Trick-or-treaters top off Halloween by sorting their candy into two piles: The good stuff, which disappears alarmingly fast, and everything else, which can linger untouched for months.
To eliminate the latter pile, Reese’s created a vending machine that accepts unwanted candy and exchanges it for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Dominating the conversation
While the idea for the Reese’s converter had been percolating for some time, actual planning didn’t begin until mid-September.
The goal was to dominate the candy conversation leading up to Halloween.
“Over 30% of candy purchased for the season is purchased in the week leading up to Halloween,” said Anna Lingeris, earned media and brand publicity lead at Reese’s parent Hershey.
Keeping Reese’s, America’s top-selling Halloween candy by retail sales, top of mind was paramount.
In mid-October, Reese’s commissioned a survey that found 90% of Americans would trade their unwanted candy for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which became the campaign’s rallying cry.
“The short of the story is, Reese’s is going to save Halloween” by allowing trick-or-treaters to “unapologetically swap out the candy you don’t like for the candy you love,” Lingeris said.
The Reese’s Halloween Candy Converter made its debut at the Tarrytown Halloween Parade in New York on October 28. This allowed the brand “to start driving excitement and coverage,” Lingeris said.
At the parade, the converter distributed around 2,500 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Over the course of the next few days, Reese’s posted 12 pieces of original social media content, including tweets, Instagram stories, and YouTube and Facebook video posts.
On Halloween night, the Reese’s Halloween Candy Converter popped up again in New York City’s Washington Square Park, where an additional 10,000 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were handed out in exchange for trick-or-treaters’ sugary rejects.
The unwanted candy was donated to a variety of food banks in local areas.
The campaign generated more than 1,300 media placements in the three days leading up to Halloween, including coverage in high-profile national outlets such as Good Morning America, Food & Wine, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, Thrillist, and BuzzFeed.
Jimmy Fallon also gave the campaign a mention in his Halloween opening monologue on NBC’s The Tonight Show.
Brand mentions on social media during the lead-up to Halloween were up 600% from the daily average.
Across social platforms, the converter converted. Without any paid media support, Reese’s 12 social media posts generated a collective 536,000 engagements, including 352,500 video views on Twitter, 70,500 video views on YouTube, 5,500 likes on Instagram, 1,300 shares on Facebook, and 5,600 retweets.
“People understood it immediately,” Lingeris said. “There were not a lot of layers to this, per se — it was just a great idea.”
A number of brands and influencers organically posted about the converter, including Honda, Dylan’s Candy Bar, and actor Neil Patrick Harris, who turned to Twitter to request that a converter be installed in his living room.
I need one of these in my life. Or at least in my living room. https://t.co/LzWZwbheia
— Neil Patrick Harris (@ActuallyNPH) October 31, 2018
The campaign delivered on its goal of making Reese’s the number one topic of pre-Halloween-candy-related discussion.
“So many outlets, from ESPN to various influencers, called us the GOAT of Halloween,” Lingeris said. “We are incredibly proud to take that title.”
Reese’s does not have any updated information with regard to business results.
“However, Hershey is the leader at Halloween, with three of the top brands,” Lingeris said.
This article originally appeared on PRWeek.com.