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How to manage a crisis with a smile

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Since 1972, Paleta Payaso has been a very popular and loved confection brand in Mexico, with its main feature a smiley gummy in a marshmallow face. Since its origin, the product intends to generate a joy by inducing a smile on its consumers.  

When a father filmed the desperate cry of a 6-year-old child, disappointed because his Paleta Payaso had a sad face instead of a happy one, it went viral and in Mexico people reacted in mass and emotionally. As a brand dedicated to spread happiness, it needed to do something effective and quick, and the only option was to move in real time on a national scale. 

At the time that ‘Matias’s video’ went viral, Paleta Payaso was running a campaign called “Spread Smiles”. The campaign was focused on spreading the virus of happiness, and dedicated to donate a percentage of sales to Risaterapia (or laughter-therapy), a non-profit foundation devoted to spread happiness among who need it the most, like disabled people, ill patients or low-income families that benefits over 24,000 people in Mexico. 

In this context, it was unacceptable for Ricolino to act passively. The agency needed to find Matias, regain his smile, and dissociate his cry with the brand; always realising the risks of a campaign that was not just in real time, but also viral in every step.  


Find Matias. From the beginning, the objective of this campaign was clear: regain the emotional bonding with its consumers. To do this, Starcom needed to find Matias, no matter what, and put a smile on his face again. But, of course, given the repercussion of his viral video, it didn’t want to do it silently. 

As the online community was responsible to make this story viral, the agency decided to make them part of this campaign too and engage them in its own goal: finding Matias and his father. This would help it to take advantage of the repercussion, conversation and coverage that already was on top of this story, maximise the exposure of Paleta Payaso’s transition from villain to hero. 

To start the search, Starcom established a plan through two main communication channels: amplified social media and the power of local influencers, to keep the message real and reachable. It also knew that, once announced, the story was going to be picked up organically by all the media and other channels that would see the campaign as a sequel to the viral video they had already broadcasted. 

During the development of its search, the agency knew real time follow up was the key. Given the repercussion and nature of the story, it needed a clear strategy to handle negative comments, so it decided to tone up the brand’s voice in a fun and empathic way, answering not just the positive comments, but also the negative ones, always in an easy-going way. 

Finally, it also knew that finding Matias was a matter of time. From the beginning, it was prepared to compensate Matias in an emotional and joyful way and maximise the exposure of the happy ending to close the circle and regain the positive feeling of consumers. 


Starcom put out the word to the online community to find Matias and his Father. It wanted them to feel part of the solution so encouraged everyone to tag them in its original Facebook post. 

It partnered with local influencers on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word of the campaign and invested a minimal amount of money in promoting its own post. 

In just a few hours the online community started to replicate and interact with the story, and national media started to cover the sequel and spread the word. 

As it was working with Risaterapia in our “Spread Smiles” campaign, Starcom decided to close the circle by asking them to help it putting a smile on Matias’s face again, as a compensation for him and his father. 

Matias was found in Sonora, and the team composed by Risaterapia’s clown-doctors travelled to his home town to show him that when you got an upside down smile, you just need to turn it up to make it right.  

To spread the joy and close the story with a happy ending, the agency recorded a video to share not only the experience, but also its message. The video went viral nationally, consolidating the brand as a positive part of the conversation. 


In the lapse of six days, the brand found itself in front of a crisis that could have potentially damaged it. The agency executed a real-time marketing campaign, transformed a crisis in an opportunity, tightened the positive feeling with the community and with its consumers and obtained results that are comparable with the ones of a resourceful marketing campaign. In fact, the campaign achieved the best results in brand´s history in a short period (one week).  

• 19% sales increase vs last years in the same period. 

• Fans & followers for its social channel increased 10% in a five-day period but vs the average growth for +450%. 

• The total budget for this real-time campaign was $12,000. It achieved an estimated earned media plan for $500,000 (+4,000% of the invested budget). 

• National trending topic for nine hours on Twitter. 

• Appearance in Mexico´s top TV news stations as well as news in Peru, Colombia, U.S (Hispanic market) and Ecuador. 

• More than 200 publishers were putting this as part of their main news.

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Paleta Payaso / Ricolino
Brand Owner:
Grupo Bimbo
August - August 2016
Media Channel:
  • FMAs winner
  • FMAs shortlisted

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