Hershey’s was the first chocolate company in the industry and still remains one of the largest players today. As a company that possesses such an established history and with a product that has remained relatively consistent at its core through a constantly changing environment, Hershey’s has clearly constructed an unmatched reputation and captured a unique, irreplaceable place in the hearts of consumers. A close study of the company’s branding and advertising techniques over the last few decades reveals that Hershey’s ultimate takeaway messages about its products have remained the same, with a strong emphasis on the pure, universally “good”, quality taste of its chocolate, the positive emotions conjured up by its consumption, and how sharing it strengthens relationships.
Since Milton Hershey founded the company back in 1894, Hershey has been focused on creating chocolate consumed by the general American public (DAntonio, 2006). Although the specific target audience segments have changed a little bit since the beginning, with earlier chocolates being more luxurious and later chocolates being designed for common mass consumption, Hershey’s has always emphasized the central role of the chocolate itself in all of its products, fully mastering the entire process from how the chocolate is produced to how it is packaged and marketed. While similar chocolate companies, such as Mars, have created different candy variations based on chocolate, Hershey’s has continued to be the most steadfast in its focus on the simple quality and taste of its chocolate (Brenner, 2000). Although there certainly are a variety of different Hershey products, they are still more grounded on the fundamental chocolate the company is known for, more so than similar companies, whether that be with the early Hershey’s Kiss and almond bars to Kit-Kats and Reese’s later on (DAntonio, 2006). Whereas, with candy products like Snickers, M&M, and Milky Way that significantly consist of other ingredients, Mars has not always completely centered the development of its products on pure chocolate the way Hershey’s has.
Hershey’s focus on chocolate production and taste is reflected in the way it has advertised its products over the past few decades. Most likely because it is considered the first original chocolate company, Hershey’s didn’t even really need to focus on promotional campaigns until the late 1960s because the brand carried itself (Craig, 2001). However, with consumers being offered a variety of new candy products in the later half of the century, Hershey’s commercials began solidifying what makes their products stand out among the rest.
One key aspect that was particularly emphasized in the 1980s was how timeless, “American”, and reliable Hershey’s chocolate was.
This commercial stressed how Hershey’s was there since the beginning, was a snack that could be enjoyed at any time, and symbolized the diversity and pride that was America. A 1987 commercial positioned Hershey’s as popular among the period’s most famous stars and icons.
These ads showed that while society and pop culture continued to change with time, Hershey’s has been consistently “great” through it all.
Another focus of Hershey’s ads is on the pure quality taste of its products and how that makes consumers feel. An ad currently on Hershey’s website epitomizes how its products are still all about the chocolate, with everything else simply as additions to enhance the flavor.
It’s also interesting to draw similarities between a commercial in 1987 about Hershey’s candy bar and one in 2014 about Hershey’s new chocolate spreads.
While the products have changed, largely dependent on what is currently demanded amongst consumers, both commercials focus on how delightful tasting Hershey’s continues to be.
Finally, the other aspect of Hershey’s that has also remained central to its message is how sharing its chocolate products simply brings people together. From sweet and poignant mother-child bonding over Hershey bars in an older ad to fun family and friends gathering over Hershey chocolate s’mores in a recent commercial, the brand symbolizes not only quality taste, but also quality time with loved ones.
While the specific details of the various advertisements have differed over the years, depending on what activities and references are most salient to target consumers, the main associations Hershey’s wants people to make in terms of their chocolate products have remained clear and consistent. The brand has made a strong statement in saying that no matter how the surrounding environment and society continues to evolve, Hershey’s has been here since the beginning and will be here to stay, with the same simply pure quality taste that makes consumers feel happy.
1987 Hershey’s Commercial (One of the All-Time Greats). Accessed on March 12, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dZ3svPD32Y
Hershey’s chocolate candy bar commercial 1980. Accessed on March 12, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2qex2cLj_M
We Love It. Accessed on March 12, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gA-6PG0Pop8
Hershey’s confectionary – ‘you can’t hide a Hershey’s smile’ (Australian ad, 1987). Accessed on March 12, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNRZoLoq-cQ
Hershey’s Spreads TV Commercial. Accessed on March 12, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DwJeruGFQs
Let’s Share a Hershey Bar – Vintage Advertisement. Accessed on March 12, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuPcEQWeT_w
Hershey’s TV Commercial, ‘S’mores’. Accessed on March 12, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oROkBRde1pI
Brenner, J. (1999). To the Milky Way and Beyond, Breaking the Mold. In The emperors of chocolate: Inside the secret world of Hershey and Mars. New York: Random House.
Craig, D. (2001, April 21). A Taste for Nostalgia: Hershey’s advertising a model of consistency, says visiting COM alum. B.U. Bridge. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://www.bu.edu/bridge/archive/2001/04-27/hershey.html
D’Antonio, M. (2006). Here There Will Be No Unhappiness. In Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s extraordinary life of wealth, empire, and utopian dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster.