Kissed by Success: What Happened when Hershey Listened to a Mid-Manager

But on the watch of soon-to-retire Hershey CEO John Bilbrey, the confectionary giant walked the walk as well. Blessing the marketing idea of a finance manager in the company’s Mexico operation turned out to be one of the brand’s most successful on-the-ground promotions in some time.

Basically, Elias Castaneda, manager of Walmart finance for Hershey in Mexico, came up with an idea to promote Hershey’s Kisses by giving them away to Uber users in some cities in Mexico. And now the company is planning on ways to extend the momentum of the promotion, as well as its relationship with the car-sharing giant, one of the hottest brands with the world’s millennials.

“That’s a market of 130 million people. It made us look like an innovative company and helped us get closer to millennials.”

“It definitely helped Hershey when everyone in Mexico found out that we were doing this,” Castaneda told Chief Executive. “That’s a market of 130 million people. It made us look like an innovative company and helped us get closer to millennials. That’s a challenge all companies have. And Uber was able to expand its base in Mexico.”

He explained that “I really believed in the projet and in Uber’s future. I am in finance but I don’t consider myself just a finance guy. The reality is that people have really neat backgrounds, and you’re not just an expert in your area; you’re a mix of your experiences. And you can change departments and change your expertise.

“I had a business before, and I’ve been in sales and marketing a bit. So I decided to take this on.”

Castaneda got the idea for the original promotion from talking with some friends who started driving for Uber. But then he had the determination to run it up the flagpole at Hershey.

“We have Kisses, and they’re all about sharing and emotions, and Uber is all about connecting people,” Castaneda explained.

But there was some internal resistance, he said, because typical of a large corporation, Hershey managers were concerned about return on investment. “But it was a really small investment,” Castaneda said he stressed. “So I talked to my boss, and we decided we’d do business with Uber. We decided, what the hell, run a test.”

After a test of his idea last fall, on Valentine’s Day 21016 Hershey worked with Uber for a promotion in which the service bought thousands of gift-wrapped boxes of Hershey Kisses and gave them away to Uber customers in a handful of cities in Mexico, alerted by a cobranded email that the promotion was going on. The brands gave away 3,000 boxes – but 10,000 people ordered them via e-mail.

“The results were amazing. Seventy-eight percent of Uber’s customers based in Guadalajara ordered an Uber driver to stop by and drop off Kisses. Only a few people were actually able to get that delivery that day, but the rest were told to order later.

In fact, Uber Kisses sold in eight hours the same amount as Walmart Mexico during the same time frame. The promotion reached 20 million Twitter users in only eight hours, or 40% of all Twitter users in the entire country.

Hershey and Uber were able to follow this year with a promotion in which Hershey put a coupon for a free ride on Uber, up to a $15 value, in each of its chocolate bars sold at Walmart over a three-month period. The Hershey brand also did an activation in the U.S. with Uber and Kisses that was inspired by the Mexico success.

All due to the initiative taken by Castaneda and his boss, Hershey opened up an unexpected new revenue stream and promotional venue in a fast-growing country. Managers and executives may want to put their experience in their playbook for considering ideas that come from below.

tion in which Hershey put a coupon for a free ride on Uber, up to a $15 value, in each of its chocolate bars sold at Walmart over a three-month period. The Hershey brand also did an activation in the US with Uber and Kisses that was inspired by the Mexico success.

All due to the initiative taken by Castaneda and his boss, Hershey opened up an unexpected new revenue stream and promotional venue in a fast-growing country. Managers and executives may want to put their experience in their playbook for considering ideas that come from below.

Dale Buss
Dale Buss is a long-time contributor to Chief Executive, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and other top-flight business publications. He lives in Michigan.

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