Cracker Jack gets Jack'D for millennials
Frito-Lay marketers go '90s extreme to get younger customers while messing with the original peanuts-and-popcorn mix.
Branded In The 80s has preserved examples of products from Mead Trapper Keeper school organizers to Levi's Jeans and Donruss baseball cards that got the "extreme" treatment. Gaming site 1UP saved just about every "extreme" '90s video-game ad. Yum Brands' (YUM) Taco Bell served up Extreme Nachos and Burger King (BKW) hired bungee-jumping MTV Sports host Dan Cortese to pitch extreme meat loaf and table service.
The Simpsons put the exclamation point on the whole thing back in 1997 when it devoted an entire episode to focus-grouping a skateboarding, shades-wearing dog named Poochie to boost "The Itchy and Scratchy Show's" ratings.
Roughly 20 years past this idea's freshness date, extreme branding is back on shelves, thanks to PepsiCo (PEP), its snack subsidiary Frito-Lay and a new line of the venerable Cracker Jack peanut-and-popcorn mix called Cracker Jack'D that just launched Tuesday. It's "Jack'D" because hardcore flavors like "Spicy Pizzeria," "Cocoa Java" and "Salted Caramel" -- which is essentially what the original Cracker Jack flavor was in the first place -- are what all the kids are into, according to the decidedly nonkid members of Frito-Lay's marketing department.
Frito-Lay's marketers think millennials aren't flocking to Cracker Jack because it "isn't relevant to them" and they "want more intense flavors and a wider variety of textures."
There may be a kernel of truth to what the snack company pitching sriracha and chicken-and-waffles flavors of Lay's chips is saying, but Frito-Lay was PepsiCo's profit leader in 2012 and saw its take climb 1% last year to $3.6 billion. Those gains weren't boosted by piles of one-off chip flavors, but by old standbys like Doritos, which brought in bags of new cash for Frito-Lay by making its traditional Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch flavors the backbone of Taco Bell's Doritos Locos tacos.
Much as PepsiCo sucked in consumers with '70s-style throwback bags for its taco-flavored Doritos chips and with its original sugar-based formula and retro cans for Pepsi Throwback, the company is hedging its bets here by keeping original Cracker Jack intact as well.
Focus groups wrought havoc on original-recipe Cracker Jack as well, as anyone who has dug around a pile of caramel-coated popcorn in search of a peanut can tell you. Frito-Lay is updating the original formula and yielding to baby boomers' demands for more peanuts and new prizes inside. Those new prizes have been modernized a bit and now include codes for Google (GOOG) Android apps for "nostalgic" games like baseball and pinball.
Innovation is the key to freshness for any brand. But pandering, blush-worthy missteps like Campbell's millennial-targeted Go! Soups lampooned by Stephen Colbert and Cracker Jack'D caffeine-laced flavors that have already come under fire from The Center For Science In The Public Interest just reek of overreach.
It's a transparent tactic as dated as Hypercolor heat-sensitive T-shirts and Crystal Pepsi, and it's still a tough sell.
Keep the damn worthless prize and give me some peanuts !!!
Wow, Cracker Jack. This still is my favorite snack and I'm 62 years old. I agree with all of the comments here about its being lame and not stocking enough peanuts like in the old days. And the prizes really stink. Who wants a stupid sticker? Cracker Jack prizes were little miniature dolls, figurines, games, etc. But we must remember that we now live in a litigious society and the little ones might choke on the toys. Maybe that's why they're limiting the amount of peanuts, too?
A friend told me that his dad slit open a cracker jacks box and removed the prize packet...carefully slit that open as well and replaced the cheapo prize with a real engagement ring for his mom! This was in the late 60's I guess :)
I have a hard time finding them in stores...? Now they are overpriced, have fewer peanuts, and have
something stupid for the prize...Their problems have NOTHING to do with the product Name...
Some times our memories and nostalgia are right on but left behind by some marketing wizard who thinks he has a better idea but only kills the brand and the company in the process. Go see JCP if you want to see the latest idiot running a company into the ground in a hurry.
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