Wrigley’s Believe It or Not

March 13, 2008

As a former employee of one of the many incarnations of Wrigley’s key competitor, once known as “American Chicle” – now owned by Cadbury Schweppes (makers of Dentyne and Trident gum), I couldn’t help note Wrigley’s latest press release posted yesterday:

(Old package shown)  

Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company (NYSE:WWY) is giving its Extra(R) and Wrigley’s(TM) brands – Juicy Fruit(R), Doublemint(R), Big Red(R), Winterfresh(R) and Wrigley’s Spearmint(R) – a great new look with the introduction of Slim Pack(TM), a sleek, 15-stick envelope package that is more durable and portable for today’s consumers. The new packaging is coupled with significant flavor improvements across both brands. “We are bringing news and excitement to the Wrigley’s traditional brands and Extra – a portfolio that represents 30 percent of our overall gum business in the U.S.,” commented Bill Perez, President and CEO, at Wrigley’s Annual Stockholders’ Meeting Wednesday in Chicago.

While many people will mourn the loss of the old standby PlenTPak (we embrace change as long as we don’t have to really change anything – New Coke anybody?), Wrigley really has no choice but to make this move.  The company, steeped in nostalgia and years of profitable Doublemint fun, is only recognizing that their consumer is making new and different choices and that the ground has essentially shifted at the candy counter.

 What is not mentioned in the release is that the consumer will be getting fewer sticks of gum for the same price, thus saving the company a few cents per package.   This might make investors happy (the press release is on their Investors Relations page after all), but consumer advocates and “gotcha” news agencies will be beating up Wrigley for this.  They will say that the company is following the lead of other consumer product companies that have tried to make a splash with packaging when they really have nothing new to sell – and short changing the consumer in the process.

But, ultimately it is about the user experience.  Do their users really count each stick in the pack?  Maybe.  But, if they are happy with the new shaped package and the “flavor improvements” in the long run why should it matter?  And, unlike other consumer products that change their package only to give you less, Wrigley is also trying to keep up with newer, sexier competitors whose packaging is more streamlined (although how it is “more durable and portable” has yet to be proven).

One tip, however, for the guys at Wrigley PR:

Show don’t tell: instead of quoting the CEO about “news and excitement,” why not actually demonstrate it.  If this is such a big deal why not feature the new package on the press release?  Are you purposely trying to create additional suspense, setting up the “reveal” for a later date? Let’s see this sexy new shape, guys.