With Easter right around the corner, store shelves are slowly starting to fill with pastel-colored and egg-shaped versions of our favorite products. I can almost taste the Reese's® Eggs now–you know, the original ones that somehow remain superior to all other forms of Reese's. That sensation of excitement and nostalgia is EXACTLY why seasonal and limited release products have grown in popularity and continue to be something that consumers look for year after year.
We’ve uncovered examples of four growth-focused benefits brands have reaped from their special edition products. Let’s explore 4 ways major retail manufacturers revamped their products to earn these advantages in the market.
Deeper Product Lines
Firstly, and probably most apparently, seasonal products expand your product line. Seasons change constantly and always repeat, offering the opportunity to introduce variety into an existing portfolio of product. Doing so will help brands create spikes in demand, without reinventing the wheel. Little Debbie’s® Zebra® Cakes and Pillsbury’s Shape™ sugar cookies are two fan-favorite indulgences that provide an excellent example of season-inspired sweets:
Zebra® Cakes: Traditionally a hexagon-shaped snack cake with black and white stripes – Little Debbie added 7+ varieties just by focusing on the season. They started small with a white frosted tree-shaped cake for Christmas, then an all-green tree with red stripes hit the market. Valentine’s Day brings pink and white heart-shaped cakes, available in both vanilla and chocolate. During other holidays, such as Independence Day, Easter, and Thanksgiving, the traditional white frosted hexagonal cake is dressed in a variety of festive sprinkles (red white and blue for July 4th, pastels for Easter, and warm fall colors for Thanksgiving).
Pillsbury Shape™ Cookies: These ready-to-bake delights are a staple in many kitchens. From shamrocks, bunnies and chicks to pumpkins, turkeys, snowmen, trees, and reindeer, consumers can find a shape for almost any season. Pop culture has even inspired some designs, for example, Pokemon and the movie Elf. With so many varieties, this tried-and-true flavor is available practically year-round, but consumers still flock to the shelves for their favorite seasonal characters.
Having a more extensive assortment of product produces a myriad of effects for the brand but ideally results in increased revenue. When a favorite brand introduces a new product, shoppers will not only purchase the traditional version year-round, but many will venture out of their comfort zone to test out the new and exciting special edition release.
Peeps®: No longer solely recognized for their yellow marshmallow chicks, Peeps now permeate the market year-round. Following the same recipe consumers have come to know and love, the Just Born company emerged from the Easter grass with a deluge of colors, flavors, and shapes. Peeps expanded consumer awareness by continually placing relevant merchandise on the shelf. First released in 1954, Peeps elicit a sense of nostalgia for many, but their present-day assortment options appeal to a larger audience, bridging the generation gap with flavors that thrive in a millennial market. Broadening product selection does not eliminate the anticipation that builds as eager consumers anxiously await the release of products with limited availability. The demand is unmistakable, as Peeps remain the number one non-chocolate Easter candy on the market (source).
Extended Brand Longevity
It’s pretty evident that products with limited edition seasonal selections not only earn reliable recurrent boosts in popularity but also derive longevity from more than just calendar-focused marketing. Trends are constantly changing, and manufacturers who can keep up reap the rewards. Developing a distinctive personality can help a flagship product navigate shifts in pop culture and revitalize an otherwise stagnant brand.
Oreo®: This seemingly timeless cookie icon rose to the challenge and created quite a buzz nationwide. By reshaping their product development strategy and concentrating marketing efforts, Oreo transformed into a spirited, sometimes cheeky, cultural phenomenon. Their social campaign cleverly referred to as the “Daily Twist,” placed an Oreo cookie at the forefront of current events in pop culture like the Mars Landing and Shark Week. Consumers could instantly connect the brand to real-world occurrences. The brand took things a step further, adapting to consumers’ desire for products that provide increasingly relatable, lucrative shopping experiences. They crafted an almost cult-like following with the introduction of some unique (and unprecedented) flavors. Ranging from sickeningly sweet to savory and even spicy, the traditional white-cream filling transformed itself to appeal to almost any palate. Even the most curious of flavors, like Watermelon, sparked a fire of interest and a sense of exclusivity amongst shoppers who were determined to get their hands on Oreo’s latest experiment.
Higher Levels of Consumer Engagement
Campaigns for limited release products often provide space for brands to step outside the box. With this expanded way of thinking, brands are likely to see more interaction with and engagement from consumers. There is also an upsurge in crowdsourced content. Delighted fans share their enthusiasm through unboxing videos and blogs and frequently rank seasonal items on “top-foods-you-must-try” lists. An uptick in social sharing fosters a stronger sense of community and gets customers involved in the brand. This community creates a memorable experience, which consumers relate to a particular product, and helps to build a relationship between shoppers and the brand.
Lay’s®: Frito Lay’s® annual “Do Us a Flavor”™ campaign invites consumers to explore some of the most obscure flavor combinations imaginable. Relying heavily on user-generated content shared across social media, participants could opt to submit, test, or vote for new flavors and were encouraged to share their experience with a community of followers. Initially launched in 2012 as a way for the brand to appeal to millennial shoppers, the contest averaged 22.5 million weekly Facebook visits and resulted in a 12% sales increase over ten months (source).
Reese’s®: Reese’s social campaign “All Trees are Beautiful” is another excellent example of how special-release products drive engagement. In 2015, consumers started noticing that Reese’s holiday trees didn’t accurately depict a picturesque cookie-cutter shape. After much ado, the Hershey company was quick to put a positive spin on the expressed outrage, reminding shoppers that everyone is beautiful in their own way. Regardless of the circumstances that brought this campaign to light, the brand was still able to react to the shopper’s voice and capitalize on the level of interactivity social media provides.
Seasonal Products Maintain Relevance and Foster Loyalty
In a content-saturated market where staying relevant becomes increasingly essential, brands are revitalizing their flagship products to capitalize on available growth potential. By releasing seasonal shapes, flavors, and colors, products cultivate a sense of exclusivity and community across social channels. Consumers eagerly await the launch of their favorites, while remaining captivated by the newest releases. Exposure, engagement, and sales all surge which contributes to brand longevity, especially with millennial shoppers.