April 1, 2016
Every morning, pretty much before I even get out of bed, I check my phone to see what popped up while I was sleeping. This past Friday, I noticed I had a stream of notifications from Twitter – which was pretty weird for me, given I rarely tweet.
Still in a fog, I scrolled through the messages – with literally no idea what these guys were talking about. Of course, they’re all super witty and creative so it’s not really that surprising. Usually I just smile and nod as if I have a clue.
But within about an hour, I got it. That’s when I started to see headlines fill my newsfeeds congratulating the Helper brand on dropping what some would say is the best hip-hop album so far this year: “Watch the Stove.”
My first thought was, “These guys are brilliant! They are pulling off the best April Fools’ Day joke ever!” Which, if you read the coverage, is pretty much what everyone thought it was – a joke. But it wasn’t.
The joke was that a major national packaged food brand launched a hip-hop album — and it’s actually good.
Hamburger Helper dropped the five-song album early on Friday morning and became a trending topic on Twitter. By this afternoon, one of the songs has been listened to more than 2 million times.
So, how did they pull it off? By partnering with a group of passionate, talented young musicians from McNally Smith College of Music, and some amazing local artists who were given total creative freedom to “make something they would be proud of,” according to Ashley Wright, General Mills Marketing communications planner.
Being a 12-year veteran of General Mills myself, I had to find out how they were able to pull off one of the most-talked-about April Fools’ Day stunts this year.
You can trace it back to a lot of conversations the brand has had in the past with their followers, a young audience filled with fans of the music. So, the team decided to pitch the idea to the brand manager in August. She loved it and told the team to run with it.
They only gave the music artists two rules: no cursing and “moms” (a big share of their audience) couldn’t be offended – they don’t have to get it, just don’t offend them.
What came back is almost exactly what you can listen to now on SoundCloud – seriously!
The team thought about debuting it during the Grammys, but decided not to, because they felt the focus of the night should be on musicians at the top of their game being rewarded for their accomplishments – and dropping a branded album felt disrespectful.
So April Fools’ Day 2016 it became – which, given the amount of media coverage and fan appreciation, turned out to be the perfect launching pad for the album.
I couldn’t be prouder to watch my incredibly creative friends and the rest of the entire team make something so many people love – if you haven’t heard it yet, check it out: Watch the Stove!
Track and Video Credits:
“Feed the Streets” Artist: DEQUEXATRON X000 – Bobby Raps and DJ Tiiiiiiiiiip
“Hamburger Helper” Artist: Retro Spectro
“Crazy” Artist: Dwayne Holt (illwin) featuring Theory
“Crazy” Video: Michael Soule, Erich Buenger, Paige Butler, Bouyan Yang, Suzy Walsh
“In Love with the Glove” Artist: Daniel Davis (@itsdandy)
“In Love with the Glove” Video: Jafaar Alnabi, Jasper Farlow, Max Sjoberg, Christian Sundquist
“Food For Your Soul” Artist: GenReal
“Watch the Stove” Cover Art Photographer: Wale Deen Agboola
General Mills Team:
Mark Skeba: Senior Manager Brand Creative
Amber Benson: Marketing Communications Manager
Ashley Wright: Marketing Partnerships Planner
Liana Miller: Marketing Communications Planner
Robb McNeill: Marketing Communications Planner
Peter Basgen: Marketing Communications Planner