‘Grinch’ Snacks: Q&A With Wonderful Pistachios CMO Adam Cooper

Wonderful Pistachios just keeps on crackin’ new ceilings for the brand that helped make nut snacking fashionable, not just habitual and nutritious.

Breaking later this month will be a holiday campaign for America’s fastest-growing snack brand that partners with the new film Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch. The campaign will consist of two TV commercials, an online digital campaign, in-store point of sale including bins and standees, and a Times Square billboard in New York City.

“Wonderful Pistachios is the green icon of healthy snacking, so partnering with The Grinch, the green icon of the holidays, is the perfect opportunity to spread green holiday cheer to moviegoers everywhere,” Adam Cooper, vice president of marketing for The Wonderful Company, said in a press release. (He’s also CMO of the Pom Wonderful juice brand.)

In the two new commercials, the Grinch breaks from his usual Christmas-wrecking antics to munch on his favorite green snack, Wonderful Pistachios. A second ad, breaking after the film’s November 9 premiere date, will feature the brand’s No Shells variety for the first time on television. In addition to the US, the campaign will be airing in China, Mexico, Canada and France.

The brand launched in 2008 with the iconic Get Crackin’ ads that have quickly become a barometer for social and internet trends. Former Get Crackin’ castmates The Jersey Shore’s Snooki, Snoop Dogg, and internet sensations PSY, Honey Badger and Keyboard Cat all helped to share Wonderful Pistachios’s dedication to fun and unique snacking.

Since 2015, brand awareness jumped from 60% to 85% and continues to climb. Recent campaigns such as the beloved Ernie the Elephant, voiced by WWE Superstar John Cena, and “Put a Smile on Your Snackface” with NFL stars Richard Sherman and Clay Matthews, led Wonderful Pistachios to increased household penetration and buy rate per household, the company said.

Wonderful is investing $55 million in an integrated marketing campaign this fall that includes the Grinch effort. It will include TV commercials, social media, trade and other marketing.

Cooper talked with brandchannel about selling Wonderful Pistachios.

How are you building on the brand’s already substantial legacy?

Pom Wonderful Pistachios CMO Adam Cooper

We want to pop culture, so there has been Psy and Stephen Colbert and all the other great characters we’ve had in our Get Crackin’ ads. And this year we’re coming back with another $55-million marketing campaign. For first time, we’re broadening our scope—when you think of our marketing approach, we’re practically going to have two brands. Now we’ve got Wonderful in the shell and a startup brand Wonderful No Shells. We’ve done all the work for consumers to make it easy for them. And now that we have new packaging for No Shells, we will have exciting new flavors coming out in 2019. We will have dedicated marketing for each.

How will marketing evolve for each brand?

We are adding sports marketing and a big digital program for Sunday and Monday Night Football, and another specialty marketing program around health: great reasons why Wonderful Pistachios are healthy compared with other nuts. Under No Shell, we launched a campaign called, “Sometimes Naked is Better.” We will add epicurean elements too: salads, side dishes, plant protein.

Wonderful Pistachios No Shells

To what extent will these campaigns be related or referential?

They all stem from tasting good and being healthy—it’s hard for consumers to find both in a food. That’s why they look to Wonderful Pistachios. We thought it was important to bring those ideas to life in different ways, so we have three different campaigns for the overall brand helping people find both.

We have celebrities and different actors and Ernie the Elephant because people may be in different mindsets. For football viewers, we’ve got Clay Matthews and Richard Sherman. For health-conscious consumers, we have messaging that nuts in general are really healthy and they might even know how nuts are compared. And pistachios are the healthiest nut, but we don’t think we’re getting credit for that with consumers.

In the past, you’ve said that it was difficult to offer no-shell pistachios because there are only a small number left over at the end of processing in-shell nuts. So does the launch of the No Shell brand mean you’ve changed the supply chain?

No. Crop dynamics change every year. As our crops have gotten bigger—and we had another record crop this year, while in 2015 we had a historically low crop—we get more no-shells. It’s a good product that people are willing to pay a premium for, and it’s certainly worth it for a salty or a flavored snack. It will help people shift away from less-healthy snacks. No Shell has grown about 30% in sales over the past year. And we can see that people are choosing it more often, so we are really doubling down on it.

Have you maintained the huge price premium? 

We haven’t changed it very much. Over the past couple of years, we brought down the price of the in-shell product quite a bit and No Shell as well to make sure it was in line.


Get more insights in our Q&A series.

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