Gum ‘knocks the snot’ out of lozenge category

So what's the story?
It tastes like Halls and feels like Extra. Wrigley Canada's new Alpine chewing gum, which was promoted via a cheeky advertising campaign this past cough/ cold season, is actually loaded with menthol and eucalyptus and claims to relieve sore throats and coughs.

So what’s the story?

It tastes like Halls and feels like Extra. Wrigley Canada’s new Alpine chewing gum, which was promoted via a cheeky advertising campaign this past cough/ cold season, is actually loaded with menthol and eucalyptus and claims to relieve sore throats and coughs.

In fact, according to company president and CEO Michael McKean, it competes with the Halls and Vicks of the world, and is part of a trend toward more ‘functional’ gum choices.

‘Like any consumer packaged goods company we are looking for different ways to grow,’ he says. ‘This was a natural when we took it to consumers … people said they had never thought about it, but if there was a chewing gum that actually [soothed sore throats] they would buy it.’

McKean points out that Alpine, which comes in original flavour, honey lemon and most recently cherry, has a benefit over the competition: its medicinal properties last 20 minutes, as opposed to only seven or eight for a lozenge.

Okay, but do we really need a throat-relieving gum?

And more importantly, if I pop an Alpine in lieu of Halls while I’m sick in bed, aren’t I more likely to choke when I doze off? While Canadians may not need Alpine, they apparently aren’t turned off by the notion.

According to McKean, Alpine is now fighting for the number-two position in the cough/cold lozenge market, and while industry leader Halls owned 75% of marketshare when Alpine first turned up on drug and convenience store shelves two years ago, that number has since dissolved to 66%.

‘Launching a product into a well-entrenched category in a new format is challenging, and fighting for number two is rewarding,’ says McKean, who credits the brand’s placement to its recent transit ad campaign.

Created by BBDO Toronto, one instalment has the words, ‘Menthex won’t cure the common cold. But it can knock the snot out of a sore throat.’ Initially, says McKean, the company ran a more serious campaign with the taglines ‘chew your cold out,’ and ‘chew your cough out.’

‘As we learned and we got more consumer input, we realized that because we were new to the category, a slightly irreverent approach might grab more attention and be more effective,’ he explains. Another ad has a piece of gum in a teaspoon with the statement ‘cool relief for sore throats.’

Transit ran in major markets across Canada, except for in Alberta, where Wrigley decided to stick to a more straightforward tone and also launched a TV spot as a test. The ad depicts a bearded man in the quintessential Canadian outdoors, who says, ‘you hammer your thumb, you ice it … tempers flare, you tell them to cool it … why not cool your sore throat with a medicated gum?’ It ends with ‘Cool is therapeutic.’

‘We wanted to see the continuation of what we launched with, versus something more irreverent,’ says McKean, adding that ‘if TV pays out, we’d have to look at it elsewhere.’

Wrigley is still determining the results of the commercial, but it likely won’t have quite the same impact as transit. ‘We’ve had some consumers say ['Knock the snot out'] isn’t good use of the English language, but you expect that kind of thing when you push the needle a bit.’

Snot and gum – great association. What’s next in functional gum?

McKean says Wrigley will continue to ‘expand the idea of gum into other areas of delivered functional benefits.’ For example, possibly coming down the pipe is Orbit teeth whitening gum, which has been produced in conjunction with Crest at Procter & Gamble and is already available south of the border.

And depending on its performance in the U.S., Wrigley Canada might also introduce Surpass, a gum that takes on the likes of Tums and Rolaids in the antacids sector. ‘Unlike forms that have been around forever, gum is felt by the consumer to be something that is pleasant, lasts longer and is a great way to deliver medication,’ says McKean. ‘You’re chewing it, and it goes into the bloodstream, or through the saliva and into the digestive track right away.’

Great, but doesn’t that take the fun out of gum? Thank God for Hubba Bubba. Sugar rushes and blowing bubbles are therapeutic too…