Mentos are the candies that freshen your breath with refreshing minty freshness and, if you have not heard, make Diet Coke explode. Oh, and if mint is not your thing, Mentos also come in fruit flavors, but be forewarned – the fruit flavors will do nothing exciting to Diet Coke. Originally thought of as a peppermint caramel candy, the Van Melle brothers came up with the idea for Mentos during a train trip to Poland in 1932. Van Melle (now Perfetti Van Melle via a merger with the Perfetti Group) was already a very well known confectionary brand in the Netherlands at the time but they were relatively unheard of in the USA. However, by the 1960s Mentos redesigned their packaging into the roll we still see today and took their product global.
Once Mentos came to the United States, Van Melle began looking for a homebase and established themselves in Erlanger, Kentucky in 1978. Sales in the US were steady and modest, but why be modest when you can be magnificent? In the 1990s Mentos began an aggressive marketing campaign. They began by reducing the number of flavors from 50, yes f-i-f-t-y, to simply two: mint and mixed fruit.
Then they began marketing directly to consumers instead of the industry trade ads they had been producing for distributors and suppliers. One of the basic concepts learned in Marketing 101 is “Know Your Audience.” Well, the Mentos ad campaign totally missed the ball and fell into the first gen international marketing issue of not understanding the foreign consumer and, because of the lack of understanding, the commercials were seen as ‘campy,’ ‘cheesy,’ and ‘stupid.’
They aped perceived American behaviors in a less than stellar mimicry and reinforced the foreign-ness of Mentos. In 1994, USA Today voted it one of the worst ad campaigns. However, the Mentos campaign, developed by the German ad agency Pahnke & Partners, was the biggest successful failure ever. What made it so successful was that everyone was talking about Mentos. In 1991, Mentos cleared 20 million dollars in U.S. sales, by 1994 they doubled that, and by 1996 they had tripled their sales, proving their slogan “Fresh Goes Better.”
Mentos were such a topic of 1990s conversation that they were name dropped in the movie Clueless, had sustained exposure during a whole season of Baywatch, and Foo Fighters wrote a parody mocking the cheesy ads in a song titled “Big Me.” Foo Fighter fans would throw Mentos on stage whenever “Big Me” was being played, leading Dave Grohl, frontman of Foo Fighters, to stop playing “Big Me” live because “. . . honestly,” he says, “it’s like being stoned. Those little things are like pebbles – they hurt. I wish they were like marshmallows or something.” Jesse Peretz, who directed the Foo Fighters parody video, summarized the Mentos ad campaign best in an interview with Entertainment Weekly: “The commercials are a total lobotomized happiness.”
Why is it called Mentos?
There is this rumor that Mentos were named after menthol, thought to be an ingredient in the product. This is simply not true. The brand name Mentos were inspired by their strong, minty flavor they possess. Menthol did not actually appear in Mentos until 1973 and even then it was labeled as the specific flavor of menthol, much like cinnamon, sour, mixed fruit, etc. are all flavors. Oh, and did you know that Mento is the singular form and Mentos is the plural form? Yes, rules of grammar – eek! – even apply to Mentos. As in, “I enjoyed my Mento from the roll of Mentos you shared with me.”
Do you have a favorite Mentos flavor or story, share with us in the comments!
Chloie Parsons is the Chief Creative Mind at C2C Designs. When she is not merrily building brands, you can find her painting, illustrating, kayaking the lakes, or at the river fly-fishing.”