Will food brands find success recipe in social media?

Articles
March 16, 2009

Will food brands find success recipe in social media?

Click the ‘media’ tab and go to YouTube or Flickr, or the ‘friends’ tab to see Facebook, or ‘chatter’ to visit Twitter. The move built buzz, not all of it kind. Some Twitter commentary, for instance, quickly turned negative against the fruit candy brand once people realized they could say anything plus the word ‘Skittles’ and wind up on the brand’s home page. Not too tasty for the brand, but Mars Snackfood U.S. claims no comments have been removed. That’s a different kind of problem for a family-oriented brand with expletives in the stream. Some bloggers call this a brave experiment, even admirable, because Skittles is a fun brand that doesn’t take itself so seriously. We at SupermarketGuru.com wonder, however, if the move will build sales, or effectively motivate the youth market it says it targeted, or simply generate too much of a backlash risk. Certainly Mars could have played it safer, as PepsiCo did last November when it used FriendFeed to help moderate comments of social networkers.

Skittles wasn’t the first food brand to dip into social media, only one of the most extreme.  The brand redesigned its Web home page site earlier this month to simply hover as a navigation bar above its broader venues of online presence—including  YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Click the ‘media’ tab and go to YouTube or Flickr, or the ‘friends’ tab to see Facebook, or ‘chatter’ to visit Twitter.

The move built buzz, not all of it kind. Some Twitter commentary, for instance, quickly turned negative against the fruit candy brand once people realized they could say anything plus the word ‘Skittles’ and wind up on the brand’s home page.  Not too tasty for the brand, but Mars Snackfood U.S. claims no comments have been removed. That’s a different kind of problem for a family-oriented brand with expletives in the stream.

Some bloggers call this a brave experiment, even admirable, because Skittles is a fun brand that doesn’t take itself so seriously. We at SupermarketGuru.com wonder, however, if the move will build sales, or effectively motivate the youth market it says it targeted, or simply generate too much of a backlash risk.  Certainly Mars could have played it safer, as PepsiCo did last November when it used FriendFeed to help moderate comments of social networkers.

Two other social media tests under apparently tighter control include:
•    HanginthereJack.com .  Can site visitor concerns over Jack, an ailing, good-humored man with a giant Styrofoam ball for a head, help propel fast-food sales for the Jack in the Box network of 2,170 stores? According to MSNBC, “more than 77,000 get-well wishes and videos were posted online. Online videos were viewed more than 4.3 million times. More than 67,000 people signed up to receive updates on Jack’s condition through the website, Jack’s Facebook page and Jack’s Twitter account.”
•    Whole Foods.  Rebounding from the ceo’s earlier social media mess-up relative to Wild Oats, the chain uses Twitter to answer questions from followers about foods it sells. According to Tessa Wegert, an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, a digital marketing agency, the discussion forum works for Whole Foods on Twitter because it is “a grocer catering to consumers with special interests and needs. A vegan who’s allergic to sunflower seeds doesn’t want to mess around with unclear package messaging. She wants to know there’s a place where she can go to get the facts.” In her recent column on ClickZ.com, she concluded, “Twitter, to that consumer, is a direct link to a brand that’s entrenched in her world and a major part of her life philosophy. Knowing she can get her questions answered quickly and efficiently means a lot.”