Chips Ahoy! Appeals to Generation Z with Social Commerce | Event Recaps | All MKC Content | ANA

Chips Ahoy! Appeals to Generation Z with Social Commerce

Chips Ahoy! launched in 1963 as the first mainstream packaged chocolate chip cookie brand. With that heritage, Chips Ahoy! recognizes that in some ways it is a "retro" brand. It's challenge in recent years, then, has been how to hold onto the positive aspects of its legacy while modernizing its brand to connect with generation Z. An important element of the brand's strategy for making that connection has been leveraging social commerce.

Key Takeaways

To guide its effort to connect with generation Z, Chips Ahoy! undertook research that highlighted four key attributes of the demographic, revealing that they were:

  • Digital-first
  • Creative
  • Excited by drops of limited-edition products
  • Attracted more by experiences than traditional parties (e.g., preferring the celebration of a birthday with a concert rather than with a party with pointy hats)

These insights encouraged Chips Ahoy! to leverage social commerce to connect with its target audience. Some examples of this strategy follow below.

Sneaker Drop

NTWRK is a relatively new e-commerce platform distinguished by its mobile-first capabilities, a specialization in selling limited-edition offerings, and a stable of creators and designers with whom it can pair brands in fruitful and lucrative partnerships.

These strengths made NTWRK an ideal partner for Chips Ahoy!, with whom it partnered the Sneaker Surgeon, a sneaker designer who developed a limited-edition line of Chips Ahoy!-themed shoes that the brand then sold on NTWRK, generating 1 billion earned impressions in the process of selling out in 20 seconds.

Chips Drips

When Chips Ahoy! was mocked online for marketing that used the term "drip" (slang for fashionable apparel), the brand leaned into the controversy and worked with a trendy designer to create a line of merchandise (including sweatshirts, tees, and glasses) that it self-consciously marketed as "drip," selling 500 items.

Ice Cream Kit

Seeking to promote the combination of Chips Ahoy! cookies with ice cream, the brand created and sold ice cream kits (complete with scoops, cookie containers, and bowls), which it promoted with an ice cream truck that visited a music festival.

Chips Ahoy! Birthday Celebration

As Chips Ahoy! approached its 60th birthday in 2023, it was faced with the question of how to mark the occasion while still striving to be a youthful brand. To thread this needle, the brand's messaging around the event focused on:

  • Celebrating the birthday of Chip, its youthful-looking cookie mascot, whose age is never specified
  • Pursuing Chip's mission of spreading happiness, specifically by helping others celebrate their best birthday ever

To accomplish the latter goal, the brand conducted a sweepstakes whose grand prize was a birthday yacht party in Miami. Other prizes included a birthday kit created by noted streetwear designer Vandy the Pink. The kit included a sweatshirt, portable speakers, a disposable camera, confetti, and, of course, cookies. The kits could also be purchased for a limited time on NTWRK, which also hosted a Chips Ahoy! birthday celebration on its video platform.

Action Steps

  • Lean on partners who have capabilities you don't (as Chips Ahoy! leaned on NTWRK for its expertise in D2C e-commerce and content development).
  • Look for opportunities to develop creative assets with long shelf lives and multiple potential applications.
  • Before tinkering with brand assets such as a brand mascot like Chip, align on a visual identity.

Q&A with Natalie Gadbois, senior brand manager at Chips Ahoy!

Q. Do you talk a lot about your brand purpose?

A. We split apart brand purpose and social purpose. Every brand has a purpose. So, for Chips Ahoy!, we're here to help you find your happy place and that brand purpose needs to come to life in every single touch point. We need to make sure that that's embedded in even just our tone and our character. That needs to come through in everything.

Social purpose is the cause that you're focused on. And, so, we've kind of separated those out for Chips Ahoy! Because of how creative gen Z is, we've talked a lot about creativity and providing access to creative spaces and creative education, particularly for multicultural teams. That's our social purpose and our cause. But that's a campaign; that is not something that undergirds everything we do, and we're really intentional about making sure that it doesn't feel self-serving when we do that.

We want to try to help create better access, create better spaces for education. And we do that by partnering with the Boys and Girls Club because they already have credibility with teens. They also have arts programs that we donate to and that we support. We're not trying to build our own arts curriculum for the nation ourselves. We're trying to work with partners who already have that infrastructure.

Q. I love what you did with the NTWRK partnership. I was wondering, how did you balance the priorities of creating an appeal with a limited-edition merchandise while not getting consumers frustrated when they weren't able to get the merchandise?

A. What we've figured out is that you can either create a certain limited set of items that you've already made, or you can have a period of time, a limited period of time, in which they're available for sale. So, at least for the birthday program, we just had a 24-hour window in which orders were open and then the kits were made to order. That approach helped because we were able to still say, "it's limited; it's 24 hours only." But we also could scale depending on how many orders we got.

As you said, the risk you run is of consumers being frustrated; but there's also the danger the wind being taken out of your sail. For the ice cream kit, we had, I think, 50 or 75 kits, and the episode on NTWRK was 30 minutes long, but we sold out in five minutes, so then there was a lot twiddling our thumbs. The host did a great job, but there was like 25 minutes of dead air.

Q. And NTWRK did the fulfillment?

A. Yes.


"Chips Ahoy! Happiest Birthday Kit: Driving Relevance and Hype Through Social Commerce Partnerships." Natalie Gadbois, senior brand manager at Chips Ahoy!. ANA Commerce Marketing Committee Meeting, 7/12/23.

You must be logged in to submit a comment.