No one is more accustomed to bubbles bursting than marketers of bubble gum, but even they have been surprised by recent sales declines.
Total domestic sales of bubble gum are projected to total $206.9 million in 2012, from $332.4 million in 2007, a drop of 38 percent, according to Euromonitor International, a market research firm.
Bazooka bubble gum, which was introduced in 1947, fell even more, from $17 million in 2007 to a projected $8.8 million in 2012, a drop of 48 percent.
Now, in what the brand is calling a re-imagined Bazooka, it has overhauled its logo and packaging.
Gone is the red, white and blue color scheme and geometric design of the brand, replaced with more saturated hues like fuchsia and yellow, and with the splattered-paint look of graffiti. It will begin appearing in stores in January.
“What we’re trying to do with the relaunch is to make the brand relevant again to today’s kids,” said Anthony Trani, vice president of marketing at Bazooka Candy Brands, a division of Topps Co.
Ken Carbone, a founder of the Carbone Smolan Agency, a New York branding and design firm, reviewed the new Bazooka design, and said it “takes visual cues from comic books and skateboard culture and graffiti” and that it “feels right for today.”
Does the design pop?
But Carbone, the co-author with Leslie Smolan of “‘Dialog’: What Makes a Great Design Partnership,” questioned why the gum veered so far from its original design.
“I wonder if they couldn’t have taken more from what they had and re-energized it to make it look cool, like the Juicy Fruit model and Hershey’s model,” said Carbone, referring to the gum brand and chocolate bar that have tweaked their looks over the years but not metamorphosed. “I think this is a little bit of an overreach,” he said, “because they had some equity and authenticity” in their original design.
Bazooka, however, which has struggled to get shelf space in the last decade, said the bold approach was winning over retailers. Among those not carrying the brand now that will begin stocking it early in 2013 are Target, 7-Eleven and Kroger.
Chew on this
The gum originally sold for a penny in individual pieces on countertop displays in penny candy stores. The new standard package will feature 10 pieces of gum, five each of the original flavor and of a new flavor, blue raspberry.
A piece of the rectangular gum will increase in size to 6 grams from 4.5 grams, a mouthful compared with brands like Stride, with pieces at 1.9 grams, and Dentyne Ice, at 1.5 grams. (Along with being more elastic than typical gum, bubble gum generally comes in bigger pieces, giving chewers more to inflate.)
In recent years, sugarless gums have increasingly been marketed for functional benefits, like freshening breath, whitening teeth and strengthening teeth, with some brands even winning approval to carry the American Dental Association seal and a statement that chewing sugarless gum after eating helps reduce cavities.
But the draw for regular gum tends to be more indulgent, with 17.9 percent of those who chew regular gum doing so because they like the taste, in contrast to 15.1 percent of sugarless chewers, according to a 2010 report from the National Confectioners Association, an industry group.
The favorite flavor among consumers ages 6 to 12, bubble gum drops to third place among those ages 13 to 17 and to fifth for those 18 and older, according to the study. Frequency of gum chewing is highest among those ages 13 to 17, who on average chew 314 times a year, in contrast to 234 times for those 18 to 24 and 211 times for those 25 to 34.
Bazooka is pitched to children from 10 to 13, according to the brand.
The brand, which said it had not advertised in more than five years, also will embark on a television and online advertising campaign. The campaign is by Flint & Steel, a new agency in New York, which also is redesigning the brand’s website. Commercials are expected to appear in March.
So much for nostalgia
What adults may remember best about Bazooka, however, is disappearing. The tiny comic strip featuring the eyepatch-wearing brand mascot Bazooka Joe that has been wrapped around each piece of gum since 1953 is being replaced.
New inserts will feature brainteasers, like a challenge to list 10 comic book heroes named after animals, or activities, like instructions on folding the insert into an airplane. They also include codes that, when entered at BazookaJoe.com, will unlock content like videos and video games.
Bazooka Joe and his sidekick, Mort, who wears his turtleneck up over his mouth, will appear only occasionally as illustrations in the new inserts, but without the antics and corny jokes of the three-panel strips.
Only 7 percent of children ages 6 to 12 are aware of the Bazooka Joe character, according to E-Poll Market Research, a brand and celebrity research firm that last collected data about the character in 2007. In contrast, an average 30 percent of children are aware of food product mascots, the firm said. Among children who are aware of Bazooka Joe, 41 percent liked the character, below the average likability for food characters, which is 54 percent.
Trani stressed that the brand was not discarding Bazooka Joe, who in the past has appeared not just in comics, but also on packaging, on store displays and in advertising.
“Instead of a cheesy joke,” Trani said, “we wanted to have a fun, engaging activity for kids, but the purpose wasn’t to not include Bazooka Joe.”
“To me it is all about doing one thing really well,” he said, “and that is refreshing the Bazooka brand.”