Creating a social currency: marketing today’s food brands

Consumers are bombarded with marketing messages 24/7, so for today’s food brands and manufacturers, the creation of successful advertising campaigns has become very challenging.

Consumers are more immune to traditional forms of advertising than ever before, and with the rise of all things digital, they now have the ability to publicise their views on your marketing message.

Love it or hate it, this is where social media – the ultimate word of mouth marketing medium – can make or break you.

In today’s digital age, the importance of advertising through social media cannot be denied. Data is collected from users via their listed interests, enabling marketers to more easily access their target audience. And consumers willingly, and regularly, expose themselves to the varying marketing message, whether it be it via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever else tickles their fancy.  

However, targeted advertising through social media with ‘suggested posts’ can be completely transparent – not to mention downright annoying – and risks becoming what marketers refer to as ‘noise’; confusion caused by too many marketing messages delivered at the same time.

So how do marketers cut through the noise and launch campaigns that make lasting impressions, encourage word of mouth and are more likely to convert messages into dollars? One way it through effective experiential marketing combined with social media activity.

Now not everyone out there will be familiar with the term ‘experiential marketing’.. Experiential marketing is the combination of experiencing and experimenting – essentially the creation of a campaign that encourages consumers to become active participants in a marketing effort.

Experiential marketing may include ‘touch and feel’ techniques such as unique product sampling efforts, or impromptu events that attract attention in high traffic areas such as the use of a celebrity to endorse a product. The more creatively marketers think outside the box, the more likely they are to encourage consumer participation through organic social media posts – the only thing is, the campaign has to be good enough for people to want to talk (and tweet) about it.

Who’s doing what?

A key part of launching a new food or beverage product is of course getting people to try it. In-store demonstrations can be effective if done properly, but can often be quite disengaging and stale – tending to attract no one other than ‘seagulls’ that feast on the free delights but have no intention of committing to a purchase.

Some recent notable campaigns have come from key players in the industry: Kellogg’s Special K, Unilever’s Magnum, and new entrants to the Aussie scene: Wonderful Pistachios and Thankyou.

Kellogg’s launched Australia’s first ‘social currency shop’ – The Special K Post Office in mid-August this year.

Open over four days in Westfield Sydney, the Post Office offered consumers the opportunity to try the brand’s debut into the salty snacks category – Special K Cracker Crisps – in exchange for a post on social media.

The Post Office featured traditional red post office boxes, fake grass, a barbeque, a bed of fresh chives and an outdoor seating arrangement – an environment which complementedthe Cracker Crisp flavours: Honey Barbeque and Sour Cream & Chives, as well as tapping into Australian consumers’ love for an outdoor lifestyle.

“The Special K Post Office was Australia’s first shop where shoppers didn’t pay, they posted – it’s where they came in and took away a crunchy, new savoury snack simply by posting a picture, comment or by checking-in on social media,” said Nik Scotcher, market manager, snacks, at Kellogg’s.

Scotcher said that the brand was extremely pleased with the customers’ response to the campaign.

“We were hoping to exceed 200,000 in terms of social reach, that was kind of the benchmark that we set ourselves based on the UK and Canadian success,” he said.

“We’ve been able to exceed expectations as far as social reach … We have reached just under a quarter of a million in Australia alone,” he said. “From a reach point of view, we are very pleased with that.”

Consumers like being in control

Although the ever-rising popularity of convenience foods may lead marketers to assume that consumers simply want food manufacturers to do the thinking for them, they should think again.

The pop-up Magnum Pleasure Store gave consumers the opportunity to make their own ice cream by selecting the type of chocolate coating they wanted, along with a wide selection of toppings. The concept engaged consumers by appealing to their individual tastes and creativity, which employing social media as the main vehicle for promotion.

Having successfully been launched in Paris, London, New York, Toronto, Milan and Shanghai, Sydneysiders embraced the concept with salivating taste buds and rampant Instagram posts.

The Pleasure Store created a buzz in Westfield Sydney for six weeks straight. The wait in line was rarely shorter than an hour long, and with ice creams retailing at  $7 a pop – double the recommended retail price – you can safely say this promotion was a  success.

“The Magnum Pleasure Store has proven to be a greatly successful concept, which is adaptable to different markets and opportunities around the globe,” said Cassandra Drougas assistant brand manager, Magnum.

“Ultimately, the key to the success of the launch is that people love the unique opportunity to customise a product they love.”

In addition to a unique concept, organic social posts were a leading contributor to the store’s popularity and on-going success throughout the activation period.

“Australia has the second largest uptake of smart phones and Facebook in the world, so organically, people were photographing their customised Magnums and sharing the photos online through social media. For those without smart phones, we had tablets set-up in-store with hashtag signage to facilitate any customer wishing to share their creation,” said Drougas.

“People were telling the staff that the reason they came to the store was because they saw their friends posting images online; the store is self-generating its own PR, which is a testament to the fact that customising your own Magnum is simply a winning concept.”

What about new market entrants?

Californian-based nut company, Wonderful Pistachios, burst onto the Aussie market in early 2012. Having developed a solid reputation in the US and abroad, Wonderful secured a distribution deal with Australia’s leading grocery giants, Coles and Woolworths, and launched the brand’s popular ‘Get Crackin’ campaign.

The campaign featured television commercials with well known cartoon characters such as The Simpsons family, Peanuts and Angry Birds as well as a host of experiential sampling techniques including one outside Sydney’s Town Hall which featured an impersonator of the Korean pop star, Psy.

Wonderful’s loud approach to marketing attracts attention. Whether it’s from passers-by in high traffic pedestrian areas due to innovative gorilla marketing techniques, or through well devised above the line campaigns – their approach is extremely effective as it gains organic traction through social media and has a tendency to go viral.

The brand employed Psy of Gangnam Style fame (the real one this time) to star in the brand’s first-ever Super Bowl spot which was announced via a flash mob in New Orleans.

"The Super Bowl is the most widely watched sporting event of the year, 'Gangnam Style' is the most-watched YouTube video, and Wonderful Pistachios is the top-selling snack nut item on the market," said Marc Seguin, Paramount Farms vice president of marketing. "It's a powerhouse combination."  

Taking a slightly different approach was Thankyou, the social enterprise behind Thankyou Water. The brand engaged in a host of experiential activities via a multi-layered marketing campaign with the aim of attracting attention from the supermarket giants, Coles and Woolworths.

The campaign gained a momentous amount of exposure via social media and included flying two helicopters over Coles’ Melbourne headquarters in Hawthorn, and Woolworths’ Sydney headquarters in Bella Vista. Each helicopter carried a 10,000 square foot banner with messages asking the retailers to “change the world” by stocking their products.

The two week campaign included a mix of traditional advertising, celebrity endorsements and of course an extensive social media presence which included creative videos and thousands of posts by Thankyou fans on both the Coles and Woolworths’ Facebook pages.

The campaign is estimated to have reached over 13 million people.

“It’s been amazing to see thousands of Australians post on both Coles and Woolworths’ Facebook pages in support of the Thankyou range. We’ve been blown away by the level of support,” said Daniel Flynn, co-founder and managing director of Thankyou.“We set a goal to reach 10,000 views of the campaign video by the end of the campaign and we hit that number within the first day.”

Although money helps, of course, and is often a key driver, a brand doesn’t necessarily need a hefty advertising budget to run a successful marketing campaign. Social networking tools are among the most powerful media vehicles, with the potential to connect brands with countless consumers from around the globe. All you need is a good concept and a bit of creativity.


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