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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,, 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.  

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.

'Tis (Always) the Season

'Tis (Always) the Season

I love the holidays, and not just the popular ones like Christmas and Halloween, I celebrate them all. You know who else loves holidays? Brands and marketers. It wasn’t until I started working in the industry that I realized brands love to take advantage of every single holiday, even ones as minor as April Fool’s Day. Before I start talking about why I think it is so smart for brands to utilize even the smallest of holidays, here are a few examples of recent marketing campaigns focused around minor holidays.

Ben & Jerry’s and Earth Day:

               In 2015 Ben & Jerry’s decided to celebrate Earth Day by creating a new flavor called, “Save Our Sworld.” They created this flavor to bring attention to the pressing issue of our environment and climate change. Not only did Ben & Jerry’s create this exciting new flavor, but they also backed up their message by partnering with Tesla, the electric car company, to launch their new flavor and show the world they are using less fuel. Ben & Jerry’s also created the 100% Clean Power Petition and put it on their website so customers could get involved. Producing an Earth Day campaign did wonders for the Ben & Jerry’s brand. Not only did they profit from the new flavor they created, it was also a great PR move. How could you dislike a brand that is trying to help make the “sworld” a better place?

SodaStream and April Fool’s Day:

               First, I know what many of you are thinking, is April Fool’s Day even a real holiday? Yes, yes it is (at least in my opinion, which for the sake of this blog is all that matters.) Anyway, this year SodaStream paired up with Paris Hilton to create an April Fool’s day campaign that according to Adweek, “deserved a special shoutout.” To fool the world, Paris Hilton starred in a fake video promoting SodaStream’s new product, “NanoDrop,” a fictitious sparking-water product that claims to be 5,000 times more hydrating than regular water. Although the NanoDrop was a joke, this campaign was far from laughable. The Paris Hilton/NanoDrop ad helped spread the word about the SodaStream brand. This prank even spread awareness about the SodaStream across the world, ending up in publications like The Times of Israel.

Krispy Kreme and St. Patrick’s Day:

             A doughnut is not usually the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about St. Patrick’s Day, but Krispy Kreme found a creative way to get involved in the festivities. This year, for one day only, Krispy Kreme turned all of their original glazed doughnuts into “O'riginal Glazed Green Doughnuts”! Dying foods green for St. Patrick’s Day is not a new discovery by any means, but because Krispy Kreme is such a traditional and well-known brand, the news of them changing one of their most popular products earned the company a lot of press. Also, by making this a “one day only” promotion, it created a sense of urgency for the customers to go and buy a unique green doughnut. By giving in to the holiday spirit and turning their traditional glazed doughnut green, Krispy Kreme sure hit the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

No matter what marketing angle you chose, holidays, even the smallest of them, provide brands and marketers the opportunity to think outside the box and be creative. Also, tying in the holidays to campaigns helps humanize your brand. It helps connect with you audience on a more personal, fun level, and it allows your message to resonate with the customers current state of mind. Whether it is Earth Day, April Fool’s, St. Patty’s, or something as mainstream as Christmas, brands can’t go wrong with holiday themed marketing campaigns.

Technology in Restaurants- What does the Future Hold?

Technology in Restaurants- What does the Future Hold?

Recently, our fearless leader Lonny went to a rather popular chain restaurant with his kids and when he arrived at work the next morning, there was only one thought on his mind. This thought wasn’t about the quality of the food (which for the record, wasn’t great), but rather, the fact that the restaurant had tablets built into every table.  This interesting feature opened up a debate in our office about the pros and cons of bringing technology to the dinner table. 

First, let’s tackle the obvious - how technology is applied in the restaurant space is key.  Meal time is an opportunity to do more than eat; it’s a time for people to get together and actually talk to each other (believe it or not, there are some who still engage in face to face conversations from time to time.) I don’t love the idea of adding a permanent distraction in the middle of the table that gives people even more of a reason to ignore each other.  Who hasn’t walked into a restaurant, stumbled across the following scene (or have even been a part of it) and thought, “Yikes, this is wrong!"

Phones down, eyes up people!  Not a great look, to say the least, but it is safe to say this is not the end result restaurants are looking for.  So let’s take a moment to collectively agree that when we sit down with our friends, families and loved ones for a good meal, we try to actually interact with one another.  Glad we got that out of the way…

Now, this is not to say there isn’t a use for this kind of “table tech.”  In fact, notable chains like Olive Garden and Chili’s have recently partnered with Ziosk, a company specializing in tablets for the diners that actually offer a greater level of engagement with the restaurant itself.  Ziok’s tablets allow diners to view the menu, submit an order, alert their server, pay a bill, etc., all meant to help streamline the dining experience.  To be clear, these are NOT set out to replace your traditional wait staff, but to offer them another way to interact with the customer.  I doubt you’ll find many diners get up in arms over a more efficient dining process…

What I find particularly intriguing here is the “business-to-consumer” application.  Could be the marketer in me, but if there is a tablet (read: easy access consumer touch point) available at every table I immediately think to ways we can tie in third parties.  The possibilities are seemingly endless:  Traditional advertisements, discounts and customer loyalty tracking / awards, promoting branded menu items (i.e.: Friday’s line of Jack Daniels meals), etc.  Simply put these technological integrations offer marketers a fresh, dynamic and cost effective medium to reach consumers; that’s essentially the marketing holy grail!

Moving past the consumer application, some restaurants have taken it a step further and are applying technological solutions in the kitchen.  Imagine this, in real-time restaurants can track orders, keep tabs on inventory, and ensure the entire process happens as efficiently as possible.  That can be a game-changer for some restaurants, many of whom likely don’t know the answer to simple operation questions that fuel their business.  True labor costs, material costs, food costs per-menu item, food waste ratios etc. are critically important to a restaurant’s longevity, but are often difficult to compute.  These sorts of technological integrations could prove to be a saving grace for chefs and restaurateurs across the board. 

The truth is, technology’s vice-like grip on our everyday lives isn’t letting up anytime soon, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing…

The Perfect Moment

The Perfect Moment

           Sponsoring large events, like the Super Bowl, is a great way for brands to get their name out there, but is it really the best way for brands to make a cultural mark? Being a part of these large events has its pros, but it also has the ability to overshadow the sponsoring brands. Rather than latching on to someone else’s moment, we at The Connect Group think brands should start focusing on creating an experience they can define and own themselves. This can create room for a richer brand experience, and also help consumers start to see brands as a larger lifestyle, not just a product. Many larger brands have already tapped into this idea and have had major success because of it, here are a few examples of these brands and what they have done to create their own moments:


           In 2010, Chipotle launched Cultivate. Cultivate is a one-day, free festival that brings people together to celebrate food and music. This festival offers live music and on-site chef demonstrations, as well as interactive experiences focused on sustainable food. Beyond offering a fun space for consumers to have a good time, Chipotle also uses the festival as a platform to encourage attendees to think and talk about food in an engaging setting.  Now in its six year, Cultivate has partnered with countless other brands including Naked Juice, and California Avocados, and has proved to be a successful marketing tool for the brand. Rather than piggybacking off other brands events, Chipotle has created its own, and the success of Cultivate is a true testament to the power of brands creating their own moment. 


           Budweiser’s Made in America music festival is an event I have been to myself, so I can testify its popularity. This music festival features some of the top artists in the country and attracts nearly 80,000 people each year. Budweiser partners with Live Nation to create this wildly popular show that now takes place in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Budweiser took a risk by creating their own festival, but this moment still has consumers excited and thinking about Budweiser as a brand, making the risk worth the reward.


           Partnering with Swizz Beatz and the Dean Collection, Bacardi produced an event called No Commission: Art Performs. This four-day, immersive brand experience showcased art, music, and of course delicious cocktails. This event had consumers going nuts for the product. Not only did more than 7,000 people attended this event but it also received over 500 million social impressions, including coverage from The New York Times, W Magazine, the Huffington Post, and more. Like Chipotle and Budweiser, Bacardi created their own branding event, and it payed off.

           Since part of our job here at The Connect Group is helping brands get creative and come up with these unique moments, we understand how beneficial it can be to think outside of the marketing box; and although these “moments” can take time to develop, if they are done right the investment can yield a higher ROI than a traditional sponsorship. By creating these types of moments, brands like Chipotle, Budweiser, and Bacardi can display their own unique values and identity while simultaneously selling their products, which is a winning situation in our book.