Skittles scores sales with ‘Free Tree Boy’ campaign

Playing off a US-made TV spot, the Wrigley brand brought the idea home with a 360-degree program.

Skittles isn’t exactly a stranger to quirky campaigns (just think of its Cannes Lions award-winning “Touch the Rainbow” spots), nor is it a newbie to promotions. But a quirky program that wrapped at the end of the summer kicked it out of the park, clocking in as Wrigley Canada’s most successful candy promo and proving that a 360-degree campaign with a clear path to purchase can produce stellar results.

The background: Wrigley Canada wanted to up Skittles sales by building from its “Tree Boy” commercial (running January to August in Canada and the US, created by US-based TBWA\Chiat\Day with media by MediaCom) featuring a boy who harvests Skittles from the tree sprouting from his stomach, who dreams of going to university. The goal, says Dan Alvo, marketing director, Wrigley Canada, was to find a campaign that would include a full 360 execution encompassing in-store, PR and digital.

Toronto-based purchase design agency Hunter Straker created a mock “Free Tree Boy” movement. At its core is a fight-the-power “Free Tree Boy” visual, a “Buy Skittles, Get the Freedom Band” call to action, in-store POP, wild postings and a modified package design to accommodate one of six collectible ‘Freedom Bands’ that the firm also designed.

Once in store, the visual icon of the fist, with the headline to “Free Tree Boy” helped draw consumers to the display while the easy-to-understand “Buy Skittles Get the Freedom Band” call to action drove the final sale, says Matthew Diamond, partner and managing director, Hunter Straker.

A simple call to action in store helped to drive sales home.

“For the end consumer, this was a very simple program, with an instant gratification of a ‘Freedom Band’ that was cello-wrapped directly onto the packages of Skittles, with an incentive to drive multiple purchase given the six varieties of Freedom Bands that were produced.”

Digital and PR bolstered awareness as people could order the bands for free and vote for the university Tree Boy should attend at Freetreeboy.ca, a mobile site created by Transcontinental. A national PR program by Fleishman-Hillard included a mobile component plus a Toronto Eaton Centre event with chalk artist Julian Beever. The campaign ran nationally from May to August with in-store in supermarkets, convenience stores and gas stations.

“Free Tree Boy” exceeded sales expectations with double-digit growth compared to a Skittles promo the previous year, with consumers grabbing up all 400,000 bands created for the promo. It also helped drive Canadians to the Facebook page and up the Canadian fan base to over one million.

“The winning elements were the simplicity of message, a relevant, interesting campaign and a strong 360 execution, based on the TV,” says Alvo.