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Think BR: From pixel to plate - food & drink marketing in a digital age

When it comes to food and drink marketing there are a few house rules to consider if you want to avoid digital indigestion, writes Robert Goldsmith, managing partner, Spinnaker.

obert Goldsmith, managing partner, Spinnaker

obert Goldsmith, managing partner, Spinnaker

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An interesting couple of hours at the SMW event Nosh a couple of weeks ago concluded with a tangy and tasty finish courtesy of some delicious Indian street food samples from the Soho restaurant @Moolis.

The main event menu entitled The Social Business of Food comprised talks from Ollie Lloyd of @gbchefs, Kath Ludlow of Moolis and Nick Holzherr of @whiskteam. All provided ample demonstration that food and drink digital marketing is coming of age.

Engagement through strong and relevant content, delivering consumer action through timely digital comms, and driving direct sales through technology were the respective themes that emerged out of each talk.

Further proof of this positive trend for food, drink and digital was evidenced in Nielsen’s recent piece of research How digital influences how we shop around the world.

The piece of work reveals increases of 44% in online grocery purchases over two years, with 6 in 10 using the internet to research food and drink and 46% using social to make purchase decisions.

This all makes encouraging reading for those in the business of marketing a food or drink brand and about to embark on a digital strategy. Mobile technologies are bringing the digital consumer closer to the fixture, technologies such as Whisk/Ad2basket/Slingshot are making online grocery commerce easier, social commerce is offering potential for NPD and, brand education is becoming more creative through the use of video and apps.

But sadly it is not just about creating a website, sticking up a couple of social pages and waiting for the golden goose to be served. Rather, before we tuck in we need to consider a few house rules to avoid digital indigestion or hangovers.

  1. What sort of digital brand are you? Is your brand a natural talker whose personality will lend itself to the social environment and, most importantly, benefit from this exposure? Do you need to find or leverage an interest that your brand can attach itself to? Are you about information, entertainment, education or deals? All of these considerations will determine the relative use of social, website, search, email, mobile. 
  2. What sort of digital consumer is your audience? I have seen way too many situations where brands and agencies try to justify the use of particular social (or other digital channel) techniques on the back of broad digital usage penetration data. These stats provide pointers but it is not about ‘x% of the UK population aged 25-45 ever having used Facebook’ – it is about digital behaviour. Will your audience participate in apps, games, quizzes or are they just looking for information? Are they passive or active? Are they looking for deals and coupons? Do they look to be informed and educated? Do they use video, are they likely to share the information they find? 
  3. Digital shopper marketing is coming of age. If shopper marketing is defined as anything that influences consumer behaviour on the path to purchase then digital marketing has of course always had a shopper influence. The difference now is there is that there is an increasing number of digital opportunities that a) drive direct purchase, eg, couponing, direct click-to-basket technology from any site, social commerce and b) engage with consumers at the point of purchase, eg, mobile integration via codeless scanning and digital signage itself. The digital food marketer needs to build these into any digital plan that has sales as its primary objective. 
  4. Be clear about what success will look like. Setting clear and desirable KPIs is imperative - there is no point having a KPI of 10 zillion likes or X,000 registrants if you have no idea what you will do with these when you get there. What end consumer action are you looking for? Is it about a drive to an online purchase or offline fixture? Is it about driving reach? Is it about positive engagement and, if so, what are you going to get out of this engagement - greater reach, cross sell, loyalty, positive reviews? 
  5. Personalisation. Relationship marketing has always grounded itself in being as personalised as possible. Food and drink marketers have not traditionally been the most prolific users of relationship marketing - in print format the margins have just not been there for most grocery brands to enable personalised and segmented messaging. In digital form this obstacle has been overcome. The potential is there to individualise messages to varying types of consumer segments in line with their interests, needs, lifestage and depth of relationship with the brand. Use Facebook, email, Google+ and other channels that enable personalised messaging and respond to the results that you deliver. 
  6. Relevance. The digital arena is clogged with clutter that fills the airwaves. If you want to be listened to you need to be saying things, posting things and showing things that are in tune with what your audience wants. Listen, observe, test and respond. 
  7. Allow users to lead. If you’ve succeeded in being personalised and relevant then this should come naturally. Allow your consumers to feel a sense of ownership and people engagement in the environment that you have created for them online. They won’t want to be sold at. Who does? They will want to be enlightened, guided and rewarded in line with situations that they feel like they have directed. Make yourself a destination for the users you want to engage with and who are likely to be the most vocal. Listen to what they want and give them content on their terms even if it feels at odds with anything that has gone before.   
  8. Make content shareable. Don’t just post anything. Be thoughtful, strategic and creative. Make your pictures striking, create a tone of voice that is friendly, deliver video that is interesting and invest money to achieve this. If you don’t then all those reach, engagement and sales KPIs will fall behind your expectations. 
  9. Be integrated. Digital is not an island. It needs to be integrated with other off-line channels. It can act as a two way traffic driver to social/web pages and, in turn, to fixture, to events and to off-line comms that might otherwise go unnoticed. It needs to reflect the brand story that is being delivered in other channels and with its inherent space and potential for interaction it needs to build on the brand story.
  10. Look beyond the here and now. If you are looking to 2013 to ramp up your digital programme then you need to look further. Think about how your digital strategy should evolve over 3-5 years. How do you want and/or anticipate your consumers to be engaging with your brand then. You don’t need to know what technologies will be around then (if only we could crystal ball gaze) but you do need to know what sort of relationship you want your brand to be having with your consumers. This will help you create platforms that are in line with this aim. And you will have digital strategies that are as future proofed as possible with clear targets for all stakeholders to buy into and go after.

Bon appetit.

Robert Goldsmith, managing partner, Spinnaker


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