Why Hamburger Helper's Rap-Mixtape Marketing Stunt Worked

April 2, 2016 10:17 PM

Move over Drake, there’s a new mixtape king in town: Hamburger Helper. The General Mills Inc.-owned packaged food company released Watch the Stove on April Fools' Day as a marketing stunt intended to attract younger customers on social media.

Hamburger Helper dropped the five-song album—recorded by students at McNally Smith College of Music and featuring Minneapolis rap artists and a Vine star—early on Friday morning April 1, East Coast time. By 5 p.m., it had been listened to over 270,000 times on SoundCloud. That's a lot for mostly unknown artists; listeners to songs in SoundCloud's top 10 list for the week, by famous musicians such as Drake and Fetty Wap, numbered around 2 million. Hamburger Helper had become a trending topic on Twitter. 

The company is trying to retool its image for younger buyers. “We always think of the mom crowd” as Hamburger Helper customers, said Liana Miller, a marketing communications planner for General Mills who worked on the campaign. “But on Twitter, our following is a young, urban, millennial guy making Hamburger Helper in his dorm room.”

The company regularly engages with its 21,000 Twitter followers by discussing the latest rap music and weighing in on such trending skirmishes as the beef between Meek Mill and Drake. About a year ago, some followers requested the company release a rap album of its own, Miller said. “We thought, why not? Let’s do it,” adding, “We were engaged with our audience in a way we thought was funny. There’s no ROI that we’re tracking here. We’re just entertaining our consumer.”

Sales figures for Hamburger Helper since the album’s release are not yet available, but the album has clearly pleased millennial music fans:

Marketers have found that millennials are notoriously difficult to please, and many social media campaigns have invoked their ire. 

Authenticity is particularly important to this demographic of 83 million American consumers, and that’s where Hamburger Helper hit the nail on the head, Miller said. “Millennials didn’t hate it because it wasn’t trying so hard. We didn’t try to overdo it.”

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