China is going nuts over Three Squirrels. For those unfamiliar with this Chinese snack brand, it was launched in 2012, and by 2015 it was taking in sales of $370 million. And recently, on “Singles Day”—also known as “Double 11” day, a celebration of single Chinese youth on November 11 each year that has been called the biggest online shopping day in the world—Three Squirrels reportedly saw $73 million in sales, up 90 percent compared to Singles Day 2015. Astounding numbers, indeed.
Brand iconography centers on three playful cartoon squirrels and connects very well with Chinese teens. The success of Three Squirrels is largely thanks to its resonance with youth culture. Online and television commercials are animated, and the company is developing an animated Three Squirrels television show planned for 2017. Nothing really startlingly new there in terms of branding.
But product delivery is where Three Squirrels deviates from the norm. E-commerce is the primary route of purchase. As noted in a recent Advertising Age article, the delivered packages arrive with all sorts of “thoughtful touches.” The author notes: “There was a small plastic knife to slice open the delivery carton, a packet of wet napkins, clasps to close the foil packet and a paper bag for shells. All were emblazoned with squirrel cartoons offering funny messages for their ‘owner.’” (“The Power of Cute: What China’s Hottest Snacks Brand Can Teach You,” Oct. 31, 2016)
The article puts forth some insight from a Mintel China analyst, noting “… the cute factor alone wouldn’t be enough; what sets the brand apart is mixing in humor and innovation in interactions with customers.” This is what creates the “wow” effect.
When it clicks, the power of branding is supremely invigorating.
Snack and bakery companies need to find clear pathways to resonate with today’s youth in order to build and maintain strong snack brands. While we need to continue to focus on Millennials (significant influencers of U.S. food trends), we need to place a similar level of emphasis on learning more about what will resonate with Generation Z, born starting in around 1995, including how e-commerce will change the game moving forward.