Buick has several pans on the stove to promote vehicles like the new Regal and Lacrosse to culinary aficionados. While the efforts include experiential marketing tours and partnerships with publishers, Buick is also hoping to put mileage on the Lacrosse as sole sponsor of "Project Food Blog," a contest by culinary social-media network Foodbuzz intended to engage food bloggers around the world.
The effort is meant to get thousands to compete in a series of writing, cooking and food photography challenges for the chance to win $10,000 and a feature on Foodbuzz.com for one year.
Janet Keller, digital-social media manager at Buick and GMC, says the Foodbuzz program highlights Buick's affinity-marketing strategy around culinary, travel, technology and culture. "Foodbuzz is a perfect alignment for us. They are on the forefront of this huge community of people and the concept of [marketing around] blogging is intriguing because it's extremely interactive," she says.
Ben Dehan, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Foodbuzz, says the key to ROI on platforms like his is not click-throughs but value and relevance. He says the company also measures the volume of content carrying Buick's brand identity -- which includes the number of views such content actually gets whether via posts by bloggers, or comments around those posts, and other viral content elaborated from social-media ripostes. "It's not about displays. It's not dictating a message, but creating valuable products and letting the community take control of it," Dehan says.
The three-year old company -- which, according to measurement service Quantcast, is the top online food network in terms of traffic with some 13 million unique users per month worldwide -- is also a MediaPost OMMA nominee for online advertising creativity in the sponsorship category. The company is holding a "Blogger Festival" on Nov. 5 in San Francisco with sponsors like Electrolux, Ghirardelli, and Nature's Pride.
Buick's Keller argues that partnering with a blogging contest makes more sense than, say, doing a show-and-tell at the Ace Hotel because Buick is more interested in the culinary lifestyle as an expression of discovery than as a privilege of luxury.
"Foodbuzz is where bloggers are talking about recipes or ways of presenting food that they have discovered, so it's about unexpected, hidden gems, and that really mirrors our audience. It is premium but also aspirational," she says.
Buick also just launched a "Buick Regal Discovery Tour," a Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure-sponsored road show combining ride-and-drives with a culinary tour featuring local talent. Keller says the event, hitting 11 markets, started last weekend in Chicago and garnered between 600 and 800 test drives. Keller says those are big numbers for a tour of this type. "Typically, we have 700 test drives for the entire length of a program like this," she says.
The tour, running through December, has five culinary "stations" featuring local chefs preparing dishes, and local artisans and travel consultants. New York is next, then D.C.
Buick has also partnered with Bravo's "Top Chef Just Desserts" and The Food Network's "The Next Food Network Star."