How Honey Butter Chips sold themselves

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How Honey Butter Chips sold themselves

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Twenty packages of the wildly popular snack Honey Butter Chips, out of stock at most supermarkets and convenience stores, were put up for sale on Dynamic Price, an auction site operated by e-commerce site Interpark on March 20. Three people managed to buy the snack for the normal price of 1,500 won ($1.4) per package.

The remaining buyers offered higher bids. One paid 6,500 won for a package.

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Sales of the potato chips with a honey-butter glaze exceeded 10 billion won in the three months since the product’s launch in July. In the Korean retail market, a snack is considered a success if monthly sales exceed 1 billion won. Competing companies have added honey-butter flavoring to their products to jump on the bandwagon.

Even American fast food giant McDonalds offered honey-butter flavoring to shake on its French fries for a while in Korea.

The phenomenal success of Honey Butter Chips is a prime example of how social media and viral marketing can make a big business splash. Word of mouth online has been so powerful that Haitai-Calbee, the maker of the potato chip, cancelled all promotional events for the snack. They simply weren’t necessary.

Haitai-Calbee found in a survey that young women consumers would prefer a sweeter taste in a potato chip snack. The results led Haitai to use honey from France along with acacia honey. The initial plan was to promote the product through Facebook and Twitter. The company also hired promoters who posted reviews of the product on such sites.

It worked. Online users started posting their own reviews of the potato chips, which snowballed. Sharing their experience of the snack became a trendy thing to do on popular online communities such as DC Inside and SLR Club.

The online buzz took the popularity of the snack to a next level. The number of Honey Butter Chips-related tweets was 68 on October 20, which surged to 5,730 on November 18.

“Buying the chips started to be considered something cool and posting reviews online became a culture,” said Cho Jong-wan, a researcher at KPR Social Communication Research Institute. The institute specializes in analyzing consumer behavior through social networking services or online communities.

“It started from the SNS sites and then went viral online,” Cho said. “Honey Butter Chips became more than a snack item.”

In a survey of 120 local companies and public corporations by the KPR Institute, 98 percent have Facebook pages. Twenty-five percent of the CEOs are connected to social media on a daily basis, while 17 percent use it at least once a week.

Preferred social media channels include Instagram and Kakao platforms.

Many marketers and executives realize that social media offers powerful new tools to promote their products since the medium is global, potentially viral and free to use.

With that recognition, a number of PR agencies and companies are exploring viral marketing and wondering what constitutes a successful online campaign.

The norm is that online campaigns on the Internet should have a message that is interesting and ingenuous enough that a viewer wants to share it with friends.

“Social media became an important part of marketing,” said Sung Min-jeong, communications professor at Chung Ang University, “But there are limitations to the buzz companies can create online. Voluntary sharing of messages by online users is really important.”

Another example of a successful viral campaign is e-commerce site G-Market’s promotion of macadamia nuts.

Cho Hyun-ah, daughter of the chairman of Hanjin Group, which owns Korean Airlines, became an international laughing stock earlier last year after she delayed a flight from New York to Seoul to eject the cabin manager out of fury over the way she was served macadamia nuts.

G-mart jumped on the furor by sending out a clever tweet promoting its macadamia nuts a few days later.

“Long description not needed. The nuts. (In fact, the macadamia),” read the tweet.

A screen shot of the tweet was instantly shared on many web forums and sales of the nut soared on G-Market.

But professor Sung warns that “fun” marketing requires thorough planning and careful execution.

“It is risky for a company to relentlessly pursue fun elements, because it can create unintended consequences.”

Especially when a company’s idea of fun strikes potential customers as lame.

Orion organized an online event that asked participants to define its Poca Chips potato chip last August.

Some online users made fun of the campaign and gave obscene answers, prompting Orion to suspend the campaign.

BY LEE SO-AH, PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]

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