CANNES: Italian confectionery maker Ferrero is reaping the benefits of taking a patient approach in responding to social media activity by film fans who spotted a resemblance between certain film characters and one of its products.

The product in question was Tic Tac, Ferrero's flavoured sweets, the characters the Minions, who featured as sidekicks in two Despicable Me movies before becoming headliners in their own right in the current Minions movie.

Witold Zorski, global head of digital for Tic Tac, told an audience in Cannes that the company had observed a flood of user-generated content on social media, with pictures of Tic Tac pills customised to look like the Minion characters.

But rather than rush out a piece of content or an opportunistic ad, the decision was taken to give the fans what they wanted – Minion Tic Tacs (For more, including the various challenges that had to be overcome, read Warc's exclusive report: The story of Minion Tic Tacs: how a social media craze drove Ferrero's NPD.)

"The idea for the product came from the people," Zorski said, but it took 18 months to develop a product everyone felt happy with.

Fortunately for Ferrero, time was not necessarily an issue as it considered the Minions would not be a temporary craze, being part of a successful movie franchise with more releases in the pipeline.

Overall, said Zorski, "It is good that we didn't launch in 2013", following the initial flurry of interest.

The process of developing the right product had given the team "a larger perspective", and had given Ferrero a manufacturing process that could create customised Tic Tacs for any occasion.

Importantly, the delay also meant that the Minion Tic Tacs could be released in time for the 2015 spin-off movie starring the characters and which is being rolled out around the world this summer.

And the appetite for the characters and product has not waned in the interim, with stocks rapidly selling out or even being sold at a mark-up.

Data sourced from Warc