Tailgate Takeover

Tailgate Takeover

               The month of September means a few things: heading back to school, the start of fall, and most importantly the start of football season. These days football is not only about what team you root for (go Giants!), but it also revolves around the pregame festivities, otherwise known as tailgating. Of course food has always been a main staple at tailgating events, but these days industry observers say consumers are getting more creative and experimental with their game day menus. Using people’s tailgates as a way for brands to market themselves is becoming increasingly popular, and increasingly helpful. Here are a few examples of food brands who use tailgating and the football season to their advantage.

               NatureSweet, a tomato company based in San Antonio, created a variety of recipes involving their product that are perfect for tailgate snacking. Some of these recipes include “sunbursts guacamole” and “sunburst and hummus on pita.” NatureSweet also gave shoppers a chance to win free groceries with its Snack with Sweetness Sweepstakes. This sweepstakes encouraged tailgaters to snap photos of themselves using NatureSweet tomatoes on game day and upload it to social media with the hashtag #snacksweet. Incentivizing customers to promote your brand through hashtags and social media is a great, and free marketing tool that NatureSweet was smart to take advantage of.

               Another company that tapped into the tailgating madness is the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC). “Potato dishes are a fan favorite during tailgate season, from the traditional Idaho Potato Skins and bacon blitz Idaho potato skewer to miso Idaho potato stuffed mushrooms, there are a million ways to incorporate potatoes into a successful tailgate party” says Jamie Bowen, the marketing manager at Idaho Potato Commission. This popularity is why they decided to take advantage of the football season. To get in the tailgate spirit, IPC provided a recipe section on their website, idahopotato.com, featuring all their favorite recipes throughout the years. Also, IPC provided an easy way to share recipes through its Potato Lover’s retail contest. The contest encourages retailers to come up with creative Idaho potato displays during tailgates in order to win free swag throughout the season.

               Lighthouse, a salad dressing company, is another company using tailgates to their advantage; but rather than creating a contest or hashtag like we saw above, Lighthouse decided to take a practical route and offer their dressing in easily prepared containers. Realizing they would score big with consumers by offering products that are simply prepared, Lighthouse decided to rethink their packaging. According to Acosta, “tailgaters get warmed up for the big game by menu planning and basing their food selection on factors like personal preference/taste; the amount of effort to prepare the food; and the amount of time to prepare the food.” All in all, tailgaters want ease which is why Lighthouse saw an increase in sales with their pre-prepared veggies and dip.

               Tailgating will always be a huge part of the football season, and although you can’t count on the players to be consistent week after week, you can count on fans to be consistent with this tradition. People set up as early as 8 am on game days to get drunk, hang with friends, and most importantly eat. Whether incentivizing consumers to use hashtags on social media, or adjusting products to please customers, brands can’t go wrong using tailgates to their advantage.  

Finally Fall

Finally Fall

              Personally, fall is my favorite time of year. It is also the time of year that represents the beginning of end-of-the-year holiday marketing, an extremely important time for brands. This is a time for brands to rethink their strategies and target their audience through the changing season and upcoming holidays. Here are a few examples of creative fall marketing campaigns and why they work.

               Over the past few years, Hershey has come up with Halloween themed marketing campaigns for one of their most popular products, Kit-Kat. Of course this seems like a no-brainer for a candy company, but recently they have taken an edgier approach to marketing this delicious product. In 2016, their Halloween campaign drew people in by emphasizing awkward situations to create comedy. This approach is great because it keeps the viewers entertained and thinking about the product throughout the entire ad. In addition, they have created campaign geared towards Generation Z and Millennials – with Halloween commercials starring Chance the Rapper. The idea to use Chance, a widely popular musician, came to Hershey when they recently learned that much younger generations were the majority of consumers buying the 81-year-old product. Hershey found a way to target a specific audience and use the upcoming season to sell their product and so far it has been a hit.

               Dunkin Donuts is another food brand that is focused on the fall season. For some, fall means cider and changing of the leaves, but Dunkin Donuts knows for their customers fall means pumpkin spice. That’s why this year they based their campaign on releasing their pumpkin coffee earlier than ever. The company has already seen a significant benefit from this, according to CNBC , the company has reported better-than-expected earnings for seven-straight quarters and introducing these limited time products slightly early this season has given them even more of a boost.

               Krispy Kreme, another doughnut brand, has also tapped into the fall spirit but through a different approach. To boost brand awareness and hopefully gain more customers, Krispy Kreme decided to capitalize on daylight savings by coming up with their “Lose An Hour, Gain A Doughnut!” idea. This promotion attempts to thrust the doughnut brand to the front of consumers’ minds while simultaneously easing the effect of losing an hour of the day. Single day promotions might not be the most lucrative of campaigns, but in this case it put people in a good mood and reminded them that Krispy Kreme actually cares about their customers. In fact, these single-day promotions have become a mainstay of Krispy Kreme’s marketing and branding strategy because they are easy to execute and have brought only positive attention to the brand.

               With the start of fall upon us, consumers are looking to be engaged in the season. For brands, it is important to cater to autumn trends that resonate with their audiences whether that is through specific generational targeting, the release of certain fall-themed products, or campaigns that focus on a certain seasonal changes, like daylight savings. So, if brands want to keep consumers happy, they should breathe in the crisp air, and concentrate on the upcoming season. 

Back to School Branding

Back to School Branding

               With Labor Day behind us and pumpkin spice flavored everything hitting the shelves, it’s time to start thinking about fall and the start of school. Back to school shopping season is the second biggest retail event after the holiday season, and with sales results showing online shopping is more important than ever, brand marketers and retailers have to embrace new emerging strategies to ensure they engage students and parents in stores as well as on digital channels.

               In the 21st century, technology is everything. The internet provides an efficient, if not the most efficient, way to reach millions of consumers with one click or hashtag. Sbarro Pizza, for example, is doing a back to school promotional contest for free iPads. This contest allows customers to participate in physical Sbarro’s Pizza stores, and on facebook, twitter, or Instagram by adding #sbarroscholar to their posts. This approach is not only a great way for the company to get customers excited about their product, but it is also a great way for Sbarro to build their online presence. Another aspect of back to school marketing that brands are becoming more aware of is how they vary their voice based on different social media channels. While kids are obviously the main target when it comes to back to school shopping, parents are also key players so it is equally important for brands to market to social channels adults use as well. For example, Pinterest is a platform visited mostly by an older age group so the content should be geared towards adults, while on a platform like snapchat it is more beneficial to be kid-friendly. McDonald’s is a great example of how a brand can shift advertising based on age seen as they run kid-friendly content during Saturday morning cartoons and save the adult content for the evening news. One last approach that is great for back to school marketing is letting the consumers own the experience. Kids love to be creative right? So why not let them create their own campaigns. In 2016, Target used this approach, letting kids write, direct, produce, and star in the companies back to school commercials. Not only did this method help Target produce creative and unique content, but it received a ton of buzz on social media and in the news as well.

               Back to school shopping only happens once a year, but when it does brands should take advantage of the market. Whether it is reaching out to consumers of all ages, letting the customer get creative, or simply creating a brand hashtag, marketers need to use social media to get an edge on their competitors during this back to school season.

A Helping Hand

A Helping Hand

              Over the weekend Hurricane Harvey started making its way through Texas and has just begun to slow down. This devastating storm has already killed at least five people and injured many more, making it the worst hurricane/tropical storm Texas has seen in ages. Since this natural disaster struck, people all over the United States are coming together to make donations and raise awareness for the people of Houston. In fact, individuals are not the only ones getting involved, certain brands are also taking action and coming up with ways to support the victims of this terrible storm. Here is a look at what some of those brands have come up with.

              Chobani, America’s leading Greek Yogurt brand, announced that they will be supporting Texas and its residents by packing up trucks with Chobani products and distributing it to those in need. Hamdi Ulukaya, the CEO and founder of Chobani, tweeted “thinking of our friends & communities across Texas. Team Chobani is loading up trucks now. Time for all of us to do our part… #harvey.”  PepsiCO, which includes brands like Pepsi and Gatorade, is taking a different route and pledging to donate $1 million to the American Red Cross. Chairman and CEO, Indra K. Nooyi, stated that PepsiCo is very focused on helping people in need during this difficult time.  

              Non-food and drink brands are stepping up as well. United Airlines is encouraging customers to donate to the Harvey relief by offering bonus miles. More specifically, any of the United airline rewards members that donate at least $50 to the Red Cross will get up to 250 bonus miles, and those who donate more can get up to 1,000 bonus miles. Verizon is another brand that has jumped at the opportunity to help out. Recently the wireless brand announced that they will offer customers in certain areas of Texas with data relief between August 26 and September 8. Meaning that any customers (in the covered areas) who go over their data limit will get the entire amount credited back to their account. Lastly, Walmart sent 795 truckloads of supplies to Texas, per a tweet from the brands action account, “Update: We’ve shipped 795 emergency truckloads of supplies, mainly water to S. TX & 1700 truckloads are due to arrive in the next week!”

         Harvey has hit Houston much worse than anyone expected, it has completely destroyed parts of the city and we do not even know the full extent of the damage yet. Although this has been a quite the tragedy, it is reassuring to see brands take action and try to help in as many ways as possible.

Total Eclipse of the Market

Total Eclipse of the Market

               On Monday, millions of Americans stopped what they were doing to go outside and check out the first total solar eclipse since June 1918. This once in a lifetime phenomenon not only had the average citizen excited, but it also acted as a great marketing tool for multiple brands and companies. From original recipes to moon jokes, let’ take a look at the most creative eclipse campaigns.

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               The first campaign that really caught my eye was Corona. Corona teamed up with Cramer-Krasselt, a creative marketing firm, to put out the perfect eclipse package, “The Corona toast kit.” This toast kit came equipped with eclipse glasses, an eclipse countdown clock, and of course a few coronas. Not only was this a cute and fun way to get people excited about Corona and their product, but the box also doubled as a pinhole viewer which made it even more appealing to consumers. They also put up a stop motion video on their Facebook page to explain how to actually create the pinhole viewer, creating more buzz and keeping customers happy. Krispy Kreme, one of America’s favorite donut brands, offered its famous glazed donut in a chocolate shell to mimic the eclipse. This was a cute and fun way to get guests excited about the solar eclipse and get a donut that tasted delicious! Spirit brand Jose Cuervo came up with fun cocktail recipes that they called “Total Especial Eclipse” and “Dark Side of the Sun.” Both cocktails consisted of interesting ingredients that played off of the solar eclipse, for example the Total Especial Eclipse recipe calls for charcoal lemonade to make it darker in color, like the moon eclipsing the sun. Lastly, Cracker Barrel, a chain known for its biscuits, started posting cheeky social posts that were very simple but still effective. For example, one of their posts was of a biscuit blocking out the sun, which they called a “Bisclipse,” providing consumers a quick laugh with their meal.

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               All of these companies found clever ways to market their products while tying in the solar eclipse. Capitalizing on events like the eclipse is an extremely smart way for brands to make themselves known and hopefully gain some more traction and revenue. Consumers all over America were extremely excited about the eclipse so it made perfect sense for marketers to take advantage of it and come up with creative ways to tie in the once in a lifetime phenomenon. Whether it was through giveaways, social posts, or recipes customers couldn’t look away from these brands just like they couldn’t look away from the solar eclipse.

 

The (augmented) Reality of Marketing

The (augmented) Reality of Marketing

               Augmented reality (AR) is a topic I have previously touched on; my first post was about the explosion of Pokémon Go about a year ago. Unfortunately this post will not focus on the wildly popular game, but on augmented reality in the culinary space as a whole. In recent years, food and beverage manufactures have started to realize the potential that augmented reality holds for advertisers and marketers in the culinary space. As the marketing director of Zappar said in an interview with FoodNavigator, “the key to success will lie in finding creative ways to integrate AR into a broader brand strategy across multiple platforms and locations, rather than slapping another logo on an already-crowded food label because you can.”

               AR has long held potential for brands, with technology and more specifically mobile phones being such a big part of our day to day life, a well-developed augmented reality app can really draw in and help engage youth and adult consumers through games, as well as useful or interesting information about a company’s product. For example, in the summer of 2014 Kraft teamed up with Walmart Super-centers across the nation to create a profitable augmented reality marketing campaign. This AR promotion allowed customers to simply download an AR app and use that app to track their Kraft brand purchases at Walmart Super-centers only. Kraft’s investment in AR technology payed off. Not only did it help them differentiate themselves from their major competitors during peak sales season, but partnering with a huge retailer like Walmart also helped spike their sales. Other companies that have launched augmented reality apps or campaigns include Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

               AR is not only being used to draw in consumers, but it is also being used by sales staff to show how their products can fit into possible retail spaces. Coca-Cola (also mentioned above) armed one of their sales teams in Germany with an AR app that simulated and demonstrated how future coolers, installments, and Coca-Cola displays would look in specific stores; which ultimately lead to a cleaner layout and design for the brand.

               Overall, AR has great potential to become a front runner in the field of food and beverage marketing. It is a relatively new and exciting tool that engages customers in a way they find valuable, different, and exciting. There are already tons of AR games and apps out there so now the key for brands is to make sure they are producing interesting enough material that keeps consumers downloading these AR apps and coming back for more.

Loyalty is Key

Loyalty is Key

               Not all brands have the same products or demands, but one thing that holds true across diverse industries is the importance of brand loyalty. Just one misstep or poor costumer experience can ruin a brand’s reputation; for example, when Pepsi launched their most recent campaign involving Kendall Jenner they lost a ton of money and received extreme backlash for being a “tone deaf” company from many of their customers. So, if you are a marketer or business owner this idea of upholding a good brand reputation should be at the forefront of your mind. Below are three strategies that can help drive brand loyalty.

1.       Technology to create the best customer experience.

These days there is so much value in technology. It is not only a valuable tool in our everyday life, but technology can also be very valuable to help improve a brand’s relationship with its customers. First of all, when customers trust that you are delivering unique service to meet their needs they will return the favor and be more willing to give you their business. This symbiotic relationship will help build trust and maintain brand loyalty. Also, according to an Infosys study, data driven personalization can increase revenue for brands and 86% of customers agreed that personalization plays a role in their purchasing decisions. Additionally 73% of consumers said they prefer to do business with brands that use personal information to make their experience more relevant. Once brands have gained trust with their customers it is much easier to gain user insight and figure out your main demographic.

2.       Social media to show brand value and customer appreciation.

Social media is another great way to build brand loyalty. In fact, 81% of respondents in a study done by BRANDfog said they have more confidence in a company when its executive is using social media. Social media is not only a great way for brands to market their products but it is also a great way for them to show appreciation for their customers. Replying to people with a personal messages or commenting on a consumers post is a perfect way to humanize a brand and deepen the brand consumer relationship. This acknowledgment on social media proves that a brand really cares about its customers, it can help bring in new revenue, and it can pose as good PR for your company as a whole. Showing that your brand cares about customer experience outside of the actual business transaction can be the separating factor between your company and others.

3.       It doesn’t have to be all about product.

Using executives or employees personal brand as a selling point may seem a bit strange but it is a great way to put a personal face to your brand. If you look at Elon Musk at Tesla, or Tim Cook at Apple these CEO’s are always putting their faces forward for their brands. It is important that employees and executives make time to engage with their customers and develop trust with them. Once this trust is formed consumers will feel more obligated and willing to listen to the company’s message.

               Having strong brand loyalty no doubt benefits a company. Making one sale is great, but having the power to make customers come back to you year after year is even better. For a company to truly be successful it is key that they establish solid brand loyalty from the beginning and make sure consumers remain a top priority during all company decisions.

Organic Obsessed

Organic Obsessed

               You’re trying to eat healthy, which means choosing plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. As you wander down the aisle at the supermarket you realize there’s another choice to make: should you buy organic? These days, most consumers would answer yes to that question. Despite the heftier price tag, sales of organic food items continues to grow. According to USA Today the sales of organic food is up to 8.4%, hitting a record of 43 billion in 2016 sales.  Another interesting stat about organic food is that most consumers are only concerned with purchasing organic items if they are fruits and vegetables, according to an Organic Industry Survey from 2017, about 40% of all organic food sales were in produce.

               Whether buying organic produce or protein over the past few years, in general, organic food is steadily making its way into consumers shopping carts and staying there. In fact, a Food Dive article stated that 82.3% of the country’s 117 million households contain some sort of organic food. Consumers are not the only ones hopping on the organic bandwagon. Large food manufacturers, like Coca-Cola, are wasting no time getting in on this trend too. For Example, Campbell Soup created an organic baby food line and Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods Markets even has the tech world obsessing over the idea of eating organically. In fact, the General Mills organic products have seen a whopping 350% growth in the last 5 years! With huge companies buying into this trend there is no doubt it is here for the long hall.

               Although this trend is serving well for some, American farmers are having trouble keeping up with the massive increase in demand for organic produce. The process of transitioning produce from non-organic to organic takes about three years, and growing organic food is much more expensive once the transition has happened, causing a massive headache for the farming industry.

               The craziest part about this whole trend is that consumers, myself included, are so obsessed with organic labeled foods because we think they are much healthier, but in reality scientists are not 100% if consuming food that’s never been exposed to pesticides actually has a lasting impact on health! Regardless, with 44% of shoppers willing to pay 20% more for organic ingredients I don’t see why markets, grocers, and restaurants wouldn’t stock their shelves with organic foods.

Bugging Out

Bugging Out

                              These days there are no shortage of trending diets, for example the paleo diet. People are much more interested in sustainable living and being environmentally friendly than ever before. One food trend that has been becoming more and more popular is eating bugs, like crickets, as a source of protein. Yes, you read that correctly, bugs can be a great source of protein. In fact, crickets are considered a superfood. They are about 60% protein, are packed with vitamin B12, have more calcium than milk and more iron than spinach, and provide all the essential amino acids. Also, on a more environmental note, they produce much less greenhouse gases than livestock and of course require much less water. According to fortune.com, it only takes 100 gallons of water to produce 72 grams of crickets as opposed to only 6 grams of beef, making them potentially a more efficient food source. All of this sounds great, but who really wants to eat crickets? I have been given the opportunity to try the creepy crawlers and to be honest have not yet gotten the courage to eat them. Although the thought of eating bugs may be scary to a lot of people, Jarrod Goldin who sells cricket powder to manufacturers believes that crickets are “the gateway bug.” By turning crickets into powder, customers can enjoy the benefits of eating insects without actually seeing the critters themselves. Exo, a company selling cricket protein bars, sells flavors such as apple cinnamon, chocolate, and banana bread which doesn’t sound so bad if you ask me. Although the concept of eating bugs for protein (or in general) doesn’t sound as appealing as eating a nice steak, it is a great step for a more sustainable future. Sometimes as consumers we forget about how much we waste. No, I’d never thought I would even consider trying a bug but with all the benefits the whole trend is actually starting to sound somewhat appealing. Companies like Exo are smart to get in on this trend early, because once people get passed the “ick” factor that comes with eating crickets, I think it will be a great protein substitute for us, and even better for the future of the environment.  

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Meal Service Meltdown?

Meal Service Meltdown?

               I’ll be the first to admit that I am not much of a cook; which is why when my roommate started her subscription at Blue Apron, who according to FoodDive is the leading meal kit service by an estimated 17 percent, I thought it was a genius business venture. Meal kit services are convenient, healthy, and can be more cost effective than going out to dinner every night so why are they not performing as well as expected? And why are we seeing companies like Blue Apron flop when it comes to stocks and IPO’s?

               First of all, what started out as an explosive growing business is now starting to temper. In a CNBC article author Nick Wells states that more than half of meal kit subscribers cancel their subscriptions within the first six months primarily because consumers treat their food service subscriptions a lot like their New Year’s resolution to go to the gym, short lived. In fact, according to a study done by Cardlytics, in 2016 nearly three-quarters of new subscribers gave up on their service within a year. These cancellations are a huge deal for meal service companies like Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and Plated because they tend to give big discounts or freebies to draw customers in in the first place, and when that upfront cost doesn’t actually amount to a real subscription the company is at risk to lose a decent amount of money. Another aspect of the meal service kits that is having a slightly negative effect on the business is price. Yes, meal services are good for consumers (like me) whose first instinct in the kitchen is to leave and go to a restaurant, but for consumers who like to cook it is actually much more cost effective to go out and buy ingredients at a grocery store. According to a CNBC trial run, meal delivery service meals cost about $9.99 to $13.50 a portion; while shopping for the same meal at a grocery store would only cost $3.98 to $11.90. Lastly, with mergers like Amazon and Whole Foods it is really hard to predict what is in store for the future of online groceries and how that will effect meal service companies. Data shows that people who use meal kits also often utilize other on-demand purchasing habits, like Amazon Prime, UberEats, etc. so with the growth of that industry it is safe to predict that smaller independent meal service companies will have to fight to stay alive against giants like Amazon.

               Although the premise of this post focused on why meal service companies are not doing as well as predicted, we should not count them out too quickly. There are still a ton of loyal customers using Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Plated, etc. but if these companies want to stay relevant going forward they are going to have to think outside the box and come up with ways to keep their customer subscription rates up.

One Nation Under One Food?

One Nation Under One Food?

              Now that everyone’s Fourth of July celebrations are over and the hangovers are out of our systems, it feels like a good time to discuss food and nationalism. It is not uncommon for people to associate food and identity, as I’m sure the phrase “you are what you eat” rings a bell, but in the modern world, do food preferences really play a role as an anchor of personal and national identity, and should they? In a recent eater article called “Why Food has Become a New Target for Nationalists” the author, Tove Danovich, delves into how European cities, like Florence, feel their culture is being watered down through the rise of foreign food. European governments are even going as far as barring foods from different countries because they do not want their culture to be “diluted or Disneyfied.” To me, and many others this notion of banning foreign foods seems ridiculous, and at the end of the article Danovich makes a great point that no culture has just one history or one food, and if we try to isolate food culture we are just going to keep it from evolving.

               Clearly places like Italy and France have very distinct food identities which is why they want to preserve this idea of their “food nationalism,” but in a place like the United States, which is a country built from different cultures and cuisines, it’s hard to pinpoint one specific food identity. Although something like 88% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, which is a pretty large percentage, this once-a-year event hardly constitutes as a full identity. Personally, I don’t think having a lack of food identity is a bad thing at all. In the modern culinary world we see fusion restaurants, and all types of new trends that allow us to explore other communities and cultures through food. I’m not saying that food doesn’t play a big role in who we are and what we are as a nation, but in the United States I don’t view food as simply the glue that bonds individuals to their community, I view it as a bridge that brings different communities together.

The Merger

The Merger

               If you have been listening to the news recently, you know that last week Amazon bought Whole Foods Market Inc. for $13.7 billion. This deal will no doubt change the landscape of the grocery business since Amazon is the country’s biggest online retailer and none of the Whole Foods’ direct competitors will be able to match Amazon’s technological power, but how will this merge affect the restaurant industry? Probably not as much as one would think. This deal is going to push the industry, but towards an area that it is already going. If you look at whole foods, it has already taken some share from the restaurant industry, for example some of their stores look more like food halls than grocery stores, and Amazon’s new ownership can only strengthen that competitive edge, but the restaurant industry is so large and diverse that it should be able to adapt. Also, a lot more restaurant sales are going to start coming through apps, with either a third party provider or from the companies themselves. According to a Euromonitor study, online restaurant sales were $12 billion in 2016. Although that is only about 2.2 percent of all overall restaurant industry sales, it is still something. So even though many consumers and employees who are part of the restaurant industry are worried about a giant tech company buying a food company, restaurants have already started to move in the tech direction, and this merger will only encourage restaurants to continue to do more of their business online.