Shreyas Kulkarni

A Hershey's Kisses ad that may mean different things to Gen X, Y and Z...

There was a time in the 1990s and 2000s, when eating a Hershey's Kisses chocolate would turn heads. For starters, the chocolate brand hadn't launched in India. Second, people considered it 'out of reach', 'expensive', and something one's relatives staying abroad would bring with them when they visited the motherland.

During the aforementioned decades, chocolate brands such as Hershey's Kisses, Toblerone, Ferrero Rocher, and Lindt were the toast of the chocolate segment in India; some still are. They were expensive, not easily available, and getting our hands on them was more of a treat that didn't come easy. A good number of us grew up seeing these brands in awe and internalised certain aspects of them in our psyche.

With Hershey's Kisses, it was its tear-shaped design, of course. Uncommon and certainly an eye-catcher, that shape along with its wrapping and the tiny flag had become unforgettable images of the brand in our minds.

This relationship many of us from that era had with these brands also reflected with the snack chips brand Pringles. Its box packaging along with the aerodynamic shape of the chip was alien to us, especially for something as simple as chips. And yet we wanted to have at least one box of Pringles on our kitchen shelves. Yes, it was expensive but the want was equally powerful. The same went for these chocolate brands.

While Hershey's Kisses is a 110-year old iconic brand, it didn't make its official foray into India till 2018. Until that time, Hershey's marketed its syrups, milkshakes, Jolly Rancher Lollipops, and Brookside Chocolate across the nation.

Recently, the US-based chocolate maker released an ad for its 'Kisses' brand which caught our eye. The opening factory animation sequence emphasised the chocolate's tear-shaped design and its wrapping which is an international Hershey's asset while the latter half featured its brand ambassador Shraddha Kapoor.

A Hershey's Kisses ad that may mean different things to Gen X, Y and Z...

The opening sequence, an ode to the chocolate's shape and cover invokes a sense of nostalgia among Gen X (40-55 years) who saw their siblings and friends move abroad and then bring the chocolate with them while holidaying in India. For Gen Y (25-39 years), it was their aunts and uncles who lived abroad and would bring packets of 'Kisses' on their trips to India.

But, Gen Z (below 25 years) will see this ad as one for just another chocolate brand; they wouldn't know the baggage this brand has with the previous generations.

We remember our cousins and aunts getting us Hershey’s chocolate bars from abroad, those are sweet memories.
Joshua Thomas and Prathamesh Gharat, ECDs at Lowe Lintas

So, is the brand aiming at multiple audience sets at a time? Is it using its distinct design to invoke nostalgia among the older folks while using Shraddha Kapoor, the protagonist of the ad to pique the interest of the younger audiences?

Sarosh Shetty
Sarosh Shetty

Commenting on the brand's marketing plans, Sarosh Shetty, marketing director, Hershey India, tells afaqs!, "The Hershey's brand has a strong equity in India. It is seen as an aspirational, high quality, indulgent chocolate brand of international standards. Our key marketing task is to make Indian consumers aware of and experience this distinct proposition in the Indian context."

On whether the ad was aiming at multiple audience sets at a time (Gen X, Y, and Z), he says, "The film celebrates Hershey’s rich chocolate expertise that has gone behind the making of this distinctly shaped chocolate, each of which is delicately wrapped to make your loved ones feel special. The launch film is part of an elaborate communication campaign across mediums, that will bring alive the brand across age groups, consumer segments and occasions, in an Indian context."

(L-R) Joshua Thomas and Prathamesh Gharat
(L-R) Joshua Thomas and Prathamesh Gharat

In an email conversation with Joshua Thomas and Prathamesh Gharat, ECDs at Lowe Lintas, we spoke about the brand and its communication. They said, "Most of our conversations on Kisses revolved around making it a symbol of everyday affection. At the same time, adding back to mother brand Hershey’s which stands for – happiness and togetherness."

On marketing a brand which carries such baggage with generational Indian audience sets, they said, "We didn’t think of it as baggage or as an impediment. It is a premium brand and these associations play out well for the premium narrative. We remember our cousins and aunts getting us Hershey’s chocolate bars from abroad, those are sweet memories."

And about the ad and its factory design sequence, they said, "The intention was to bring out its unique shape and packaging. It is a very skillfully executed animation that communicates a lot in very little time, it is equally likeable for the young and the old."

Expert Review:

We spoke to two experts about the Hershey's Kisses ad, the marketing challenges for it, and whether the brand was targeting multiple audience sets at a time.

Neeraj Bassi
Neeraj Bassi

Neeraj Bassi, former Chief Strategy Officer and Managing Partner, Publicis India

"It is a product-centric communication from the brand, I have a feeling that they are attempting to introduce the brand to a new audience. The initial part romanticises the product formulation and the second half focuses on the usage context – both these aspects are well known to a regular user."

"They have an interesting pay-off in the jingle for the new user – better together, alluding to the multiple pieces that come in a pack and can be shared. Though they end the communication with the line ‘Say it with a kiss’. So, net-net, there is a lot happening in the ad," he says.

About the communication, he says, "The lack of sharpness in the communication is likely to impact memorability. I am not sure what the consumer would take out as a summary message from the ad. And to add to that, the use of a celebrity is not clutter-breaking."

He ends by saying, "Having said that, I would like to add that perhaps the brand is initiating a new journey in India and therefore have made a broad start, which they will keep on funneling as they build the brand in India. We should wish them all the best and keep watching the space."

Lubna Khan
Lubna Khan

Lubna Khan, brand strategy consultant

"Hershey's Kisses is clearly positioned as a mass premium brand in India. They have chosen to occupy a relational space (as opposed to individualistic pleasure), where the preferment, sharing and consumption of the chocolates facilitate an expression of the relationship itself."

She continues, "Since it is offered, the specialness of the product needs to be emphasised to make the offering worthy - the unique shape, the dense chocolate and the gold wrapper are cues to that end. All in all, it's a sweet film that conveys some sense of the product and the brand."

She rounded it up by saying, "But I find the absence of cultural anchoring puzzling, particularly in a brand that has grown on the back of deep cultural resonance in its home country. For the brand to grow in India, moving forward, they have to root the communication in contemporary Indian cultural insights. That is what will make the brand more distinct and memorable."

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