Simultaneously, our interactions with food are becoming increasingly digital and social, expanding past the traditional kitchen center and communal mealtimes to encompass every stage of our experiences with food – inspiration, shopping, preparation, and eating (mok-bang anyone?). Additionally, new startups are being born every day, like Goldbely, Wholeshare, Foodily, Blue Apron, Cookapp, and many, many more, trying to get a slice of the pie.
Summed up, we’re seeing new standards and definitions of healthy, new behaviors around food, and a new wave of competition.
At Big Spaceship, we have a history of fruitful collaborations with food brands including Chobani, GoGo squeeZ, Fiji Water, Shake Shack, and Skittles. Our immersion in the food marketing space gave us insight into 10 digital opportunities for 2014. Read on to see how we’ve mapped these opportunities across five primary business needs or, if you need the quick version, check out the slideshare presentation we designed.
How to get new customers
1. Make sure promotions build your brand
Don’t make it about the $$. As tempting as they might be, price promotions (like coupons) aimed at getting new customers actually damage the brand long-term. How is that possible, you ask, when you’re giving people a discount? The first impression you’re making and relationship you’re creating with this potential customer is a transactional one based on a discounted price point and not based on the value of the brand or the quality of the product. Instead, think of ways your brand can add value and give customers something more that will appeal to their emotions to draw them in.
On a hot summer day in 2012, Uber, the taxi-alternative app service, offered a one-day ice cream delivery promotion. Yes, people had to pay for the ice cream. Yes, supplies were limited. But, this simple, surprising promotion was so successful that they ran it again last year. Uber didn’t discount their service, they appealed to the universal love of ice cream on a hot day and played off the convenience of their service and app. This is the kind of win-win scenario that brands should attempt to replicate with their promotions.
2. Create useful content to reach new behavioral segments
Did you know that a child’s palate can start developing in-utero?
That what we eat when we’re young can impact our taste for the rest of our lives?
And that a child can try a food 10-15 times before it stops being ‘new’?
All these specific behaviors are perfect topics for useful content coming from a greek yogurt brand, for example, a product that is high in protein and low in fat, directed towards expecting mothers, mothers of infants about to start on solid foods, and mothers of toddlers starting to expand their palates. But it’s not good enough to create messaging that says, ‘Hey, new mom. Eat greek yogurt, it’s good for you and the baby!’ Messages like that just get drowned out in the noise of all the other advertisers saying the same thing.
Instead, it’s important to understand your customers’ different needs and behaviors, and provide them with useful content. A pregnant woman will find an article on the development of her child’s palate in utero, and a recommendation on what foods to eat, infinitely more valuable than just an ad targeted to her telling her to eat greek yogurt.
3. Branch out into social channels with an active food community
You are what you eat . . . and what you share. Highly visual social platforms, such as Tumblr, Vine, and Instagram have captured the hearts, and dishes, of millions of foodies. Brands would be remiss not to find ways to reach and engage those quirky and super visual food lovers. Especially since larger established social networks, like Facebook, are moving towards a pay-to-play model, meaning brands will have to pay to have their posts seen. Additionally, research shows that people who engage with branded content are more likely to purchase.
Why these networks?
300 million unique monthly visitors
13% of 18-29 year olds use Tumblr
215k people track the tag #food
Over 40 million registered users
Vines get shared 4x more than other online videos
The 6-second format lends itself to quick how-to food vines
150 million monthly visitors
Instagram video has increased shares on Twitter by 37%
1.6 million posts are tagged with the hashtag ‘nomnom’
How to keep your existing customers
4. Make your product the focus on social
In the process of doing research for our clients, we’ve spent a lot of time exploring branded social accounts. Contrary to what you might think, for CPG brands, product-centric content is the most successful on social. This seems surprising because we want to believe that people want to see aspirational lifestyle content.
But understanding the motivations behind sharing, that people share content that reveals something awe-inspiring about themselves or the world around them, we realize that they follow brands on social for the same reasons. To see content that reflects and re-affirms their own beliefs.
Here are some visual codes that are most successful for CPG brands on social.
Close-ups are strong. They stand out during fast-scrolling.
Ingredient shots are less powerful.
Bright colors give good vibes and stand out in the feed.
Adequate topicality posts,
without rushing to be ‘real-time’, are successful.
Artful twists stand out.
And, ad-like posts are weaker.
People feel like they’re being sold.
5. Integrate customer service into social
Why? We would argue, why not? There’s really no reason your brand shouldn’t be addressing customer service concerns on social. People are already turning to brands on social with customer service questions. It drives to purchase. And it increases loyalty, as 70% of those helped through social customer service return as future customers.
A better question should be, how? Here are a few best practices.
- Dedicate a team: Have a trained team big enough and familiar with different aspects of the business and product to monitor conversations and respond frequently, if not always.
- Respond quickly: Don’t keep your followers waiting, they’ll get upset.
- Be consistent: Create a response map to different customer service scenarios, ensuring the elimination of erratic responses.
- Stay positive: Be friendly, even if certain comments aren’t. The backlash could be hugely damaging otherwise.
- Be proactive: Get ahead of the conversation and provide news or updates on your products that your followers would find valuable.
How to grow and extend your business
6. Think about newness differently
Newness is the price of entry for any CPG brand. But it is largely defined by marketing standards – new products, flavors, and skus that have been introduced to market. Which means, brands are constantly fighting for shelf space at retail.
But, what if we think of newness from the perspective of the consumer, as something they might not have tried yet, whether it is actually new or not. Flavor is a great example. Not only do consumers have seasonal interest in particular flavors as seen on Google Trends searches for particular flavors, but they also love declaring their favorite flavors. Looking at various brands on Facebook, such as Oikos, Honeymaid, and Trident reveals consumers’ unprompted declarations of affection towards their favorite product flavors.
Your brand’s existing flavors and products are still new to many of your customers. When thinking about how to populate your content calendar, seasonal messaging around flavor is a great way to be fresh without having to launch a new product all the time.
7. Educate about different uses for your product
There is a renewed interest in cooking and recipes as people focus more on the quality of the foods they eat. Brands should be thinking of creating useful content and tools to facilitate new ways to cook or use their products. 89% of Americans go online for recipes and 81% cook at home most of the time. And it’s not just straightforward recipes they’re looking for, but new, healthier ways of cooking more traditional recipes, like replacing oil and butter with applesauce or greek yogurt.
It’s important to see your brand’s content as the interface with your consumers so, the best content needs to survive. The next time you’re thinking of ways to expand your business, think of the content you can provide your audience that will help them use your product in a different way.
Here are a few best practices for publishing shareable digital content.
- Focus on quality: Create high value content, stuff worth sharing that is credible. Aim to create the most authoritative page on that particular recipe or subject.
- Be relevant: Rely on keyword research to determine which recipe and cooking is most relevant and popular. Use that information as a the subject for your content.
- Test & Learn: Think of this content as an ongoing experiment. By continually tracking the success of the content you publish, you’ll better understand what resonates with your audience, what has the potential to drive more interest and traffic, and what isn’t working.
- Revisit & Improve: Build upon content that worked for you in the past, rewrite it, add to it, and reshare it. Make sure you’ve optimized for search and sharing. What starts off as a tweet or blog post could end up as a bigger piece of content, reaching a broader audience, and generating more interest around your product. Remember, not everyone has seen everything you’ve posted.
8. Experiment with e-commerce
Think of e-commerce as a lab where you get to test everything. There is no failure, because you’re constantly gaining new insights into your product, audience, and market. You get to control the shelf-space. It is the food frontier and a quickly growing channel, with CPG e-commerce sales predicted to reach $222 billion in 10 years. Almost 15% of Americans shop for food online and interest continues to grow.
Some thought starters:
- Create limited edition products you only sell online. This will create excitement, build demand, and set you apart from other brands. This is also a great way to test new products in a measurable environment.
- Create patterns around seasonal offerings, helping to create the expectation of their return the following year.
- Partner with other brands and create menus based on recipes you’re promoting.
- Develop product kits aimed at behavioral segments, like the First Taste Kit for Moms with infants about to go on solid foods, for example.
How to deal with the unexpected
9. Prepare for and respond in a crisis
In any business, the unexpected happens. And in the world of food, recalls happen (quite often, actually). Here are a few from 2013: Kraft string cheese (735,000 cases); Smucker grits, cornmeal, cornbread products; National Beef Packing beef products (22,737 lbs); Trader Joe’s salads & sandwich wraps (90 tons); Plum Organics aby Stage 2, Mish Mash, kids products; and, Crunch Pak apple slices (5,471 cases).
You can’t always prevent this type of crisis, but you can be prepared and you can curb negative public opinion. The worst thing that can happen to your brand is to be unprepared, because a recall, while not uncommon, can truly damage a brand’s reputation. So here are a few tips on preparing for the inevitable:
- Plan in advance: Have a designated crisis team and prepare for potential scenarios.
- Respond quickly: The longer you wait, the harder it will be to manage the conversation that can quickly escalate. Let your customers know exactly what is happening, what steps you have in place to address the situation, and how they can reach you with concerns.
- Be human: People want to deal with people, not faceless entities. Involve a spokesperson, your founder or CEO. Let your customers know it is your top priority to address the situation.
- Be easy to find: Optimize all your messaging for search. Make sure your customers can easily find what you have to say on the matter instead of allowing the media to speculate or otherwise influence the conversation around the crisis.
How to help your company get smarter
10. Use digital tools for self-improvement
The success of any organization truly starts from the inside. This is something we at Big Spaceship value and practice and can be seen in our recently published culture manual. Employing digital tools internally can give companies a competitive advantage and can increase revenue.
So while this opportunity is #10 on our list, it may make sense to consider implementing this one first. Here are a few ways we’ve helped clients invest in themselves.:
- Newsletters: Communicate important sales, analytics, and campaign metrics with various departments through simple yet powerful weekly digital updates.
- Workshops: Invest in keeping your team up to date on digital trends and technologies with quarterly workshops.
- Hackathons: A couple times a year, partake in a hackday whereby employees put aside work and focus on solving a company challenge with digital solutions
- Custom internal platform: Consider a bespoke internal communications platform, like the one we created for One HP, that enables connection and fosters pride across all departments, from the factory floor to the marketing team.
Congrats, you’ve made it.
It’s a brand new year, with brand new digital opportunities for food marketing. These 10 opportunities address all kinds of business challenges – from getting new customers to looking for ways to improve internally. We would love to hear from you on which ones resonate for your brand and business. If you have any questions or would like to discuss these opportunities, food, or most of all, the internet, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, cragels are a thing and we’re kind of excited about them.
Header image via FITNEWTRITION