An American takeover

Take one old-school Romanian chocolate bar the ROM, which is falling out of favour with the young and give it the American makeover – shiny red and white stripes and stars glaring from the ROM’s packaging. Subsequent outrage follows and rebounding off a surge of patriotism, the ROM becomes flavour of the month, accompanied by all the sugar and spice about what it means to be Romanian.

This is the bold and controversial strategy that McCann Erickson Bucharest took to rescue this flailing treat, and reposition the ROM as a piece of Romanian heritage. In other words, McCann established that the best way to capture the interest of Romanian youngsters was to annoy them… to transform something quaint and seemingly Romanian – the humble ROM bar, the target to an American takeover. Result? The ROM becomes meaningful again, sales rise and, according to this video, Romanian morale reaches new chocolate-coated heights. It is good news for McCann too as the campaign is a Grand Prix Winner at Cannes in both the Direct and Promo & Activation categories.

Rather than an “out with the old, in with the new” strategy, I like how this campaign emphasises everything that the ROM is not – it isn’t the ‘cool’, flashy American brand but Romanian, around since the 1960s and with a love-it-or-hate-it, inimicable taste. I love how the values of the brand are repositioned as something to be appreciated, unique and worth protecting – well worth a mass buying splurge of the “old” ROM bar and venting your anti-American ROM views via social media. The campaign tapped into the Romanian national ego, and then watched the publicity and debate simmer and ensue. In England, this would be a little like Unilever changing the taste of Marmite, before announcing “April Fools”. The American Takeover worked because it made Romanians recognise, to put it cheesily, the gap in their lives without ROM, the ROM that they knew and subconsciously loved. Although, I suspect that there were still a few angry Romanians who were unwilling to let ROM get away with this deception so lightly… and woe betide if they were to pull the same stunt twice.

Nevertheless, the campaign was successful because it was able to stir such an emotional reaction and reach out to 67% of Romania’s population in the process. From being considered a little bit past it, ROM swiftly became chocolate’s new “it kid” – increasing its number of facebook fans by 300%, its brand indicators by up to 124%, its website receiving 75,000 unique visitors in 6 days, and best of all ousting Snickers. The lesson? Don’t go picking fights with Romania.

How to annoy a Romanian-

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One response to “An American takeover

  1. This is really hilarious. Sadly, I think it says a lot about American culture when this tactic worked so well. Even as an American, lately I’ve been stifled by too much “American-ness” here and find myself gravitating towards foreigners. I’m happy that this wasn’t a real story of some American thing taking over, which would be as depressing as going to Ho Chi Minh City and seeing a KFC (true story.)

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