Cadbury’s secrecy pays off

Rocket XL's Ian Barr talks about how a stealth pre-launch giveaway blitz on Facebook generated a 16% boost in fans and rapid-fire product sellout.

It was a rare opportunity: 5,000 bags of a new, not-yet-to-market Caramilk candy just waiting to be lapped up by chocolate-loving Canadians.

The candy was the new Cadbury Caramilk Secrets bite-sized chocolates and the goal was to get them into the hands of Canadians before the official February 2011 launch of the product. The solution, says Rocket XL VP Ian Barr, was obvious: what better way to drive trial than through the brand’s most loyal fans?

The result was a 100% unpaid social media strategy ahead of the paid campaign that will launch in February, Barr explains. Rocket XL built a ‘Caramilk Secret Machine’ app for its Facebook page and unveiled it Monday, Dec. 6. The app featured an animation that invited fans to ‘be the first to taste Caramilk Secrets’ and then depicted Caramilk bars being turned into Secrets bites.

When the animation finished, viewers were asked for their mailing address so that the free, full-size sample could be sent to them. The final phase of the app invited users to share the secret with their friends. Both final phases generated automatic posts on the users’ walls: the first on the participant’s wall, and the second on the wall of the selected friends.

The only promotion given to the app was posts on the brand’s Facebook wall, and tweets through its Twitter account.

‘We set a limit of 5,000 bags and all of them were gone in three hours,’ Barr says. ‘It grew the page’s fan base by 16% to date and through our Twitter account, we drove 34,000 impressions.’

The goal had been to go through the product within a couple of days, so to be cleaned out in three hours surprised everyone involved, Barr says. ‘We suspected without any paid engagement it would take a couple of days max, so three hours was definitely a treat.’

‘We were pleasantly shocked by how quickly our fans jumped on the Facebook blitz and how keen they were to spread the message,’ says Laura Henderson, brand manager, Caramilk. ‘We knew Canadians would love free chocolate… we never anticipated just how much they would love being let in on a new ‘secret!”

By all accounts a success, the candy blitz still provided some key learnings for Rocket XL – mainly that next time, they’ll tease out the giveaways over a longer period of time.

‘We already know that anything free will help drive the growth of fan base,’ Barr explains. ‘But one thing that we will want to go doing forward is maybe cap the limit day over day to encourage more of a frenzy of people coming back to the page: limited time, limited quantity and totally unannounced.’

And while Barr wouldn’t reveal any hints on what consumers can expect, social-media-wise, from the brand in February (nor that darn Caramilk secret either, we might add), he did admit that the secret of the success of this particular execution lay in being true to the brand.

‘Caramilk is all about the secret, it’s all about mystery, pleasant surprises and being cheeky and playful,’ he says. ‘When posts started to appear, we would say things like ‘the mystery machine is warming up,’ so when it launched people were already excited about it. And, of course, it’s an opportunity to be the first in Canada to try something that isn’t available yet.’