Media, Even for Smaller Brands

Playing catch-up in the social media space isn’t so easy when you’re a lesser known regional brand with a limited marketing and communications budget. However, that’s what Red Vines licorice, a brand sold on the west coast, has been doing for the past two years, and it has made notable progress. Being creative, resourceful and generous with product influencers had a lot to do with it.

Michael Kelly, American Licorice’s consumer communications manager, detailed Red Vines’ social media initiatives during ANA’s (Association of National Advertisers) Digital and Social Media conference in Dana Point, California on Monday. (The conference was also available by livestream, though no licorice samples were on hand for that option.)

American Licorice, a family owned confectioner nearing the one hundred years mark, like many companies, was reluctant to join the social media fray. Then two years ago more tech savvy heads prevailed and they hired a small digital staff. As Kelly noted, “social and mobile are important because we can’t compete on paid media. Our competitors are major brands, including Hershey, Mars, Kraft and Nestle.”

Below are a few of Red Vines’ social and digital efforts that helped the brand become the most liked licorice brand on Facebook.

World of Sharing: Red Vines created an interactive site with the theme “the world could use more Red Vines.” Kelly said, “The overall goal was to establish a giant virtual twist of Red Vines licorice worldwide, starting and ending at the factory. We used Google maps mashup, Facebook Connect and Twitter integration, and enlisted consumers and military families to leave messages that helped grow the chain.” A contest awarded prizes.

Team StarKid Collaboration: Kelly learned that college students at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance were referring to Red Vines during a play that parodied Harry Potter. “They had adapted Red Vines as part of their culture,” Kelly observed. He sent the students a supply of Red Vines and worked on a marketing program that integrated Team StarKid. That included ten YouTube videos that tapped this segment of the Harry Potter fan base and increased Red Vines’ awareness.

Red Licorice Smackdown at Type A Mom’s Conference: While following Red Vines’ social media platforms, Kelly saw a comment written by a mom who was headed to the Type A Mom’s conference (the U.S. version of tiger moms) in Asheville, North Carolina. The message said her group was almost out of Red Vines licorice. Seeing an opportunity to expand Red Vines to the southeast, Kelly stepped into action and arranged to deliver a palette of the product to the gathering.

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