Food For Thought: Social Media Innovations Galore

by , Dec 31, 2010, 7:15 AM
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Del MonteTwenty-ten saw food/beverage and restaurant brands pulling out the innovation stops in response to economy-driven "new normal" behaviors -- the former to combat private-label incursion and capitalize on more at-home eating, the latter to woo consumers out of their homes at mealtimes. The common ground: CPGs and foodservice brands alike devised highly creative ways to harness social media.

Marketing Daily readers were clearly hungry for inspirational social media marketing examples from food/restaurant marketers ... as well as for broader social and integrated media insights provided by some intriguing research over the past year, as shown by the top 10 best-read stories by yours truly:

1. Top Execs Dish About Social Media

Hey ... everyone wants to know what the folks in the executive suite are thinking. And when senior executives at major companies (PepsiCo, Hershey and McDonald's, to name a few) reveal their views on social media -- channels that are simultaneously a boon and a constant challenge for marketers -- you've got a winning combination of two hot topics. Most important, these executives offered specific, thoughtful, on-spot insights on best practices for leveraging these emerging media.

2. Chipotle Mexican Grill Wants Your Spam

This QSR came up with a clever idea: A "No Junk" cause-related campaign that both enhanced existing customer relationships and built awareness among potential converts to its "fast-food-with-integrity" brand promise. Each time a consumer forwarded a piece of junk mail to Chipotle, the chain made a donation to The Lunch Box, an organization dedicated to helping schools serve healthy meals. The campaign's premise -- and Chipotle's effective use of social and online media to get the message out -- grabbed the attention of our readers, as well as the chain's target consumers.

3. Coke Scores With First Viral Video

Granted, any Coca-Cola marketing effort is bound to be of interest to other marketing pros ... but this one was particularly intriguing. To support its "Open Happiness" global marketing campaign, Coke created a "Happiness Machine" -- a vending machine installed on a college campus that dispensed free Coke, whole pizzas and balloon animals, among other goodies -- and filmed students' delighted responses, using the footage as the brand's first-ever viral-only (no TV ad usage) video. Viral is right: Within a week of posting the video on YouTube, sending a single global tweet and posting some mentions on Coke's Facebook page, Coke enjoyed 645,000 views of its video.

4. Tweeters Star In Wheat Thins TV Ads

This Kraft Foods/Nabisco brand leveraged Twitter with panache. Wheat Thins identified random tweeters about its crackers (eschewing a predictable focus on the brand's actual Twitter followers), and filmed their reactions as Wheat Thins reps surprised them on their home turf with branded gifts ... like an entire pallet of free boxes of the crackers. The videos were then used for TV ads and social/online media efforts that both entertained and effectively conveyed the brand's "Crunch is Calling" message.

5. Emergen-C Uses Social Media for (Real) Sampling

This marketer of fizzy vitamin drink mixes intrigued marketing colleagues by moving the power of digital engagement into the real world. The idea: Enabling social media fans to get or gift friends with free, mail-delivered sample packets (as well as the virtual type).

6. Hispanic Study Reveals Marketing-Critical Complexities

The hot button here was all marketers' need to understand the nuances of communicating effectively with the crucial, rapidly growing U.S. Hispanic population. Marketing Daily readers clearly gleaned some insights from highlights of a year-long, in-depth study by Starcom MediaVest and NBC Universal's Telemundo, which shed light on the true diversity of Hispanics and offered specific guidance for marketing appropriately and effectively to specific Hispanic audience segments.

7. Kraft Mac & Cheese Gets New, Unified Look

Marketing Daily broke the story of Kraft's iconic Macaroni & Cheese brand rolling out a new logo featuring a "noodle smile" and contemporary package design across its product line. The initiatives, backed by a 360-degree campaign (noodle-smile billboards and public-place sculptures, as well as digital and more standard traditional media) are capitalizing on the brand's enhanced, economy-driven momentum. Tongue-in-cheek messaging with both humorous and sentimental appeal assures value-driven parents that they, along with their families, should enjoy the original meal-in-a-box they loved as kids -- as well as the brand's new, more sophisticated family offerings.

8. Reports: New Insights On Social Media's Impact

More social media insights ... this time in a restaurant industry context. Highlights from a major social media study conducted by food service consultancy Technomic showed these media having limited impact on QSR restaurants' overall potential customer universe, but a major influence within specific, younger dining-out segments. Restaurant (and other) marketers took notice.

9. Oscar Mayer Auctions Wienermobile Adventure

A contest concept that made the most of both a fun/whimsical element and cause-related marketing. Oscar Mayer built on older consumers' fond, well-embedded image of the brand -- yet also appealed to new generations with no memory of the iconic "I Wish I Were An Oscar Meyer Weiner" commercials /campaign. The contest offered parents and kids a chance to ride around on a "Weinermobile" and share the fun with their neighbors, while also contributing to a worthy cause: Contest entries triggered Oscar Mayer donations to Feeding America.

10. Facebook: How Formats, Timing Affect Response

Facebook being the primary social medium for many brands, marketers clearly "liked" absorbing insights from a Vitrue study that revealed which consumer segments are most receptive to which types of Facebook and other social media content (video, text, etc.)

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