Drawing the Line with Licorice

Ever wonder why it’s spelled L-I-C-O-R-I-C-E? Don’t you think it should be spelled lickerish? Or we should pronounce it with an Italian accent like “licker-orrrr-richee”?

Loving the @redvines vs.Twizzler smackdown happening at #type... on Twitpic

Red Vines vs. Twizzler debate begins

However you say it, spell it, or pronounce it, it seems that everyone has an opinion on licorice. And by everyone, I mean, a bunch of women sitting in Asheville, NC at the Type-A Mom blogging conference. It was there that the Red Licorice Smackdown of 2010 began (and apparently ended).

Why should you care? You might be a red licorice fan and might like to hear how it all played out. But more importantly, you might care because it’s yet another interesting case study of how social media can go right.

Here’s what I know about the origins of the story. Deb, from the Deb on the Rocks, made a comment somewhere somehow about how she likes to eat Red Vines when she travels on car trips. (For the record, I had never heard of Red Vines before this conference). Ilina, of Dirt & Noise fame, challenged Deb’s taste in red licorice. Specifically, she made some challenges on Twitter.

If you are a consumer and Twitter user, you already understand what this means. If you are a company, let me explain. It means EVERYONE is listening. It means EVERYONE is hearing the conversation about YOUR product. What does that mean for you? It means now would be a great time to get engaged.

Hats off to Red Vines. There were listening as Deb mildly complained that Red Vines are so difficult to find in this part of the country. (I’ve been told they are big on the West coast). They jumped into the Twitter conversation. They offered to send fresh product. The Red Vines supporters at the conference made this well known.

Okay, with me being a Twizzlers fan, I thought, where are they on Twitter? Why aren’t they listening?

I looked for Twizzlers on Twitter. No account. Nothing. Okay, think Fadra. If I were a company that wasn’t on Twizzler but still had a big marketing budget, where might I be? On Facebook! Yes! I found the Twizzlers fan page. I liked them and I posted. But I was disheartened to see that their Facebook fan interaction was every few days at best.

I sent them a note anyway. Hoping they might hear and they might get engaged.

I searched again on Twitter and found at least that there was a Hershey’s account (Hershey’s owns the Twizzler brand). I tweeted. Again, my hopes weren’t high. While they had over 1000 followers, they were following only 2 people. And they had 0 tweets. Let me reiterate that. ZERO tweets. Even Red Vines chimed in that I was highly unlikely to get a response from Hershey’s.

Hershey's Twitter page

Now for the stunning conclusion…

I got a tweet from Anna, the PR maven for Hershey’s, from her own Twitter account. She had finally gotten wind of the controversy and was not going to let Team Twizzler go down without a fight. After a few tweets, we actually got on the phone and worked out some logistics.

She wanted the bloggers of Type-A Mom to be able to experience Twizzlers at their finest. She had the Twizzlers driven from the factory over to corporate where she wrote 30+ labels for shipping overnight to the hotel. And those Twizzlers came in droves.

The hotel staff was more than happy to help and were quite amused by the whole thing. I promised them as many Twizzlers as they wanted. I scarfed a box for myself and then hid them away. To be fair to the sponsors of the conference, we didn’t want to start distributing them at will. But anyone who sat near me will tell you that you could always find a bag of Twizzlers in my hand.

Twizzlers make mouths happy

Twizzlers make mouths happy

In the end, I never did try Red Vines. From what I heard, they shipped multiple flavors to the hotel. I actually wish I did get a chance to try them. I love that they were listening and got involved in some playful banter. More importantly, they used that banter as a way to get their product in front of 350 potentially influential bloggers.

Sweets for the sweet

Sweets for the sweet

Hershey’s was admittedly late to the game. And it’s not unusual. Bigger companies are slower to embrace change. It’s harder to embrace change. With risk comes liability and for bigger companies with more at stake, the adoption process can be cripplingly slow.

In talking with my friend Morgan, from Media Two Interactive, she tells me that getting bigger companies to embrace social media is a process. It starts with them understanding the value and then the philosophy. It’s a shift in thinking to accept that consumers have a more powerful voice than ever and the kiss of death could be ignoring that voice. Once a company gets engaged, they often have to approve every tweet, every status, every update. An approval process for social media??

I hope smaller companies like the American Licorice Company, parent of Red Vines, continue to stay engaged with their fans and potential fans at a grassroots level. People appreciate the open line of communication. (And hats off to Mike Kelly, their Consumer Communications Manager, who puts great personality into his tweets).

I hope larger companies, like Hershey’s, learn to embrace that intimate communications are what consumers are starting to expect.

Eating my inspiration: Twizzlers

Eating my inspiration

And finally, I hope everyone out there has a chance to someday experience fresh-from-the-factory Twizzlers. They are absolutely divine. Go Team Twizzlers!


Team Twizzlers!

  • http://www.mavenofsavin.com Lynn @ Maven of Savin’

    GREAT GREAT GREAT!! I love it and the fact that you found Twizzlers – I am 100% TEAM TWIZZLERS!! I could live on those – seriously. What a wonderful study in social media – it is an amazing tool, and companies are starting to realize it!

    • Anonymous

      Lynn – you ain’t lived until you’ve tried them fresh from the factory. It was so cool to catch a glimpse of the production to consumer process.

  • Anonymous

    While I joined the smack down late (and from Raleigh) I was a Total Twizzler Fan-girl in the play-by-play. So where’s my pay-off? I even LOVE Black licorice (the REAL licorice!)
    Of course I did it for honor and not an under the table pay-off but next time we are at a move I will expect you to “Pass the Twizzlers!”.

    • Anonymous

      Janet – I have some fresh stuff I brought back with me. Any SM events coming up we could share them at> But you’re on your own with that black licorice stuff :)

  • http://twitter.com/koehmstedt carrie koehmstedt

    Hi Fadra, great post! I love how companies are jumping on board and really listening to their customers via Twitter & social media. I, personally LOVE Red Vines and can do without Twizzlers. xoxo

    • Anonymous

      Carrie – they’re not ALL listening but I think more cases of the power of social media will make some of them start to stand up and pay attention. I think I’ll be seeing you soon. Maybe you can bring me some Red Vines to sample??

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  • http://www.adventuroo.com Adventuroo

    I saw the smack down happening on Twitter… what an awesome example of social media in action! I wish more companies realized that small gestures like shipping a few boxes to some bloggers go a LONG way in swaying our emotions towards a brand.

    And by the way, yes, Red Vines are BIG on the West coast. I had my first ones in Arizona.

    • Anonymous

      Bottom line is that people are talking about your brand. They always have and they always will. Companies are just now in the position to hear what they are saying and RESPOND! I think some companies are scared of giving their consumers power and a direct line in. In which case I say, adapt or expire!

  • http://www.mommywords.com Brittany at Mommy Words

    You know I sat by you for more than your good looks and personality right? Those Twizzlers rocked and they literally kept me from starving on the way home! Let’s keep on encouraging companies to get on the social media train. It is so influential and such a good way for them to spend a little time and money. The reach is huge and makes all the marketing and pr fun and sociable too. Great post!

    Now…do you have any more twizzlers?

    • Anonymous

      I make sure that whenever I have something to say about a brand, particularly on Twitter, I try to always include the Twitter handle. It’s amazing to me how many companies don’t listen and miss out on incredible opportunities. Twitter, as a database, is a marketer’s dream!

      And yes, plenty more Twizzlers up my way 😉

  • http://wth-am-i-doing-24-7.blogspot.com/ WTH am I Doing?

    I SO love Red Vines! I’m a West Coast girl tho, so that’s probably why. Twizzlers are good, but Red Vines? Are my *favorite* Mmmmmmm

    • Anonymous

      Who knew that there was Coke vs. Pepsi and then Twizzlers vs. Red Vines? It was definitely all in fun but now I think I’ve gained an extra 5 pounds from all the licorice I’ve been eating!

  • Anonymous

    Mike – I do like Twizzlers. I have never tried Red Vines. It was all in fun for me (because I have a hard time avoiding a controversy). But I love to watch the new marketing evolution of brands and consumers interacting. Keep up the tweeting and your East Coast presence is bound to evolve!

  • http://twitter.com/dutchbeingme Julie

    I am a twizzler girl myself… and so glad that you got to work with Hershey to hand out the twizzlers!!! :) Now off to catch up on the rest of your TypeAMom posts!!

    • Anonymous

      There was a lot more to the conference than licorice. Hope you enjoy!

  • Ckel24

    Thank you for the hats off to Mike Kelly, Red Vines Consumer Communications Manager. He really “gets” social media as a marketing tool. I sure wish you had tried Red Vines at the smack down. Living in the middle of the country Twizzlers was our licorice of choice…until we tried Red Vines! Love them. Great unbiased blog!! Cindy Kelly (yeah, Mike’s Mom!)

    • Anonymous

      Can I just tell you that you get Mother of the Year award? I think it’s absolutely adorable that you commented on my post. Now we know where Mike gets his social media savvy :)

  • http://www.motherhoodandme.com Motherhoodandme

    I never got to do the side by side taste test, but so far, they taste the same to me!

    • Anonymous

      I think that statement might be considered blasphemous by some people by I personally will let it slide.

  • http://twitter.com/debontherocks Deb Rox

    It is great that Red Vines was listening and just plain old fun in joining in on the banter Ilina and I authentically started. (I actually had mentioned them in a blog post that she commented on, and on Twitter I told her I was going to show her at Type A that Red Vines hold up better as mixed drink straws, and it took off from there.) The followup from other companies via email has been funny too–people took note. Apparently I’m a candy influencer–ha, who knew? Mostly I think this is a good example that social media can include fun brand communications, and we don’t have to settle for stuffy spam or dorky corporate messages, and Red Vines wins for sure. Cheers to that.

    • Anonymous

      Now, see. I read that Red Vines is often used as a drinking straw and THAT is something I would love to try.

      You truly are a Rox star (I know, bad pun) but if you really are a candy influencer, I hope you’ll help raise the visibility of Zagnut. Still my all-time favorite candy bar.

      And yes! New media is the way to go. We’ll all get there. Some are just later than others. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Anonymous

    I think it was awesome how this played out! I didn’t get in the middle of it as I don’t care for fruit flavored candy, but it was fun to hear the competition! Great write up of how social media is once again becoming more and more important!

    • Anonymous

      Bernice – I love that you have been stopping by. Don’t think I haven’t read every single one of your comments! I’m just sooo behind on everything. Maybe we’ll have to start a chocolate controversy just for you 😉

  • Rachel- Mommy Needs a Vacation

    I am a Red Vines girl myself. I love your little “blog face lift” It looks awesome!!!
    PS- I still haven’t attempted to upload my cocktail glasses!!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks and you know I’ll help any of my “regulars” any time 😉

  • http://www.musingsfromme.com/ MusingsfromMe

    Boo, I missed the Twizzlers and the Red Vines at TypeAMom. I heard about the tweets, but never saw anyone distributing anything.

  • Starr Gazer

    To me, Twizzlers aren’t even in the licorice category. Yes it’s red and shaped appropriately but the flavor and texture don’t come close, it’s like eating red plastic. RedVines is the true American licorice, while Twizzlers, like so many of Hershey’s products, is cheap and it shows. If I could, I’d rather eat my weight in Red Vines, than eat one Twizzler.

    The first licorice candy was created in England sometime after licorice root was brought there during the Middle Ages. We don’t know the exact year, but it was sometime between the Middle Ages and the year 1914 when it debuted in America.

    In America, it was first made into a candy in 1914 in Chicago, Illinois. It was created by the American Licorice Company. In 1920, red licorices debuted as Raspberry Vines.

    I’m not trying to pick a fight or say I’m right your wrong. I realize that it’s a matter of preference, to each their own. However, I am shocked that after all of the kudos for American Licorice Company you didn’t even taste the ‘other’ licorice.

    “I love that they were listening and got involved in some playful banter. More importantly, they used that banter as a way to get their product in front of 350 potentially influential bloggers.”

    Don’t you consider yourself one of those bloggers? If I’m going to write about something I want to know both sides so that I can be objective about it or be able to back myself should my opinion be challenged, and to truly believe in what it is I’m protesting or promoting.

    • Anonymous

      Hi there – I will admit that I like Twizzlers. Not out of comparison to anything else. I just like them. I’d love to try Red Vines but I never had a chance. Still hoping to! People tell me they make great drinking straws.

      And the great thing about being a blogger is that I’m not a journalist! Everything I write is an opinion piece. So if you were coming here to find out the best licorice out there, I can’t tell you. I was more interested in this being a social media story and an example of how different companies are getting engaged with their consumers and brand influencers.

      P.S. Thanks for the history lesson. I’d love to try Raspberry Vines!

  • The Grasshoppa

    Excellent post!

    I happen to actually really love black twists better :)

    • Anonymous

      As far as black licorice goes? Yuck. I bet you like black jelly beans too. At least we’ll be able to split the candy bag fairly now.

  • http://mommythisandthat.com Melisa

    You always seem to be in the mix! Way to get Twizzlers involved and kudos to Red Vines for being in the social media know.

    • Anonymous

      Well, I sort of have a knack for *inserting* myself into the mix. Oh well, I love a good debate!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MMIFSV25ZI6OW43LXVECK73MFM Dianna

    you are amazing, even if you do like those nasty Twizzlers …..

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