'13 Shift: Marketers Dive Deeper Into Brand Strategy

What can be gleaned from reviewing Marketing Daily's best-read 2013 articles in the food and beverages, restaurant and spirits markets (my main coverage beats)?

This year, just three of the top 10 bore headlines that clearly identified them as focused primarily on social media campaigns, and only one made the top five. In comparison, last year, four social campaign stories led the top five (and the #1 article was about understanding social media "personas").

Does this pattern provide any clue to consumer product marketers' mindsets? Perhaps -- armed with growing experience and metrics/results in social media -- there's a bit less focus on the latest social twists and experiments, and greater ability to put social's most effective roles into context within specific brands' overall strategic goals and media mixes? 

Well, that's just one hypothesis...although anecdotally, over the course of my hundreds of interviews during 2013, there did seem to be a detectable shift toward marketers wanting to discuss a given brand's overriding mission and overall strategy/media mix -- not just its latest social initiative.

And Now (Drum Roll)...The 2013 Top 10

#1: Eight O'Clock Coffee Ups Marketing for Brand Refresh 

Case in point: The year's #1 best-read article within these market sectors focused on Eight O'Clock Coffee's investment in a major, overall brand refresh – which was most notable for the brand's significant investment in its first television campaign in seven years.

Eight O'Clock, which has been very active in using socially based promotions in recent years, launched a new social sweeps as one component in introducing its updated product packaging and several new coffee varieties. At the same time, it clearly determined that TV should be a cornerstone in building awareness of the brand's quality message among its key target audience: Millennials. To wit: The campaign's overall theme that people who "put coffee first" choose Eight O'Clock is, in the TV spots, conveyed by showing young adults prioritizing their yen for the brand's coffee over opportunities for career advancement or the lure of a romantic encounter.

#2: Super Bowl: 39% Prefer Ads Over Game

Another TV-oriented story...offering the perhaps irresistible combination of the Super Bowl and evidence that creative advertising can actually trump Americans' obsession with football.

Given the jaw-dropping cost of a 30-second Super Bowl ad (roughly $3.75 million in 2013), it's no surprise that marketers would take heart in having it confirmed (by a Lab42 survey of 250 males and 250 females) that 39% of adults prefer the ads over the game, versus 28% favoring the game. (And that 38% prefer taking bathroom breaks during the game, versus 23% taking time-outs during the commercials.) 

#3: General Mills Launches National Cereal Week

This ambitious, cross-brand strategic initiative by a giant CPG company certainly got MD readers' attention, and was a prime example of strategic integration.

The National Cereal Week campaign -- an extension of the company's ongoing "Hello, Cereal Lovers" initiative -- employed an innovative, brand-agnostic approach to using social media tactics to engage consumers with all General Mills brands. But it also reached out to the less digitally focused with a cereal recipes placement segment on "The Chew," traditional media and live-event appearances by a celebrity chef, and radio contests/giveaways.

#4: Panera Bread Aims for Social Food Chain Reaction

While the headline focuses on the social element (our first "socially-focused" top-10 article of the year), the article also quickly establishes that Panera Bread's "Food Chain Reaction" social media campaign is in fact one of many multichannel efforts in its overall, new "Live Consciously" brand platform (with a budget of about $70 million, up 30% from 2012's advertising budget).

The social element builds on a cause-related partnership with Feeding America, encouraging consumers to trigger food donations by the brand by creating online circles of five friends on a Food Chain Reaction platform on Panera's Facebook page. At the same time, the "Live Consciously" campaign includes significant investments in advertising on national cable and local television, radio, national print, outdoor and digital video and display ads. 

This integrated approach is designed to convey and engage consumers with the brand's "purpose-driven" mission and philosophy -- a decided departure from most restaurant brands' focus on product- and offer-driven advertising.

#5: Absolut Launches Global 'Transform Today' Campaign

Another example of a campaign that's designed to reinforce a clear brand identity through an engagement strategy that simultaneously leverages social and traditional media.

Absolut's "Transform Today" global campaign targets urban Millennials by profiling young creative professionals in online videos and TV spots, online and print ads, events and, of course, social media.

The idea: Young adults will relate to inspirational peers who share their philosophy that they can truly take control of their own futures -- and in the process connect with the Absolut brand's "creative DNA."

#6: Oscar Mayer's Men's Gift Packs 'Say It With Bacon'

Bacon continued to be a hot food trend in 2013, and MD readers clearly appreciated Oscar Mayer's innovative efforts to strike while the iron (or should we say pan?) was hot.

The Kraft Foods Group brand verged for the first time beyond physical grocery retailers to offer its first products designed for gift-giving: Limited-release bacon gift packs dubbed the “Oscar Mayer Original Collection," timed for Father's Day.

Gift-givers could select one of three themed packs -- each including 18-20 slices of Oscar Mayer Original Bacon, plus other goodies…and each lavishly packaged in a velvet jewelers box. The three gift packs were sold exclusively on a “Say It With Bacon” site that showcased the boxes in a graphic design that parodied jewelry ads, with a script headline: “When words aren’t enough….Say it with bacon…Give the world’s most tasteful gift.”

Oscar Mayer used an equally tongue-in-cheek video on YouTube, and a tool on a branded site that let consumers accompany their gifts with free, personalized gift cards, to add sizzle to this creative promotion.

#7: Kraft Mac & Cheese Launches New Hispanic Creative

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese continued to represent a notable example of a brand that's "walking the talk" when it comes to marketing that's genuinely created and implemented for the Hispanic market, yet is consistent with the brand's overall marketing message and strategy.

After scoring a hit with its (Effie Award-winning) Hispanic campaign launched in 2012, dubbed “Sabemos que te va a encantar” (“We know you’re going to love it”), the brand last year followed up with a new round of TV spots and other creative focused on driving home a core message in humorous fashion: Eating this American favorite doesn’t make Latinos any less Latino. 

The new spots' creative used the same core "straight-talking kids" approach as its general-market spots, but with critical differences in the message/context, and with Hispanic kids delivering that message. 

All of the ads are being aired in Spanish without English subtitles, on channels including Telemundo, Univision, Galavision, Azteca, Discovery en Espanol, MTV3, Fox Deportes, ESPN Deportes and Nat Geo Mundo. The campaign also includes targeted radio ads, and in-store point-of-purchase promotions and sampling opportunities. Social media aren’t part of the current Hispanic campaign, but will be key in upcoming efforts.

#8: Lay's Announces Crowdsourced Flavor Finalists

This obviously social media-driven initiative was nevertheless notable in no small part for its success at driving a huge amount of free/earned coverage in traditional media, as well as social buzz and engagement.

In its "Do Us a Flavor" campaign, Lay's drew an impressive 3.8 million digital submissions from fans suggesting new potato chip flavors, picked three to distribute nationally at retail, and then let fans determine through social media voting which of those three would stay on store shelves. It followed the submissions phase with a "Save Your Favorite" social media push, encouraging fans to buy and try all three flavors, then vote for their favorite on social media. 

(The Cheesy Garlic Bread flavor ultimately won -- earning its creator $1 million or 1% of her flavor’s 2013 net sales, whichever is higher -- and generating another frenzy of media coverage and social buzz. And BTW, the two runners-up flavors made an "encore" appearance in stores over the summer.)

All of this was supported not just by outreach via its own social media assets, but significant spending on search and paid banner ads, a TV spot, radio, PR, in-store promotions and promotional events.

How much press coverage did this flavor crowdsourcing marketing push generate? A single, recent Google search (of "Lay's Do Us a Flavor") generated 167,000 results.

#9: Coke Targets Teens With Its First All-Digital Effort

OK, the whole point of this one is that a huge global brand opted for the first time to launch a major initiative to reach teens that was nearly all-digital. (Note: headline space limitations don't always allow for nuances.)

Coke's "AHH Effect" campaign, intended to be a multi-year effort, aims to connect with teens through a variety of “snackable” digital content, ranging from videos and GIFs that are consumed in seconds to games that engage them for longer periods. The content is designed mainly for teens’ “first screen” -- their mobile phone (or tablet), but it's also accessible by desktop through the initiative’s destination site, Ahh.com.

While the social elements are too diverse to rehash here (use the story link above), many a marketer reading this piece no doubt envied the ability of Coke and Coke and agency Wieden + Kennedy to analyze the results biweekly, determine which content is working best, and quickly generate new content reflecting optimal engagement-driving factors.

Still, Coke did give these ambitious digital efforts a bit of support via other teen-friendly channels, including exposure for the "AAH Effect" in movie theaters, theme parks and convenience stores, plus on-bottle call-outs driving them to the campaign's AHH URLs.

#10: Haagen-Dazs Gelato Launch Uses 'La Dolce Vita' Theme

Perhaps demonstrating that spot-on, just-plain-appealing creative concepts still go hand-in-hand with primary platform and media decisions, Häagen-Dazs invested heavily in TV spots to launch its gelato line in the U.S.

It's hard to imagine a more natural and effective approach to building wide awareness of the brand's take on a quintessentially Italian treat than the four TV spots (from Goodby Silverstein & Partners) that both embraced and spoofed the sexually charged passion of classic Fellini films. (Notably, one showing an Italian couple interrupting a heated personal argument -- in Italian, with English subtitles -- just long enough to enjoy a mutually ecstatic moment of savoring Häagen-Dazs gelato.)

But Häagen-Dazs also leveraged social and other media, including print and digital ads in national media brands. In one effort, it offered a multichannel content series featuring the work of artists who epitomize the "la dolce vita" life philosophy (using social and other channels to offer weekly giveaways of these works to Häagen-Dazs fans).

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