Rom Chocolate Case Study

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Title: American Rom
Advertiser/Client: Kandia Dulce
Product/Service: Snack
DM/Advertising Agency: McCann EricksonBucharest, Romania

The brief from the client:

Romania’s ROM chocolate bar is the traditional Romanian chocolate. Launched in 1964 with the Romanian flag on its wrapper, it had an ageing, nostalgic consumer base and was losing ground with the young generation. In a category in which success means continuously attracting younger fans, ROM’s nationalistic values were a disadvantage. Young Romanians are disillusioned and cynical, with only 12% describing themselves as patriots. They prefer ‘cool’ American confectionery brands like Snickers and Mars. ROM—the chocolate bar bearing the Romanian flag—needed to gain appeal to youngsters with few national values.

Creative Execution.

ROM (as in ROMania) was a traditional chocolate bar carrying a load of nationalistic values along with the Romanian flag on it. We wanted to stir a debate among young Romanians about the national values and remind them how much they love their national chocolate. We knew that although young Romanians tend to be negative about themselves and their country, their patriotism returns when challenged. This ‘reactive patriotism’ underpinned our ground-breaking campaign that challenged young people’s national ego in order to re-establish ROM as a cherished Romanian symbol.

The creative solution to the brief/objective.

Our solution was not to fight the likes of Snickers and Mars, but temporarily join them. We replaced the Romanian flag on ROM’s package with the American one, announced the change in media and prepared for people’s response. The campaign was directing people on ROM website and Facebook page, to dialogue with the brand. Within hours, people reactions hit the Internet by the thousands. We moderated the conversations and monitored public reactions 24/7. When ‘the snowball’ grew big enough, we revealed that ROM was back as Romanian as ever, and concluded with an anthem dedicated to ROM and his fans.

The results.

The campaign reached 67% of Romanians and generated €300,000 of free publicity. Online response was phenomenal: in six days, ROM’s website had 75,000 unique visitors; Facebook fans rose by 300%; supporters launched petitions and even organised a flash-mob in the capital. All brand image indicators have exploded, especially “ROM is a brand for me”, which more than doubled, with a 124% increase. ROM outperformed the market, with a 20% growth (compared to 8.2% category growth) in the most relevant channel, hypermarkets. Most importantly, ROM ousted Snickers to become Romanians’ favourite chocolate bar, with a 79% increase of the indicator.

Via Cannes Lions

Topics: bakery & confectionery, McCann Erickson, outdoor advertising

You can’t impose patriotism. So what to do then when a candy brand with long-standing ties to a communist past demands a national pride campaign to combat creeping apathy among young consumers? Use reverse psychology by taking away something that was being taken for granted.

The American ROM campaign challenged the patriotism of Romanians by replacing the candy bar’s original wrapper–-which had been enveloped in the country’s flag since its origin in 1964 when it was the only choice in chocolate bar–-with an American flag. Drastic, perhaps, but the campaign resulted in a stunning display of national loyalty, huge increases in market share, and not one but two Grand Prix, for Promo & Activation as well as in the direct category, at Cannes this week.

“It was tough because the client demanded a national pride campaign but that was impossible to do in a context where younger generations are voting with their feet in Romania,” says Adrian Botan, the creative director for McCann Erickson Romania. “They see their future abroad and are kind of disappointed by their country. We had to create something to rebel against so people would discover their national pride.”

ROM had lost considerable market share to American imports such as Snickers, so this controversial move was a provocation and something of an outrage. Facebook groups popped up reviling ROM’s new face and debating the very notion of what it meant to be Romanian. Flash mobs gathered to protest, and the stunt made the national news.

Leaving aside where this leaves U.S.-Romanian relations, it all resulted in €300,000 in free media, according to the agency, and a 79% increase in market share which put the product on top of its category. The offending American ROM bars sold out as well. Normally a red flag, negative comments were even met with delight, says Botan. “The account director was calling me and saying, ‘Wow, excellent, we have thousands of negative comments. That’s exactly what we were looking for.'”

After seven days of Romanian ROM scarcity, the agency returned the previous packaging to store shelves and followed up with a TV spot letting people in on the joke. The campaign has since evolved into a rousingly patriotic one including the national anthem.

Botan acknowledges that two Grand Prix for Romania may come as a surprise to some observers, but contends that this win reinvigorates a Romanian creative renaissance that began in 2005 and was waylaid by the global economic crisis. “We’ve recovered and find inspiration in adversity, and I think Eastern Europe has huge potential,” says Botan, who for the moment finds himself comfortably at the fore of this creative revitalization.


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