Mars: TREAT TOWN
from concept to distribution
The pandemic and first wave of lockdowns threatened Halloween — and Mars’ bottom line.
Mars needed to create a safe and fun digital experience that captured its voice within the confines of the global pandemic.
Drupal CMS, Acquia DXP, Acquia Cloud Platform
Mars saved Halloween by creating the online community TREAT TOWN, moving from conception through mobile app distribution in 12 weeks.
- TREAT TOWN became one of the top apps in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, with more than 500,000 downloads
- The app helped connect 250,000 households
- TREAT TOWN drove 8.7 million in-app events
Mars produces some of the world's most beloved and well-known brands. Mars Wrigley is the world-leading manufacturer of chocolate, chewing gum, mints and fruity confections, and its iconic products like M&M’S‚ SNICKERS, ORBIT, EXTRA and SKITTLES are enjoyed in more than 180 countries. Likewise, Mars Food has 13 favorite dinnertime brands produced across the world and available in more than 30 countries.
Many food and beverage categories, including confectionery consumption, were hit hard by the pandemic and the first wave of lockdowns. Given the enormous importance seasonal sales moments like Halloween have for the category, Mars knew it needed to act fast to deliver a rich and engaging trick-or-treating experience. In short, the company needed to save Halloween.
How do you turn Halloween digital? Mars needed to create a safe and fun digital experience that captured its voice within the confines of the global pandemic. In addition, the company needed to meet Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requirements, address the concerns of its passionate stakeholders and keep in mind mid-project partnerships with NASCAR, Disney and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Working with digital partner Bounteous, Mars set out to save Halloween — with mere weeks to make it happen. Together, the teams developed the concept for TREAT TOWN, a community unbound by geography. In the TREAT TOWN experience, trick-or-treaters could virtually travel a nationwide neighborhood: grandma's house in Atlanta was as close as their neighbor next door.
Bounteous created a library of creative assets with spooky options and scary sounds that let families express their creativity. Parents could fill childrens’ bowls with virtual candy, create profiles for their trick-or-treaters and then let them loose to customize their costume for their candy route. The site also featured arcade games like Tricky Trivia, fun-filled attractions like M&M’S World, treat-it-forward daily candy giveaways and more.
TREAT TOWN required a significant shift in Mars’ seasonal sales strategy. With the pandemic slowing in-person trick-or-treating, the company invested in a digital commerce experience that could drive candy purchase at scale. The teams, however, understood that it wasn't enough to facilitate candy purchases, candy giving and candy redemption in the app; they knew they had to create a digital replication of what families love about Halloween — the ability to give your door spooky decorations and design and show off a custom costume.
Their hands-on, iterative approach made it possible for users to cross the country with a swipe, design custom spooky doors and avatars, explore sponsored attractions, and of course, give out and get a ton of candy. Drawing on design thinking, mobile-first technology, scalable architecture and multi-retailer solutions, Mars and Bounteous took a tangible experience online, helping build community out of challenge.
Environment and candy redemption were crucial pillars of the experience. Open source mapping platform Mapbox helped lay the groundwork for virtual trick-or-treating pathways, turning contextual hotspots into candy collection waypoints. Working with Stripe, Shoppable, Snipp and American Express made it possible to partner with retailers, turning virtual candy into real sweets. Throughout the project, in-person and remote usability testing helped refine user flows, creating an experience as smooth as it was functional.
Given the complexity of the program, it was crucial for an API-first CMS to power the entire ecosystem. Acquia and Drupal are best-in-class in terms of usability and content management. The platform was a core component of this program and acted as a hub for the web application. The Acquia Digital Experience Platform and composable architecture enabled Bounteous to create an omnichannel experience in just 12 weeks. Acquia DXP helped facilitate rapid development and ease of implementation for all components of the TREAT TOWN program. Given the accelerated timeline, the user-friendly components and efficiency gained in set-up helped Mars and Bounteous meet challenging deadlines and the headless architecture proved invaluable for product and content management.
Together with Mars, Bounteous helped bring TREAT TOWN to life, moving from conception through mobile app distribution in just 12 weeks. In October 2020, TREAT TOWN became one of the top apps in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, with more than 500,000 downloads. Through celebrity endorsements, organic growth and strategic promotions, TREAT TOWN helped connect 250,000 households while driving 8.7 million in-app events.