How Oh Henry! promoted 4:25 without buds

In a world with few social gatherings, Hershey flipped the script for a new bar that's meant to be shared with friends.

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Since being introduced by the creators of That 70s Show, the “circle” gag has lived on in cannabis culture, so much so that it almost made it into an Oh Henry! commercial for a new miniature version of its munchie-curing 4:25 bar.

Back in March, Oh Henry! and Anomaly explored a creative idea around how stoner daydreaming (and snacking) is best done amongst friends. The plan was to shoot a group of buds sharing random thoughts five minutes after 4:20 for a commercial that promotes the brand’s new 4:25 Buds, a smaller, multipack version of its original LTO that debuted in 2018.

The script was approved, production was scheduled, but then the pandemic hit. Suddenly, showing a group of friends sharing their mental musings didn’t seem like such a good (nor physically possible) idea.

Alejandro Mosquera, marketing manager for Oh Henry!, tells strategy that the team didn’t feel comfortable creating content that encouraged socializing, even if the ad was slated to launch during the lockdown phases most parts of the country are now in, where people are allowed to create social bubbles.

Nevertheless, the brand decided to pivot the “bud” concept, turning to Anomaly’s in-house animation arm, Unreasonable Studios, to create trippy graphics that brought to life “high thoughts” shared among friends – such as “Who am I supposed to call if I catch Big Foot?” and “Why would someone pay for 3D glasses? We already live in the third dimension.”

Embracing stoner antics has been Oh Henry!’s creative strategy ever since it debuted 4:25 just prior to recreational cannabis being legalized in 2018, positioning the peanut-laden bar as a cure for the “recreational hunger” that comes five minutes after 4:20. It’s an approach most cannabis and cannabis-adjacent brands have avoided in favour of a more lifestyle-oriented approach that might make the category more welcoming to newcomers. But senior marketing manager Mathieu Gamache says Oh Henry! has never been a serious brand, which allows it to lean into the stereotypes and get more entertainment value.

Each summer that the 4:25 product has been on shelves, Oh Henry! has taken to the streets (particularly those in Toronto’s Kensington Market) to create buzz for the bar through wild stunts. In 2018, it opened a pop-up dispensary dishing out samples alongside Epic Meal Time creators. In 2019, another sampling storefront appeared with a retired RCMP sniffer dog attempting to track down hungry pedestrians.

For obvious reasons, a PR-driving public stunt is not in the books to promote the launch of the snack-sized format this summer, but Gamache says the brand has been able to activate online in innovative ways.

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For instance, in late May, just as the 4:25 bar was beginning to see mass distribution (it trickled into stores beginning in January), Oh Henry! worked with UM to strike a deal with Amazon. Through this new partnership, says Gamache, Oh Henry! became the first brand in Canada to have a presence within the new Amazon Fire TV dashboard. Knowing that watching movies is often part of a cannabis consumer’s experience, the brand curated a list of “chill” movies and shows  like Baked in Brooklyn and High Town  that FireTV viewers could watch while snacking on 4:25 Buds.

“We could contextualize the advertising,” says Gamache of the decision to insert the brand within the content feed. “There is content [on Amazon Fire] that’s relevant to the mindset of the 4:25 occasion, so we were able to advertise in a way that was highly contextual to our consumer.”

While the 4:25 product has been a success each year since launch (the first year sold out and people began to sell the bar on eBay for three times the price), Gamache says the multi-pack version for 2020 was given a smaller scale launch. The Hershey team is currently in development mode for a brand new “high priority” bar that’s launching later this year, so the campaign for the 4:25 bar “is a little more scaled down” so that they can focus on building equity for the soon-to-launch brand.