March 10, 2011
It was like coming home for me. I grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles from Hershey. This company, its brands, and its town played a rather large role in my childhood. The annual spring outing at my primary school was to the Hershey’s factory (back then you could tour the actual factory), then the amusement park. My father grew up very close to Hershey and we always had Hershey’s Kisses in our home. On Saturday afternoons my dad would make fudge from Hershey’s cocoa, filling the house with an intense chocolate aroma.
Hershey Park, Hotel Hershey, Hershey Arena (now Giant Center), Hershey Stadium, these are all images and places where I have memories. And even to this day, the Hershey’s company has relevance to me … my brother was treated for leukemia for nine years at The Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Today his son is a medical student there.
The point I am making is this company has personal relevance for me because of their behavior through the years — through their brands, through their corporate parent. Through their choices. Yes I love their brands, because of their great taste, quality, fun, but the feeling I have about them is deeper because they have lived their beliefs and values over time.
And I am not alone in this feeling. Certainly the employees feel that way — the energy in the meeting last week was palpable. Many of their consumers feel that way — Hershey’s just finished perhaps their strongest year ever, growing sales faster than competition, while increasing earnings and investments in their brands. And from the stock price — hitting a 52-week high last week — it seems their investors feel that way.
In my workshop with Hershey’s I tried to help them see the possibilities of even higher growth, higher engagement from all stakeholders, building on this marvelous history, these marvelous values. I shared why I feel so strongly about them, and I shared some lessons from my career and experiences that I believed could help them be even better. Their response: a standing ovation and a five-pound chocolate bar from their terrific Chief Marketing Officer Michele Buck. I was deeply touched.
Hershey’s continues to be for me, and I suspect for many of you, one of those companies that shows the very positive and powerful impact business and brands can make. Now I am going to look for some Hershey’s Kisses in my briefcase …