Discovering Why They Chew
Back in the nineties, Juicy Fruit Gum, the oldest brand of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, was not chewing up the teen market, gum’s top demographic. In 1997, the company found itself under pressure from competitors. Sales and market share were down. How could Wrigley get more kids to go for their famous gum?
Wrigley went to the source to find out. Marketing researchers approached teens who chewed five or more sticks of Juicy Fruit each week and gave them a homework assignment: Find pictures that remind you of Juicy Fruit gum and write a short story about it. When the kids shared their stories, Wrigley learned that they chew Juicy Fruit because it’s sweet. They said it refreshed and energized them.
Wrigley’s ad agency, BBDO, confirmed what the teens were saying. Conducting survey research, BBDO asked more than four hundred heavy gum chewers to rate various brands by attributes that best represented them. For Juicy Fruit, respondents picked phrases such as “has the right amount of sweetness” and “is made with natural sweetness.”
Another of BBDO’s studies investigated why teens in particular chew gum. Was it to cope with stress? Or because they forgot to brush their teeth before going to school? Nearly three out of four teens reported popping a stick of gum into their mouth when they craved something sweet. And Juicy Fruit was the top brand they picked to fulfill that need. (Rival chewing-gum brand Big Red was a distant second.)
Chewing on the Results
Although the marketing research conducted by the Wrigley Co. was fairly simple, it provided a new direction for the company’s marketing strategy to capture more of the essential teen market. BBDO developed four TV commercials with the “Gotta Have Sweet” theme. Roughly 70 percent of respondents voluntarily recalled the Juicy Fruit name after watching the commercial (the average recall for a brand of sugar gum is 57 percent). Sales of 100-stick boxes of Juicy Fruit rose 5 percent after the start of the ad campaign, reversing a 2 percent decline prior to it. Juicy Fruit’s market share also increased from 4.9 percent to 5.3 percent—the biggest gain of any established chewing-gum brand during the year following the campaign.
In this case, marketing research paid off with better customer insights that marketers translated into improved product positioning, messaging, advertising and ultimately market share.