Abid Hussain Barlaskar

“We want to make chewing gum cool inside the home”: Yogesh Tewari, Mars Wrigley

Chewing gum brand Boomer is being advertised after six years. The brand has retained its popular ‘Boom Boom Boomer’ catchline, but dropped the Boomer Man mascot.

Around a week back, leading confectionery company Mars Wrigley resumed advertising for Boomer, one of the oldest chewing gum brands in India. The brand’s latest campaign includes three TVCs, but this time, the popular mascot ‘Boomer Man’ is missing from the commercials. The stretchy, Mister Fantastic-like (superhero character from Marvel) avatar has also been removed from all branding material.

We mentioned ‘resumption’ in the previous paragraph since Boomer has managed to survive in both the market and the consumer memory without any advertising for the last six years. It is one of the flagship brands in the Virginia-headquartered company’s business in India. Also, Boomer as a brand was acquired and grafted into Mars’ portfolio.

Boomer was originally launched by Spanish confectionery company Joyco in 1995. In early 2004, The Wrigley Company announced the global acquisition of certain confectionery businesses of Joyco, bringing key brands like Boomer, Pim Pom lollipop and Solano candy into its portfolio. The Wrigley Company was acquired by Mars in 2008. In October 2016, Mars announced the merger with Wrigley and rebranded itself as the Mars Wrigley Confectionery.

In India, Boomer competed with brands like Big Babol (Perfetti), Loco Poco (Candico) and Big Fun (Gum India). Apart from advertising, sales were driven by freebies, like stickers and collectibles.

However, the ownership and communication aren’t the only aspects that have undergone change. Over the last 25 years of its presence in the market, the product has witnessed several format extensions, like liquid-filled gum, a gum-jelly combo, a chewing gum tape roll and even a chewing gum with a chocolate filling called Gumlairs.

Wrigley had also tried applying some of its global formats on Boomer. Formats like Gumlairs and gum tape had already been tried and tested on its global bubble gum brand Hubba Bubba.

Boomer is Mars Wrigley’s most widely distributed brand in India. It is sold across 1.4 million outlets located across metros and Tier-1 cities to rural areas. While the brand enjoys a strong presence in the South Indian market, the northern and eastern markets have historically been Boomer’s core regions. The brand plans to boost its presence in these two geographies.

“Boomer is our biggest gum brand in India, in terms of volume, value and distribution. When it was with Joyco, it was targeted towards young kids, and was among the first brands in India to use a character (Boomer Man) in its advertising. It was hugely driven by communication and product innovation, whether it was the gum-jelly combo, or the chocolate-filled gum, or the various flavours,” says Yogesh Tewari, marketing director, Mars Wrigley.

Yogesh Tewari
Yogesh Tewari

As Tewari puts it, Boomer is the company’s “local jewel”, and has some presence in China and South East Asian countries.

Until 2010, the brand targeted children with communication projecting the Boomer Man as a superhero who saves kids from sticky situations. Around 2010, Wrigley’s brought about a slight shift in the target audience to attract young adults. The brand, for the first time, decided to replace children with teenagers in its TVC in 2014. The ad film was crafted under the guidance of Sonal Dabral (then chairman and CCO, DDB Mudra Group).

“That’s when we saw the going out of the Boomer Man. The reason was ethical marketing practices followed by Mars as a company. While we are in the business of selling chocolates, candies and confectionery, we also follow a strict practice of not targeting kids under 12 years. It’s not just communication campaigns, but also the choice of media. We don’t advertise on children’s channels,” Tewari says.

By doing away with the cartoonised Boomer Man mascot, the company’s intention was also to make the brand more relevant for teenagers and young adults.

Despite going without advertising for six years, Boomer still retains the top spot in the company’s chewing gum portfolio. It sits alongside brands like Double Mint and Orbit chewing gums. And, as Tewari reveals, it is also the leader in the bubble gum segment of chewing gums.

“We were surprised to find that even today, the brand holds very strong equity in the mind of the consumers. That happened because we continued to drive distribution, in-store activity, and made it (Boomer) available for consumers who wanted it.”

Much of the advertising in India was handled by Grey Worldwide, until the Wrigley account moved to DDB Mudra as a part of a global rejig in 2007. The latest campaign, too, has been crafted by DDB Mudra. By retaining the original ‘Boom Boom Boomer’ jingle, the ads try to invoke nostalgia and talk to those who have tried, and grown up with, the brand. It aims to connect with the younger generation consumers who don’t know about Boomer, but still find the bubble gum category interesting.

The new ads don’t talk about the flavour, or the format, but the ‘bubble’ aspect of the chewing gum. The rekindled focus on the bubble, a memorable asset of the bubble gum sub-segment, is purposeful.

The total gum segment in India is valued at around $250 million and includes various sub-segments, like bubble gums (Boomer, Big Babol), freshness segment (Double Mint, Center fresh), fruit gums (Center fruit, BooProo) and sugar-free gums (Orbit).

"Bubble gum is a segment through which a consumer enters the gum category"

“Bubble gum is a segment through which a consumer enters the gum category, and Boomer is the biggest bubble gum brand in India. The whole objective is to drive category growth momentum and to get our biggest brand to aid in that. We want to drive the overall category penetration of chewing gums in India,” Tewari reveals.

The average price point is at Re 1. This, in turn, makes the number of transactions, or the number of times consumers buy gums, extremely high.

Another key challenge that Mars Wrigley is trying to address is to drive in-home consumption. Two of the three new TVCs place Boomer inside the house.

“We want to make chewing gum cool inside the home as well, during different occasions, or times of the day”

Tewari explains that traditionally, chewing gum has been an out-of-home category. “We want to make chewing gum cool inside the home as well, during different occasions, or times of the day.”

He says that the product is relevant in various occasions (scenarios), like when one is bored, wants to focus, wants a small treat, while working out, or travelling, for the cool factor, the confidence, or while having some ‘me’ time. However, with the wider target audience, Boomer has to compete with more than just its gum rivals. There are many options when it comes to dealing with boredom today, for example, social media.

“Most of the use cases are still relevant today. While there are multiple options and choices within gums and outside, the reasons don’t change. For us, we want to expand it further,” Tewari argues.

"We expect the distribution to jump across geographies"

“With Boomer coming back on air, we are seeing positive initial signs from field sales and trade outlets. We expect the distribution to jump across geographies, especially in the East and North,” he signs off.