How do you make the top selling strong mint in the U.S. popular, urban and trendy in Canada and grab media attention when the product has been on the market with little fanfare for two years?  Bring the woman in the ‘Pleasure in Pain’ ad to life and take her to the streets in a guerilla marketing campaign – dominatrix style!!  That’s exactly what Langdon Starr Ketchum did for Jacobs Suchard Canada when there was no new product, no new news or business story.  The result?  Media attention, consumer hype, trial, great word-of-mouth, and a 21% increase in sales against expectations.


Understanding the local market environment and any differences between the US and Canada was the first step. Altoids is now the top-selling brand of strong mints in the US but in its infancy, with very little awareness, in Canada.  Market challenges in Canada included limited product availability, non-ideal product placement in stores and the premium price of the product.  

LSK liaised with the US PR agency to evaluate opportunities to incorporate elements of their successful campaign.  One of the key learnings that helped shape the Canadian program was how Altoids rose to popularity through underground marketing initiatives in the early and mid-90s.  Analysis of the US media coverage found it focused on sponsorship, but none of the sponsorship activities were applicable in Canada.

LSK conducted research about the primarily male, 18 – 34 year old target group to determine what they do, where they spend most of their time and where we could most effectively reach them.  The challenge of reaching this audience is that they are media elusive and skeptical.  Based on the ‘underground’, edgy positioning of the product, the night club/bar scene afforded the greatest opportunity to effectively interact with the target audience.

LSK met with Altoids’ advertising agency to explore ways to maximize integration opportunities.  Due to budget and the focus on ‘alternative’ publications such as urban weeklies, LSK recommended concentrating PR activities in the two largest Canadian markets – Toronto and Montreal – to create more noise in each.

Finally, Jacobs Suchard had begun a relationship with the Toronto International Film Festival.  As a result, key people in the fashion and film crowds had been positively exposed to the product.  LSK reviewed the sponsorship arrangement to determine how best to leverage this relationship.  



- generate media coverage in Toronto and Montreal
- promote Altoids cool, hip image with the target audience (create a buzz)
- generate trial in the target group


- 18 – 34 years old, skewed male located in Toronto and Montreal
- slightly upscale and sophisticated, technically savvy  


With the lack of hard news, LSK decided to bring one Altoids ad to life and take it to the media and to consumers on the street.  As a result, we would make the sampling program and the character the news.


Agency fees of $44,100; out-of-pockets of $35,900

An existing ad concept was refined to be (i) most appealing to the male audience; and (ii) most suitable for a cool, edgy sampling program.  LSK brought the Altoids ‘Pleasure in Pain’ ad to life in both Toronto (English language) and Montreal (French language).  The character - a 50s style cigarette girl with cat ears and a riding crop - now nicknamed Dominique, was dressed in a modern, black leather version of the ad costume, complete with riding crop and an Altoids branded red tray of mints.   

Media Relations: In order to capture media interest, LSK leveraged the uniqueness of the campaign and utilized the very visual “Dominique” sampler as a spokesperson.  

Teaser campaign piqued media curiosity.  The first mailing with a postcard carrying the tagline “This won’t hurt a bit” was sent with a body-piercing stud.  The second mailing using the tagline “Pleasure in Pain” was sent with a riding crop.  The third and final package was a large box that looked like the Altoids tin, filled with 24 tins of mints, media materials and branded versions of the postcards.  Media materials included a cool quiz, Altoids fact sheet and information on the sampling campaign along with a photograph and cut line of the Pleasure in Pain sampler.  Radio drops were used to deliver the final package – allowing for on-air interviews with the sampler.  A media tour with the samplers generated coverage in print, broadcast and internet media.  Additional media coverage on TV and in print was generated throughout the summer.  

LSK further enhanced visibility of the product by seeding product with approximately 100 trend-setting media contacts.  Targeted media included lifestyle, trend and urban weekly writers, radio station personalities, television hosts and key marketing and business contacts.  

Guerilla Sampling: Samplers took to the streets of Toronto and Montreal in the hottest bar districts.  LSK auditioned hired, trained and outfitted actresses for the part of the character.  Altoids were sampled outside and inside bars and restaurants in the downtown entertainment districts of Toronto and Montreal during high traffic times, usually on Friday and Saturday evenings.  The samplers interacted with the crowd and ‘role-played’ the part to create interest.  Small promotional “business” cards were produced and handed out by the samplers to promote, a dedicated web site LSK created where consumers could win Altoids branded prizes.  Sampling at the Toronto International Film Festival included movie line-ups as well as VIPs at private parties, galas and screenings.  


Altoids product sales were 21% above expectations for the year which the client attributes to the branded PR program, the advertising and increased product distribution..  The client also advised that in-store product placement had improved largely due to the attention the campaign generated.  As a result of the success of the 2000 program, Jacobs Suchard decided to expand the program in 2001.

Objective 1: Generate Media Coverage

Coverage significantly surpassed goals set for the client with more than 36 placements in the Montreal and Toronto media.  Media response was very enthusiastic with unsolicited calls commenting on ‘an innovative and cool campaign’.

Objective 2: Promote Altoids cool, hip image with the target audience (create a buzz)

Word-of-mouth buzz created by the campaign was high within the downtown sampling areas, with positive comments from consumers each week.  The samplers were increasingly recognized from week-to-week.  Key bars and nightclubs became supporters of the campaign, requesting the samplers stop by every week.   The comments from people entering the contest on the website were also positive about the product and the campaign.

Objective 3: Generate Trial
During the 37 nights of sampling in Toronto and Montreal, more than 15,000 people were sampled (as measured by a bar counter) with thousands more witnessing the exchange between samplers and consumers.