PHILADELPHIA — They’ve been together 72 years, but it’s not clear whether Mike and Ike will reach their next anniversary.
The colorful candy characters are going their separate ways, and using Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr to announce the split.
How better to engage the teenage audience that Pennsylvania candy maker Just Born hopes to reach with the cheeky marketing campaign?
“At some point, we would love ... for them to get back together,” said Matt Pye, vice president for marketing of Bethlehem-based Just Born. “In some ways, consumers are going to help (determine) where this story ends up.”
The story has been unfolding this year on social media sites, with hints of trouble between the fictional friends.
Mike plans to pursue music, while Ike dabbles in art.
“I know it’s hard to believe, but yes — Mike and I split. It is what it is. We just couldn’t agree on stuff anymore. Some call it creative differences? Whatever,” Ike posted.
Countered Mike: “We just don’t agree on the candy. My red, his red, my lime, his lime, my box ideas, his box ideas. So over it. Instead of all this hassles, now I’m just gonna jam.”
The characters themselves — vaudeville types when the candy debuted in 1940, anthropomorphic fruit in the 1980s — are now absent from the packaging. The latest boxes, billboards and other displays will have one name or the other scratched out.
The origin of the brand name remains a mystery even to Just Born, although fans often wonder if it’s named for real people.
“Consumers have always contacted us and asked: ‘Who are they? The owners? The founders?’” Pye said.
That curiosity helped spark the idea of a story line as a new Just Born management team, led by President David Yale, looked to reinvigorate their folksy brands, which include Peeps, Hot Tamales and Peanut Chews.
“We have an opportunity to really build them and grow them,” Pye said.
The Mike and Ike split was announced on the brand’s Facebook page on April 2. The candy has added more than 200,000 Facebook fans since then, to about 650,000, thanks in part to media reports about what some call Mike and Ike’s gay “divorce.” Whatever the pair’s relationship, The Morning Call of Allentown, in the company’s backyard, noted Friday that such a marriage couldn’t take place in Pennsylvania, which does not have same-sex unions.
No matter, some fans are already worried about custody issues.
“OK, who gets what colors?” asked Facebook fan Randy Fasnacht. “I’m going to follow whoever gets green.”