Rom: Changing the Romanian Flag
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Rom: Changing the Romanian Flag

How to sell a chocolate bar with the Romanian flag on it to youngsters that don’t believe in national values anymore?

Holmes Report

ROM (as in Romania) was a traditional chocolate bar bearing the Romanian flag on it. We conceived a campaign meant to make the product once again relevant to a young target that is cynical in regard with the national pride. Crisis made things even more difficult as youngsters do not trust anymore Romania’s leadership and are looking for alternatives abroad.

A description of the challenge or opportunity faced by the submitting company

ROM is a genuine Romanian chocolate bar that bears the national flag on its package since 1964 and has a strong rum flavor.

THE BRIEF was to set ROM as Romanian national symbol once and for all and to rejuvenate the target. So, we faced one major problem: How to sell a chocolate bar with the Romanian flag on it to youngsters that don’t believe in national values anymore? ROM’s heritage was a disadvantage in face of strong competition from cool brands like Snickers and Mars.

The crisis made things worse as Romanian youngsters become increasingly dissapointed with the current Romanian leadership and see the emigrationas as their future.

Also, we find out that Romanians are inclined to negative consideration of themselves; when talking about their nation, negatives come up first. They only positive aspects appear when comparing to strangers. We called this syndrome reactive patriotism.

Our strategy was to generate a public debate about national values among youngsters in order to gain favorability for ROM brand.

The solution was to challenge their patriotic Ego. We replaced the Romanian flag on the package with the American one and prepared for people’s reaction to it.

Within hours of the simultaneous launch of the product in the stores and of the campaign in mainstream media people reactions have hit the Internet by the thousands.

The real challenge was to moderate the conversations and monitor the public reactions so that neither the brand, nor the national values to be harmed. Our PR effort was essential in maintaining a constant and transparent dialog with Romanians and managing the opinion leaders, taking into account that the subject was sensitive and juicy enough to derail into controversy, raise out the Romanian pessimistic spirit about themselves and the vehemence in expressing the opinions, or it could be taken over by the nationalistic politicians.

The strategic approach

The most important part of the campaign was to handle the discourse in a positive way; people confronted us with questions and personal opinions regarding the meaning behind the change. This ignited a debate about the real Romanian values and the pride of being Romanian.
For accuracy, within the agency we created a so called “War Room” where we gathered everyone in charge of the campaign, including client’s communication team. For the entire campaign, the War Room was available 24/7 and so we were.

The campaign had two phases. Faze one (7days): igniting the debate and challenging the Romanian ego. Phase two: Bring back the Romanian flag on ROM. Concluding the debate. In the first seven days of the campaign we focused on communicating the new identity of the product and stir the debate. We have been managing the conversation over the internet, the product website, Facebook, Twitter and most influential blogs. We interacted with consumers posting comments answering them and moderating the conversation in order to maintain a civil language and generate positive outcomes of the conversation. After 7 days full of tension and patriotic discussions, we brought back the Romanian Rom (with the Romanian flag on it) and showed people who they really are, what they really like.

This was a very challenging communication point as we needed to make sure it doesn’t come across as a moment of weakness from the company side, but everyone understood this was a campaign meant to prove Romanians how much they love ROM and Romania. We needed to make sure that everyone who knew about the American package will find about the returning of the Romanian Rom. Also, we had to be more consistent in our message and make people love Rom for what it really is: a Romanian symbol that succeeded to awaken their patriotism. After placing the public in the debate now we put back the debate in public: we took the debate into mainstream media. It was the time to discuss and interpret people’s reactions around national values in TV shows, press interviews, media meetings, in social media, with opinion leaders and even face to face with our consumers

Campaign’s execution

The campaign started with a teasing airing two TV commercials in English with Romanian subtitles making it look like an American takeover. We developed and monitor a live forum on the product website: In the same day all the journalists, bloggers, opinion leaders received the New Rom with the American flag and an official press info with the details of the new identity. We handled interviews, press inquires related to brand and company’s plans. The most important things for us were to be on time, to make sure we are initiators of the debate.

Rom’s Facebook Fan Page changed and become an official “hot-place” for debate. An official company “hot-line” was created ready to take consumers comments and answer questions. Also, we managed the internal communication within the producing company and made sure we informed all stakeholders about the change. The product was available on the market in major key accounts networks; promoters dressed in American symbols were urging everyone to touch and taste it. Also, a massive OOH campaign featuring the New Rom with the American flag complemented the communication effort.

The rebranding was also a subject for the media & adverting industry and press: we responded to all press inquires and competitor’s remarks.

As a spontaneous reaction people turned into Romanian ROM fans and developed Facebook causes to call back the old product; the biggest one has over 18.000 members registered: Some of them posted parodies of our TV ads;; others just wanted to send us their feedback:

The Romanian ROM supporters’ even went on the streets and organized a flash-mob in main square of the capital city:

Many others came with product ideas Rom with Hungarian, Chinese, Bulgarian flags on the package. A public petition was created for bringing back the Romanian Flag on ROM:

The second part of the campaign started after 7 days with a TV commercial with the same American speaker guy announcing the return of the Romanian Rom.

It was the time to praise Romanians for their rebred patriotism. We communicated the change across media, making sure that everyone will understand the idea behind the campaign. The debate around Romanian patriotism was considered a social phenomenon, mainstream press was interested in the subject, the story was told from different angles. We stayed in touch with journalists and bloggers explaining the strategy behind the campaign and assuring the accuracy of the information, emphasizing on the positive outcomes of the campaign and interpreting the negative reactions, that we did it for a patriotic cause and it was not a bad joke.

Several major TV stations invited us to speak about the campaign; the subject became a topic for the morning shows, radio or public events. Bloggers, journalists and opinion leaders were involved in the debate. The website was changed: and so was the Facebook fan page.
The OOH campaign was change overnight also, as the in store promotion materials were changed.

After the reveal, we rewarded the people who interacted with the campaign, rewarding the best responses. We thank them publicly for their support of Romanian values and brought them in contact with media leaders. They were invited in TV shows where they could talk from a consumer perspective about the campaign.

The final reward was an anthem dedicated to Romanian Rom and his fans – sang, shot & recorded by real people, Rom’s fans; this anthem became the longest TV commercial ever aired in Romania.

The results

ROM campaign reached over 15 mil people, 67% of the entire Romanian population. The PR activities during the campaign generated free media of over 300.000 euro. During the first 6 days of the teasing campaign, we had more than 189.706 page views, 75.000 unique visitors on the corporate website. On the Facebook page the number of the fans increased 300%in the first 3 days;

But the most important result we obtained during the campaign was the public engagement. One of the best examples is the Facebook Cause they created (“We want the Old Rom back”) is still active and has over 18.000 members (in 4 month) – while the most important social cause in Romania is active for 2 years and has 28.000 members.

Finally the American Rom was sold out and became a collectors item, while the volumes of Romanian Rom increased 2% versus the market.

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