A Little Voice Can Make a Big Sound
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A Little Voice Can Make a Big Sound

Holmes Report


In a country facing decades of communism, then many other hard moments of the transition, all culminating with the current severe economic crisis, Romanians became some of the unhappiest and pessimistic people on the continent, according to European studies conducted in the last years.

As gloomy as it might seem, this context turned out to be the perfect opportunity for a tiny fluffy corn snack (Ro. "pufuleti") - the most common, inexpensive, artless, banal product ever, to make a joyful, actually hilarious campaign that helped it step out the crowd and make itself known to the big public as a genuine brand.

Its name is Gusto and its biggest virtue in this story is to have succeeded in getting the immediate attention of the entire country, in being the one to prove that a little voice can sometimes make a very big sound!

Coming from a small thing, a 1-inch length expanded corn, this should really make the point for an award!


In Romania, pufuleti are the most common familiar tiny product, with a long history back in Romanian’s minds: popular as tea for English, wursts for Germans, croissants for French, but much more simple and unsophisticated. Everybody eats it, so people buy this product without interest for a particular brand or another. Yet somehow, in this impersonal market, our client’s product succeeded being appreciated by the consumer, who didn’t know its name but described it as those good fluffs or as the bag with the dog (see the little dog on the package).

What we were asked to do was to turn this product into a real brand, to make it notorious and recognizable by people, to give these good fluffs an identity (a name) and a territory (a home) in people’s minds.

This was the task we received and we had to accomplish in very short time and with a much smaller budget than other competitors from snack market invest in communication.

After setting the positioning for the new brand - Gusto was going to be about indestructible, no-matter-what optimism, the campaign idea was also clear: to conduct a pro-optimism battle, in order to spread the humor all over Romania, and save people from depression and sadness!

But who would listen to us? This is how the first step, the campaign launch, became of a crucial importance for the success of the entire thing!

There are thousands and thousands of brands speaking daily to the Romanian consumers, many of them being very popular and very loved by the public. So we couldn’t help but wonder: how do you find a breach in the wall, how do you succeed in covering all those strong voices even for a moment, when all you are is a little innocent fluff made of corn, salt and… fresh air? The answer was as clear as it was bold: Gusto has only one chance - jump over the fence and go wild!


We started wondering what would be of a great resonance to people in such hard times, when all they care about are their daily worries, what would make them stop and stare.

Our audience counted almost 22 million people, the entire population of Romania. Unfortunatelly, mass media interest for this category of snacks (pufuleti) was zero! Previous to our campaign, there were no articles in the Romanian press regarding this category, journalists had no idea or concern regarding the market, since their perception was that nothing interesting happened on this segment.

Even considering all these constraints, our objective for this launch was to quickly put Gusto on the public agenda, to generate national debates and big buzz, so that we gain the attention of at least 1,500,000 people for the brand and its pro-optimism campaign.


Starting from Gusto’s brave and militant mission to create a real revolution of optimism, we decided to create a huge controversy, something big enough to spread rumours like a wildfire, intriguing enough to raise the interest of masses, still amuzing enough not to scare them. Searching for an idea that would be very shocking for Romania, but also impossible to be true, we got to the UFO-resembling drawings! It was such a typical American story and Romanians would have been so interested to see something like that happening in their country, that it fit perfectly!

Moreover, these signs could not just appear anywhere, but near Baicoi, which is a town with one of the most hilarious names, with quite a sexual connotation (app. En. translation “you, balls!”), but which is also the birth place of Gusto Pufuleti - the production factory is near Baicoi.

We created 3 such drawings in a corn field and spread the rumors all over the country about this strange happening. After a week of public debates and wonderings, Gusto was ready to undertake the „blame” of these drawings in front of the entire nation. Which is exactly what it did. Just imagine the popularity it gained over night. J



The start was thus given through a nationwide teasing, with the... strange sudden appearance in the corn fields near Baicoi town of 3 giant smiling faces (165 feet/ 45 m in diameter, each), just as the famous American UFO cases!

TV channels received anonymous letters and video tapes with images presumed to have been captured by a helicopter pilot who accidently passed over the fields. On the video tape, the pilot was shooting and also commenting in the same time, appearing not to believe his eyes that those smiling faces were actually there! Two of TV stations broadcasted the news using our images the very day they received the video tape, presenting the facts in an intriguing and amusing key. J

The top Romanian entertainment morning radio show (Cronica Carcotasilor) made daily comments for one entire week about the “weird phenomenon” from Baicoi. In order to make the guessing even bigger, we involved one of the Cronica Carcotasilor comic characters - Catalin Dezbracatu’ (in English his name would be “Catalin the Undressed), who went to Baicoi to personally make an investigation of this issue. As funny as it seems, people didn’t know what to think, as Catalin Dezbracatu’ managed to speak with the Mayor of Baicoi himself and with some local citizens who narrated on TV in prime time how they experienced the presumed alien landing near their homes.

In the same time, we took care that the video material spreads everywhere, so we put it on YouTube and on various high ranked websites. On YouTube, the helicopter video registered over 15,000 views in just 2 days! 10 of the most appreciated bloggers in Romania also commented about the unusual happening. But not TV and blogs went on fire, so did the newspapers - everybody took a good laugh and was very interested to see who did the mysterious drawings. J J J

After a few days, the discussion was not about the smiling faces themselves, but about guessing who was behind the whole story. People started taking shots about this and that, and the entire project team was very careful not to disclose the brand.

The teasing stage was a real success, first because it created huge buzz around the topic, and secondly because we succeeded to keep the brand a secret until the buzz was big enough (a mission almost impossible considering all the resources that we used). Nobody linked the corn snack plant from Baicoi with the appearance of the giant smileys and this ensured the success of the second stage, as well, the official launch of the campaign!

The revealing happened after a week, when we organized an unconventional event with the most journalists who were apparently invited to a gathering where they were about to find out who had done the smiling faces. But the event was soon about to become much more rattler. Suddenly some buses with hundreds of “protesters” coming from Baicoi, with speaking-tubes, placards, flags, "brutally interrupted" our event making a lot of noise. They introduced themselves as belonging to the League of Optimists, which militated for fun, optimism and more laughs in a country where people are very sad, worried and serious. They revealed that they represent Gusto brand, from Baicoi, and that the whole smiling faces thing was just a manner to draw people’s attention on how important it is to smile, no matter the reason.

And as every group has a leader, the League of Optimists also had one - the producer of Gusto Pufuleti himself, Mr. Eliodor Apostolescu, who was thus introduced to the press in an innovative manner. After he delivered his speech in the applause and cheers of the militants, the latter started a “march of optimism” in Bucharest. They spoke to people on the street, explaining them how important it is to be more optimistic and see the bright side of the day, then they stopped in front of some public institutions that usually give bad news to Romanians (such as the National Bank of Romania or Ministry of Labour). In the same funny approach, they shouted optimistic slogans such as: “There’s no point in being sad/ It’s much better to be glad!” or “Don’t be sad/ Be glad!” or “Times are hard but no excuse/ Please don’t bring us more bad news!”.

The revealing phase happened also online, through a blog especially dedicated to the campaign – www.ligaoptimistilor.ro, with a special page on Facebook and with little revealing movies on YouTube. Since people were very curious about how we managed to create the giant smiling faces, we also put a making of movie on YouTube. In the mean time, the same bloggers involved in the teasing announced who was behind the whole campaign, insuring a very good exposure of our brand in social media.


·                  Only through PR methods, over 8,000,000 people (1/3 of Romania’s population!) have heard of Gusto corn snacks through this launch  - more than 5 times over our objective

·                  Media coverage: over 40 press clippings (almost 3 times over our objective), with an additional overwhelming exposure on TV and radio: 35 minutes on TV, 15 minutes on radio in just 2 weeks!

·        The teasing video on YouTube, with the smiling faces, registered over 15,000 views in only a few days

·                  10 important bloggers involved in the campaign from the beginning, appreciating the campaign idea, the product and writing only positive posts about it

·                  Through these results, the launch of Gusto Pufuleti and their pro optimism campaign was a great success and insured the further interest of Romanians for this brand’s activities. Much of the entire campaign’s success was due to the launch, because we managed to raise the interest of the entire nation for a very small and common product, which turned out to have many big and interesting things to say! Seven months from its launch, Gusto Pufuleti campaign pro optimism is fully on going and managed to transform Gusto into the share-of-voice leader of the market. Regarding the business, by the end of 2009, Gusto sales grew up with 10% as a result of the pro optimism campaign, while the entire market went down by an average 40%!


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