If I asked you to name someone you know personally that doesn’t like to talk about sports, or clothing, you’d think of someone fairly easily. Even though these are insanely popular topics of conversation, you probably know someone that isn’t really interested in discussing them. But what if I asked you to name someone you know personally that doesn’t like to talk about food? You’d have to think a little harder. Humans love to talk about it almost as much as they love to eat it. In fact, people are mentioning food and beverages an average of 7.6 times per week to friends, according to Keller Fay Group. Now that these conversations are taking place across the social web, where they can be archived, sliced, and analyzed, food brands have no excuse not to use them to enhance everything they create. Here’s how some of the leading food companies are putting social to work.
Recipes get people to food brand websites. According to Michael Lamontagne at MediaPost:
From December 2009 to May 2010, the top searched and clicked paid keywords across a panel of 16 CPG food brand websites found that 58% of the top 100 keywords were recipe specific, 20% were brand and 18% were food-specific (i.e. pasta salad). Interestingly, only 2% of the keywords related to coupons.
Google has even rolled out a special Recipe View within its search results, in response to incredible demand—1% of all Google searches are recipe-related, amounting to 1 billion searches per month. Recipes have always been passed along through WOM, and digital makes this incredibly easy. Consumers with specific food needs, like gluten-free or kid-friendly meals, love to share ideas with each other, so food brands should create sections and pages on these topics and make sorting and filtering a priority.
Food brands can learn a lot from the ways that customers interact with onsite recipes. Reviews left on individual recipes can guide product formulations, inform marketing copy, and modernize recipes for Gen Y and Millennials, who are used to leaving digital feedback nearly everywhere they go.
Product innovation and co-creation
By far the most visible example of the power of food-related UGC is Domino’s Pizza’s now-famous Pizza Turnaround campaign, in which they reformulated their pizza based on two years of taste tests and other research, and then asked America to try it and share feedback. This feedback appears everywhere from reviews on their website that ask customers to score flavor, toppings, crust and sauce separately, to a digital billboard in Times Square. Aside from the huge amount of attention the public feedback campaigns have generated for the brand, the UGC is being picked apart for insight into how to make pizza that will wow their customers.
UK food brand Marmite used a Facebook “Sampling Ad” to offer free samples of a new snack bar to targeted consumers, who were then asked to leave their feedback on the Marmite Facebook Page.
The vitaminwater flavor “connect” was the result of a three-month campaign, in which the brand let fans vote on and design nearly every attribute of the new beverage, including the label, flavor mix, “functional benefit” and more. In an interview with Mashable, Matt Kahn, Senior VP of Marketing at vitaminwater put it this way: “At the time, the vitaminwater flavor creator program was a natural next step — it allowed for us to bring more exclusive content and real programming directly to our fans.”
Sharper audience profiles
Oreo analyzed location data for the 5 million Facebook fans it had at the time (2010) and realized that its online fan base was truly global; more than 2.5 million of them hailing from countries other than the US. It internationalized its page, including a new “World’s Fan” in its profile picture each week, creating sub-pages like Oreo Malaysia, embedding commercials from markets like Mexico and collecting “Oreo Moments”—photos of fans enjoying Oreos from all over the world. Now the brand has over 23 million Facebook fans, and posts like this one (29,486 likes, 172 shares, 4,616 comments).
Brian Solis and ReSearch.ly analyzed the interest graph of 50,000 Starbucks’ Twitter followers to learn more about them as people, as reflected in their bios. Brian’s interest mining led to a better understanding of the things that @starbucks followers care about. Not surprisingly, he found that “coffee is among the least used words in the bio, but used nonetheless.” The geo and gender breakdown of followers was also analyzed, and found that 63% were women, 37% were men, and more than a quarter of them lived outside of the US.
We all eat and drink, and we all talk about it. It’s time for more food and beverage brands to put our words to work.