Hershey launches Reese’s Pieces into space

A campaign for the candy's first product innovation in 40 years kicks off with a stunt to drive awareness up front.

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By Christopher Lombardo

It’s not often a product launch involves actually launching a product. But that’s what Hershey Canada did when it fired an in-store display of its new Reese’s Pieces Peanut Candy into space in a high-altitude balloon on Saturday from California’s Mojave Desert.

The vessel broke Earth’s atmosphere, floating at an altitude of more than 30km high, approximately three times higher than a typical passenger jet. Hershey worked with Anomaly on the campaign, and a video showing the launch debuts on Monday.

Some consumers have come to associate the Reese’s brand with space, thanks to Steven Spielberg’s 80s hit, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. In the movie, young Elliott lures the titular alien into his home by leaving a trail of Reese’s Pieces candy.

Reese’s Pieces Peanut Candy – which embeds a whole peanut into each Reese’s Piece everyone has come to know – is the first innovation to that candy in 40 years and, according to Jackson Hitchon, senior director of marketing for Hershey Canada, “for those that recall the connection from the early 80s, it taps into nostalgia, and [this campaign] taps into that memory.”

Hitchon says the company is “trying to short-circuit” the typical launch campaign with a stunt that will drive a lot of awareness instantly, instead of a traditional spot that could take months to resonate (the concept will also be the foundation of a launch campaign with TV, social and digital elements). The launch, Hitchon adds, is also “a lot of fun and in-tone with the brand.”

The confectionary market has remained resilient in export markets like the U.S., despite health concerns about sugar. And according to YouGov Research, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are second only to Mars’ M&Ms in candy popularity stateside.

Hitchon says that despite consumer love for the brand, there hasn’t been a lot of “new” developments from it. “There is a high degree of loyalty and household penetration so it’s a matter of letting Canadians know there is something new. This has been a great study for us, about how we drive awareness and sustain it.”

Hershey is also promoting the product on the ground at the Toronto Light Festival. Hershey Canada has set up sampling events at the festival, which is held annually at the city’s historic Distillery District, a popular and social media-friendly locale. Hershey Canada has created a “vortex” lighting effect there, highlighting the theme of the meta-sounding “peanut inside peanut.”

“It’s cold and dark right now,” Hitchons says. “The Light Festival is about embracing winter and having fun.”