Online Trends

Published February 15th 2018

Lucky Charms Data: Measuring the Social Impact of a Retired Marshmallow

The Brandwatch React team take a look at conversation surrounding Lucky Charms marshmallows to find out how social media reacted to the retirement of the hourglass.

Lucky Charms have been around for more than 50 years and are one of the top selling cereals in the US.

A picture of a crying Lucky Charms hourglass marshmallow

Despite their lengthy history and popularity, the brand is no sucker for tradition and times are changing.

It’s a sad time for one cereal veteran.

A staple of the Lucky Charms marshmallow collection for 10 years, the yellow hourglass, is being put into retirement.

Breaking the news

The General Mills brand broke news to cereal aficionados recently and has rubbed salt in the sugary wound with a  brutal Instagram post exclaiming that time is running out for the hourglass.

Lucky Charms fans are encouraged to get to stores fast if they want an hourglass to save, although the stinging irony is that time will inevitably decay the stature of the object that was once its prudent keeper.

The hourglass’s body isn’t yet cold, Lucky Charms.

The announcement that the hourglass, which gives Lucky the Leprechaun the power to control time, was to be retired led to some true heartbreak.

What perhaps makes the reveal most heart breaking is that Lucky Charms tweets about how people should get their hands on the cereal before one of the marshmallows was discontinued got more engagement than the one that revealed it would be the hourglass.

Overall, while some people were outraged, the reaction to the hourglass’s retirement on social media was fairly subtle. We tracked a number of news mentions, but whatever anger and sadness there was wasn’t bubbling into the hundreds of mentions.

RIP hourglass.

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Lucky Charms data: The ‘mallows that matter

This muted reaction to the hourglasses’s departure from cerealdom made us wonder how things could have been had another of the marshmallows been cut from the accomplished squad of lucky sweet treats.

Which of the marshmallows are people most interested in?

While the retirement of the hourglass may be sad, if the rainbow had gone there would have been riots.

A pie chart shows the share of mentions between all the different marshmallow flavors. Rainbow , hourglass, star and pink heart are the top mentioned charms.

You may be surprised to hear that people would even go to the trouble of tweeting about individual marshmallows, and we should note that often they don’t. Many of these mentions included people discussing multiple marshmallow shapes.

Despite that, some seemed more popular than others and it was the majestic rainbow that dominated Lucky Charms conversation. The hourglass, with its general mentions as well as reactions to it’s retirement, came second.

A surprising update:

(Updated 20 February) News just in to the Brandwatch React newsroom – the hourglass has been replaced by none other than a unicorn.

A UNICORN? We published a blog post just last week about sustained online interest in unicorns. We’re glad you’re listening, General Mills.

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Why is any of this even slightly useful?

About half way into writing and researching this post I began to hesitate. What was I thinking writing about a mass produced marshmallow? Why was I putting time into gathering data around its sugary brothers and sisters?

Then I remembered.

I wanted to show that no matter how small the announcement surrounding a popular product, people have opinions.

If you can segment the conversational subtleties between clumsily shaped marshmallows in a cereal box, the importance of listening to customers when it comes to larger scale changes around products (particularly when it comes to those that might affect someone’s likelihood of purchasing the product at all) becomes clearer.

While the hourglass’s retirement is a small change, the colour and design of our food is important for how we perceive and taste it.

While Lucky Charms may not lose sales over switching out one marshmallow type, if they were to replace the whole batch of marshmallows with new charms they could see a more substantial shift in the food’s reception.

Without some serious evidence that this was what their loyal fans were craving – something that could be picked up on using social data as well as traditional research methods – it would be a risky move indeed.

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