When candy company Just Born purchased Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews nine years ago, the goal was to take the Philadelphia brand — beloved by locals and residents of neighboring Mid-Atlantic states — to the national stage.
After the deal was closed, the company promptly debuted a wrapper with a new logo and color scheme, and removed the formerly prominent “Goldenberg’s” name. Despite the makeover, sales dropped significantly. “We lost probably half of our sales volume in our core markets,” Robert Zender, brand manager for Peanut Chews, told the New York Times. Fans from New York to Baltimore “lost track” of the candy, many of whom had known it simply as “Goldenberg’s.”
In an effort to reconnect to the candy’s regional roots, Just Born redesigned the label to resemble the original wrapper, and now features the Goldenberg family name and line drawings of the Philadelphia skyline and Liberty Bell. With a new, retro-themed advertisement campaign and tagline that declares Peanut Chews to be “Philly born & raised,” Just Born is selling a particular brand of Philly-flavored nostalgia.
Ken Cills of Machinery, the firm that created Peanut Chews’ new television commercials, said the goal was to position the brand as “original and authentic” — an identity that was translated into the hokey tagline, “Now that’s chewin’ it old school.”
The slogan seems to embrace, and even emphasize, Philly’s own rough-and-tumble reputation. Likewise, Philly’s transit system, the lovable but flawed SEPTA, uses the tagline “We’re getting there” as a nod to its underdog distinction. When developer Bart Blatstein built the controversial Piazza at Schmidt’s in Northern Liberties, he used “materials and forms that reflect the neighborhood’s tough, enduring, unsentimental, working class heritage,” Inga Saffron, architecture critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, told the Times. Northern Liberties’ gritty landscape is now fundamental to the area’s hip and edgy brand.
However, not all have embraced the city’s grit as marketing fodder. Kraft, maker of Philadelphia cream cheese, has resisted such connotations by limiting Philly’s role in the brand identity to a name (the cream cheese is not actually linked to the city; company founder A.L. Reynolds simply thought Philadelphia was synonymous with quality food). Unlike Cleveland, which has rebranded itself with the self-effacing motto “Cleveland: You’ve Got to Be Tough!,” Philly has not historically used its rugged image to create a brand for the city.
But Just Born seems to be doing something right: Revenue for the 24 weeks that ended June 10 was up almost 50 percent from the same period a year earlier. The campaign’s success has led the company to expand advertising to New York, including a sponsorship deal with the New York Yankees. The company will place ads specific to the team in and around the Yankee Stadium subway station, including, “Old school. Like pinstripes.”
Though New York City and Philly have distinct identities, the same strategy drives the campaigns: Fostering brand relation through a regional focus, and using slogans that sound like inside jokes to everyone but the locals.