Marketing is becoming increasingly data-driven. More and more companies are turning to analytics and insights, rather than gut feeling and creativity, as a way to drive sales. But is there a place for both analytics and creativity? A recent campaign for Snickers, the chocolate bar, suggests that the answer to this question is yes—and that there is not just a place, but a very real need.

Introducing Hungerithm

Hungerithm is the latest play in the ongoing ‘You’re not yourself when you’re hungry’ Snickers campaign. The whole campaign is based on the idea of ‘hanger’, or anger arising as a result of being hungry. It draws on the understanding that none of us is entirely rational when we need to eat, and many of us get extremely ratty (the answer to hanger obviously being to eat a Snickers bar).

The Hungerithm has taken this clever, but ultimately fairly basic, advertising slogan to a whole new level. Snickers, and its creative consultants Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, have found a way to link advertising, social media, and real-world sales. Rolled out first in Australia, the premise is simple: Hungerithm measures the ‘mood’ of the internet, via social media posts, and adjusts the price of the Snickers bar in stores as a result.

The algorithm can apparently understand both slang and sarcasm, including, or so it is claimed, Aussie slang. It checks around 14,000 social media posts in real time each day, against a checklist of over 3,000 common words and phrases to measure the level of anger. As the mood gets angrier, the price of Snickers bars drops in partner shops (in Australia, 7-Elevens). People can monitor the Hungerithm and then go and buy a Snickers bar at the lowest price, using a voucher that they can save to their phones and is valid for a defined period. In Australia, prices were updated over 100 times a day, for five weeks: a total of over 5,000 changes.

It is perhaps not surprising that the mainstream media was interested. This was quirky, different from the norm, and fun. The internet also loved it. People were fascinated that every price change had a story, whether it was a politician’s speech, an episode of a popular television show, or just a comment from someone somewhere that someone else picked up and ran with. They started following price changes, alerted by reactive social media content, and in-store displays. The price of the Snickers bar actually became news in its own right.

The proof of the pudding…

So Hungerithm was fun. But in practice, it was also a whole lot more. It resulted in over 70 million social media posts, and an increase of almost 2,000% in social traffic around the brand. Much more importantly, though, it also provided a 67% increase in sales of Snickers bars. In other words, this advertising campaign not only had a measurable impact on social media activity, but actually hugely affected real-world sales. Unsurprisingly, the campaign has now been launched in the US, and there is talk of rolling it out globally over the next year or so.

Why is Hungerithm such a success? It might be something to do with the fact that it taps into a common theme: internet anger. Much has been written about this topic, and how unpleasant the internet can be for users. Hungerithm gives this anger a ‘bright side’, and instead provides something for jaded internet users to be pleased about. As one Australian talk show host said, “Get angry, Australia, let’s get that price down!” It also feeds the essential bargain-hunter in all of us.

A marriage of creativity and analytics

Looking behind Hungerithm’s success, it is clear that the idea marries data use and analytics with creativity. It brings old-fashioned marketing skills together with twenty-first century technology in the form of analytics, and therefore draws on the best of both worlds. The data about the internet’s mood would not, by itself, be worth very much. Couple it to real-world changes in price—in store, and not just in theory—however, and it becomes something very exciting for consumers.

The Hungerithm campaign shows very clearly that there is still a place for creativity in marketing. Being able to think creatively is an essential part of working out how to use the streams of data that are now available, and harness those to drive sales. It may be a new type of partnership for marketing, but it looks likely to be here to stay.

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