Why Snickers decked out a China Eastern Airlines plane

Snickers outfits a China Eastern Airlines plane to reach 'hangry' people on CNY journeys.

Why Snickers decked out a China Eastern Airlines plane

Today is the eve of Lunar New Year, the most important day in the calendar for Chinese families, and one that triggers a massive travel rush for the reunion dinner held on this day. With up to 3 billion trips taking place in China during this Chunyun travel season, Chinese travellers are bound to be ‘hangry’ with the travel hassles and massive crowds.

That became the concept behind Snicker’s ‘Chunyung, Keeping You Full All the Way Home’ (春运, 饱你回家) campaign, launched in partnership with China Eastern Airlines, according to Thomas Delabriere, vice president marketing and strategic demand for Mars China.

Besides long queues and other travel annnoyances, hunger is another challege that Chinese travellers have to endure during their long journeys home—and a perfect fit with the brand's long-running ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ platform, which first launched during the 2010 Super Bowl.

“It is a single-minded, clear communication message that has been used for years, and for the third time in China,” Delabriere told Campaign Asia-Pacific. “From an advertising point of view, Chinese New Year is a very ‘crowded’ period with a lot of communication from brands. We want to stand out with a catchy message, to be top of mind of consumers during the their travels back home.”

Since 2016, Snickers has positioned itself as an essential energy snack to help Chinese students prepare for university entrance exams. A drama series fronted by Chinese boyband TFBoys, released on the QQ platform, was one of the vehicles used to promote the message, while third-party tracking firm AdMaster said the gao kao-themed campaign amplified the brand by 3,100% on social chatter and video views between 4 April and 15 May in 2016. Euromonitor said Snickers reached more RMB1.1 million in sales in two days during the campaign.

Delabriere said he hoped the same amplifying effect will be replicated during this year's campaign even though only a miniscule fraction of Chinese travellers would be so lucky to get on board the single Snickers plane the brand has created.

The plane provides onboard WiFi service, purportedly to encourage travellers to share photos of their  experience on WeChat. “The campaign is mainly driven by digital on social media, and there are a few outdoor posts. The results we are looking for are very much on sales indicators, marketshare goals and impact on social media,” said Delabriere.

The special edition plane took off at Hongqiao International Airport on 15 January, with a special appearance by Hong Kong actor Bowie Lam as well as a live demonstration of an in-flight Snickers-themed meal preparation. The Snickers-themed plane, furnished with messages such as ‘The stomach is like a red packet, it upsets us when it is empty’ on its compartments, will be used for domestic routes until early March.

Photo: Official China Eastern Airline Weibo account

Additionally, Chinese consumers can scan a QR code on Snickers bars at over 6,000 participating retail outlets between January and February to redeem vouchers for flight bookings on the China Eastern Airline mobile app. Both brands developed the content with MediaCom, while BBDO China worked on the video.

Delabriere said the success of such an approach is very much dependent on the common values shared by the brands involved. On Snickers’ partner China Eastern Airline, the second largest airline in China by passenger numbers, Delabriere said: “Basically when you look at an airline, they want to put travellers at the heart of everything they do, in terms of quality of service. And that’s really what Mars talks about as well, doing the right things for consumers, making sure things are cheaper and easy. Clearly we have a set of values that are consistent.”

From the point of view of consumers, however, the partnership has to be meaningful and relevant, said Delabriere. “It must really grab attention, to amplify the message," he said. "In this case, we have a fully integrated storyline about Chinese New Year, the travellers going home and having snickers on the plane,” Delabriere explained. He emphasised that the campaign was not centred on air travel, but rather for Snickers to be the top-of-mind energy snack during the largest human migration, whether it be land or air travel.

According to Euromonitor data, Snickers had a 5.7% marketshare in China as of 2017. Its parent company Mars was the market leader, with 36.7% marketshare in 2017; while Dove is the most popular under the Mars portfolio, at 23.8%. The Euromonitor report pointed out that Mars, whose brands are mainly positioned within the low- to mid-priced range, lost half a percentage point of value share in 2017 due to consumers’ shift to more premium products. Godiva’s market share increased three-fold, from 0.5% in 2016 to 1.5% in 2017.

Delabriere contended that Snickers, which is largely sold at checkout aisles, is not a premium brand, although Mars is increasing its premium offerings for its mid-ranged Dove brand. Growing affluence aside, Chinese consumers are not the most ardent chocolate lovers, with Mars’ internal data showing that only 110g of chocolate is consumed in a year, about a tenth of the figure in Europe. But Delabriere insisted that he saw opportunities in what other saw as challenges.

“Being the category leader, our mission is to drive consumption,” said Delabriere. He said both the gao kao and chunyung campaigns set up ‘clear occassions’ for Chinese consumers to consume chocolate.

Meanwhile, Mars also released chili-pepper flavoured Snickers last year to capture the tastebuds of Chinese consumers who love spicy food, said Delabriere. “China is a market which is very reactive to innovation, and Chinese consumers are really embracing innovation in a big way, and that’s why we are launching several innovations,” said Delabriere. He added that the spicy Snickers will be sold in retail following a good reception on its ecommerce launch last year. 

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