As the leading refreshment brand in India, Center Fresh pioneered "Stay Fresh Behind the Mask" to stay relevant during the COVID-19 crisis. The campaign helped consumers always understand the importance of wearing a mask while stepping outside, and that Center Fresh mints and gum were there to help them be "fresh-breath-ready."
Objective and Context:
The "Stay Fresh Behind the Mask" campaign's objective was to build relevance for its target audience during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, the purchase of essentials like sanitizers, handwash, and immunity-boosters had increased and discretionary spend had drastically reduced. Shoppers' visits to brick-and-mortar stores dropped drastically and purchases made were more planned and less impulsive. The need to be "fresh-breath-ready" for occasions such as socialization outside became a distant reality given the nationwide lockdown. All of these factors affected sales in the refreshment category, specifically mints and gum.
Center Fresh is the No. 1 gum brand in India, and it faced these challenging times by reinforcing its role in the lives of consumers. It set out to become an enabler of "staying fresh behind the mask." The campaign aimed to bring about a change in consumer behavior by solving the problem of "mask breath," hence building essentials such as Center Fresh Mints and Three Layer Gum. Considering the spread of COVID-19, wearing masks for long durations had become a new reality; therefore, consuming mints and gum before putting on a mask became a way for consumers to keep their breaths fresh while feeling comfortable. In fact, the prolonged use of masks provided ample opportunities for consumers to take a mint or gum, all while driving frequency of consumption for the brand.
The core consumer base for Center Fresh comprises of youth (male and female) in the age group between 18 to 24 years old. These consumers have an active social life and value the functional need of being "fresh-breath ready" in social interactions so they can make a good impression. The key personality traits associated with this consumer include being smart, outgoing, stylish, cool, extroverted, and confident. They are also internet-savvy and prefer spending a lot of their time on social networking sites on their mobile phones. These consumers are regular users of e-commerce apps who indulge in retail therapy using their mobile phones.
The campaign set out to let people be their best self as they stepped out and wore masks for long hours while being supported by the habit of consuming Center Fresh mints and gum. The media strategy was developed while keeping in mind the media landscape in India among youth and any shifts witnessed during the pandemic.
India has the second highest internet usage market in the world (with about 566 million internet users, and 40 percent internet penetration). Mobile is the preferred medium for internet consumption (making up 88 percent of overall internet consumption). With more than 420 million smartphone users, it is the third largest smartphone market in the world. This, coupled with the reduction in data tariffs, led to a significant increase in the time spent online. As people stayed indoors with no avenues of outdoor entertainment or connecting with friends, online time went up significantly. Center Fresh therefore adopted a mobile-first approach to drive awareness for "staying fresh behind the mask."
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, "social distancing" was being widely practiced, reducing the opportunity for social interactions and limiting occasions of consumption. These conditions gave Center Fresh the opportunity to pivot from its erstwhile approach and reconsider the role of the brand during the pandemic. Center Fresh used a mobile-first approach to leverage popular social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. The brand secured the participation of influencers as the voice of reason to disseminate its brand message with credibility. These influencers shared home-produced, self-made videos that urged consumers to wear a mask whenever they went out, and to trust Center Fresh to keep their breaths fresh behind the mask.
Overall Campaign Execution:
Center Fresh became the first brand in the Indian confectionery market, and one of the first globally, to pioneer the concept and launch "Stay fresh behind the mask." The task was to establish Center Fresh as an essential product during everyday life in the "new normal." The campaign content was curated by being mindful of the current realities of social distancing and wearing masks.
To reinforce the role of the brand as a "freshness partner" during the "new normal," the brand leveraged:
The three pillars of the social media strategy aimed at creating awareness were video content, social media platforms, and e-commerce banner ads. This was executed in a phased manner across multiple stages:
Promotion from the influencer handle:
A direct impact was visible on the brand's e-commerce sales numbers. Center Fresh turned the tide in its favor by recording the highest ever sales in an e-commerce channel – two times the sales numbers pre-COVID.