Pirate’s Booty is a cheesy snack puff kids go wild for. The lightly coated powder that doesn’t wreck furniture is a plus for parents, too.
According to Hershey CEO Michele Buck, YoY sales grew by more than 26%. (Hershey Co. bought the puffs brand from B&G Foods in 2018 for $420M, continuing to diversify its roster amid consumers hankering healthier snacks.)
That doesn’t mean there aren’t unsteady seas for the brand.
Its core demo is families with children between the ages of two and six. You could say five-year-olds are the brand’s Moby Dick. They swim from content like “CoComelon” and “Paw Patrol” to TikTok and Roblox, and they grow away from Pirate’s Booty. Snacking becomes a status symbol, with bolder flavors and all the finger dust being new must-haves at home and in lunch boxes.
That’s why the brand’s spent the last year plottin’ ways to age up with its core demo while connecting families to adjacent products (aka Cheddar Blasts launched 18 months ago). Pirate’s Booty recently launched its first creative campaign with 360i shifting focus from its animated pirate to its puffs.
The taste, the crunch, the weird melty sensation—eating Pirate’s Booty is an experience best described by kiddos consuming it. Watch below:
“We’re a healthy snack—baked, not fried—those are true credentials,” says Director of Marketing, Amplify Brands, Mark Chu. “Instead of harping typical RTBs, we simply want to show the joy that something as simple as a cheese puff can bring a child.” Chu, who has led marketing for Pirate’s Booty for a year says his children are huge fans of the brand, noting the Pirate’s Booty name booms with brand equity. “We’re giving kids permission to say ‘booty,’ because it’s on the packaging. My kids get a kick out of it every time. Fun is the clear center of gravity for this brand, and I want to let imaginations run wild.”
“We hired none other than awesome kids, with zero acting backgrounds, to explain this phenomenon called Pirate’s Booty,” added 360i Executive Creative Director Brian Eden. “We wanted to get genuinely awkward and delightful answers, so we opted to go unscripted to get them at max kid-ness.”
When pitched the idea to go unscripted, Chu says he immediately felt it was the path to take. “My brain would teeter every now and then,” admits Chu. “Opting to do differently than what I’ve done for 10+ years with very linear executions, where every word and action of every second is mapped out—it was a worthy risk to discard structure and put ourselves at the mercy of whatever the kids would do.”
At the agency’s recommendation, a children’s theater teacher was hired to make the kids feel at ease on set, to let them be themselves and put them in the best state of mind for imaginative and playful thinking. “Having worked a lot with kids in the past, we knew we’d benefit from someone who is trained in talking to kids and making them feel safe in a strange, new environment,” notes Eden.
The teacher essentially tag-teamed with Director Mary Dauterman (with Imposter) to ask questions and keep the kids engaged. The content was filmed in one day at a multipurpose center playground in Los Angeles.
“Every second was a surprise,” says 360i Senior Producer Laura Hurnevich. “I can’t comment on how many bags of Pirate’s Booty were consumed.”
On Media Strategy and Brand Ambitions
The campaign’s running from May into October to capitalize on summer family travel and back to school. Considering the co-viewing nature of some of the media placements highlighted below, it was important that the creative resonates with both kids and their caregivers:
A significant portion of the media buy is geared toward digital video—falling across YouTube, Connected TV within the Disney network (inclusive of ABC, Freeform & Hulu) and Amazon’s Fire tablet wakescreen unit. Connected TV media is genre-targeted toward topics of family, game shows, cooking and wellness.
A Pinterest plan is geared specifically for back to school (July through August), which includes a custom trend badge for “Healthy Kids Snacks for School.”
This effort comes on the heels of Pirate Booty’s “Unlock Your Treasure” sweepstakes. To drive awareness without diluting investment toward the core products, the media strategy is emphasizing Facebook and Instagram support. There are also interactive display units targeted to Pirate Parents to introduce a gamified element to the campaign.
“You see so many brands go big for a year—get the household penetration, get the awareness and then slow it all down,” concludes Chu. “We’d rather get it right and do a slow build, so that every year we can drive sustainable growth. It feels like we’re at the on ramp to accelerate this business. This isn’t a flash in the pan. This isn’t how we want the brand to show up for the next three months, it’s the foundation for what we want to do over the next three years.”