Pop Secret Pops Digital Kernels To Gain Buzz

Unable to compete with Orville Redenbacher in TV advertising, Diamond Foods brand Pop Secret in 2012 embarked on a series of experimental mobile and social-marketing efforts to try to close the media gap with its larger popcorn rival.
In a keynote Monday at MediaPost’s Mobile Insider conference, Burke Raine, senior director of marketing at Diamond Foods, explained how the company, working with agency Deutsch LA, launched a series of “kernels” -- or lightweight digital initiatives through 2013 -- aimed at making Pop Secret the most talked about popcorn brand on the Web.
The guiding concept was to create various online and mobile widgets and tools that build on the longstanding connection between movies and popcorn. “We wanted to be having small lightweight touchpoints that would create a dialog and a relationship with our consumers over time…easily shared, and shareworthy,” said Raine, while linking Pop Secret with watching movies at home.
In that vein, Pop Secret first introduced a browser plugin in November 2012 that helped users search sites like Netflix to find the best place to watch movies online. Despite gaining some “good PR,” Raine conceded the consumer response was mostly niche-based, with only about 25,000 installs of the software.
It’s next “kernel” involved partnering with holiday e-card companies the following month on movie-themed cards that helped drive a much higher level of social interaction. The e-cards drew 27 million impressions and 2 million social interactions. “Even though owned media on Pop Secret isn’t huge," said Raine, "we were able to partner with some e-cards that have a huge social footprint” -- which boosted its reach.
Pop Secret next ran a campaign with OKCupid called “Movie Match,” which centered on the idea that one of the best predictors for dating is whether both people love horror movies. A Pop Secret-branded section of a users’ profiles on the dating site included questions about the types of movies they like or dislike to help them make a better match.
That effort generated 21 million impressions and a good deal of media coverage. “We leveraged another partner’s footprint in order to draft off of them,” noted Raine about the company’s strategy to team with sites or online services with strong user bases. By contrast, it wasn’t so successful with a mobile created by Deutsch LA through a hackathon competition that let users send invitations for a movie night via Facebook.
Raine said the site “did OK,” but lacked sufficient media support to gain more traction. He emphasized the importance of publicizing such novel marketing tactics and not to expect that word of mouth alone would carry the day. Pop Secret saw better results subsequently with its Pop Dongle -- a mobile phone attachment that emits the scent of popcorn while someone is playing the brand’s Poptopia mobile game.
So far, the Pop Dongle has delivered 400 million media impressions, while Poptopia had 100,000 downloads, said Raine. The company also launched a Perfect Pop app that “listens” to the pops coming from the microwave to alert you when the popcorn is perfectly done. It’s had 250,000 downloads to date.
The eight experimental marketing programs rolled out in the last year helped Diamond Foods achieve its goal of becoming the most talked about popcorn brand online, according to Raine. He said Orville Redenbacher went from having 1.8 times as many social mentions as Pop Secret to that ratio being almost reversed.
Raine acknowledged that the overall concept focusing on the connection between popcorn and movies dropped away over the course of the year, in part, given the difficulty in working through legal rights issues associated with movie content. But in relation to experimental marketing, he endorsed the idea of making lots of small bets to see what works best.
Raine also advised creating apps or other marketing content that’s useful or entertaining or both, and continuing to update material created for a campaign. “It’s no longer one and done, software stays out there, so you have to continue to stay on top of it.” In that vein, he said the latest version of the Perfect Pop app would be available next month in the iTunes App Store.
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