Mentos Stays Fresh by Appealing to Customers' Tastes

Mentos listens to its loyal fans for product development and marketing ideas.

Brands with a loyal following often have an advantage in the social media world: Fans take it upon themselves to share their favorite aspects of the brands with their network. Even so, these brands need a sound strategy before joining those fans online.

At Mentos, consumers of the beloved brand were actively spoofing its 1990s campy commercials online faster than the 50-year-old maker of chewy minty candy could say "the fresh maker." "Mentos has that cache around it that lends itself to the fact that it's OK to be branded in the social media world," says Craig Cuchra, brand manager at Mentos.

Cuchra says that Mentos decided in April that it was time to start leveraging this loyal and passionate online following to help improve marketing and develop products geared toward consumers' likes.

Without a massive advertising budget, Mentos decided to start with a foray into Facebook. Cuchra posts fun messaging a few times per week to encourage fans to engage with the brand, and in turn, he watches and listens to the responses. Since April the Mentos' Facebook page has become a forum for all things Mentos, boasting more than 314,000 fans. "It's fun to watch people engage with the brand," Cuchra says. "We don't have a lot of haters."

Along with the mounting posts come reams of data, which Cuchra says the company is using as its guide for building a communications plan for Mentos' future. "We look at why people go to our page and we look at things that are important [to them]," he says. "We want to make sure we stay relevant."

Some of the recently gleaned knowledge includes customers' preferred flavors, as well as unique uses for Mentos. For example, Cuchra discovered through monitoring posts that pregnant women chew Mentos to alleviate morning sickness. He says that now the company will consider marketing to pregnant women on maternity and mommy blogger sites. "There are a lot of things we can explore that we didn't know existed," he says.

Mentos hasn't abandoned its traditional focus groups, but Facebook is fast becoming the company's preferred method to obtain feedback. "With Facebook, people write exactly what they feel. There are no strong personalities so people are a lot more honest," Cuchra says. "In a way it's unbiased and very valuable to us.

Next, Cuchra says his team is working on integrating Facebook into the company's other media and marketing components. "We're making [social media] a legitimate contender in the marketing mix."