Marketing To Women, Part I: Mix Alpha Moms, Cans, Stir In Parties

Many marketers are looking to new media such as blogs and viral videos to generate buzz about their brands. But the Canned Food Alliance (CFA) is trying an old-fashioned tactic that involves pairing influential women with home-based parties and cans of peas and corn.

The CFA is calling on "alpha moms" in the Chicago area to host "CANdelight Dinner Parties," with the bottom line of promoting the nutritional benefits of canned foods and nudging consumers to buy them.

"All clients want blogs, but they're at the bottom of the top 12 among things that shape public opinion," said Kelley Skoloda, partner-director of global brand marketing at Ketchum. Speaking at this week's third-annual Marketing To Women (M2W) conference in Chicago, Skoloda outlined the CFA's new program that is in test in the Chicago area.

Much has been said and reported about the importance of word-of-mouth marketing. But how to actually get words in the mouths of influencers is as inexact as grandma's secret recipe for baklava. Ketchum's research into what influences women to put their wallets on the check-out counter finds that 91% of women said they're influenced by friends and family when it comes to food, consumer electronics and packaged goods, and 88% listen to experts such as doctors, chefs and other higher-ups. As for blogs: only 40% of women are moved to buy products because of blogs. But 71% and 70% of women said they turn to their local TV news and newspapers, respectively, to help them make decisions on what to buy.



"Local news is the best fodder to create credible opinions with friends and family," said Skoloda. "They're a great way to get people talking."

Another great way to get people, especially women, talking is to get them together. To that end, Ketchum and The Haystack Group devised the "CANdelight Dinner Party" program for the CFA. It involves recruiting "alpha moms" - i.e., women who influence their networks of friends and acquaintances -- to have in-home cooking parties that revolve around canned food. But how to find the alpha moms? It's not as simple as pulling up to a suburban soccer game and looking for the lady with the most creative snacks. Ketchum and Haystack called on leaders of established groups such as "moms" or "family cooking" on, a website that connects people with like-minded interests. It also used Haystack's database of influential mothers with wide and deep social networks.

The CFA provides willing "CANdelight" hostesses with recipes, tools, ingredients and a $50 certificate for other expenses, such as herbs or locally grown produce to use in the recipes. Canned food includes things like Bush's Best beans, Del Monte corn, Green Giant peas and less common items like hominy, a corn product used in many Mexican dishes.

The tool kits are central to the success of the program, Skoloda said. "The tool kits are very robust. The woman feels it's incredible that someone would give her such quality information and products for free. She sees it as a premium value, so she'll recruit friends and family to come in to her home to experience it with her. You have to have spot-on meaning to the essence of what you're doing."

Hostesses and guests are asked to fill out pre- and post-party surveys, which Skoloda and her team are using to track whether the parties change attitudes, perceptions and purchasing intent of canned food. And six weeks after the party, the women get another survey that attempts to discern if they've changed their cooking or buying habits.

Peas, anyone?

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