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Snacks brands need meaningful content to drive in-store purchases via social

While brands such as Frito-Lay and Coca Cola set the pace for the group by tapping social intelligently and with relevance to connect with and motivate buyers, most snacks brands activate social at the beginning of the purchase funnel to inspire consumers, keep their brand top of mind and get on their shopping list. This lack of focus on completing purchases underscores how a large chunk of social’s potential remains untapped.

“With so much noise in social channels from brands and people, we have to find ways to develop meaningful content that finds our best shoppers and helps them find us,” said Ethan Goodman, vice president, digital and innovation with the Mars agency.

“This is particularly true with mobile where social content isn’t limited to traditional social channels, but includes SMS and apps.”

Substantial scale
Social allows brands to connect with consumers on a one-to-one basis, at substantial scale. Having an individual moment with a favorite brand can be very powerful experience for the consumer, and social is the best tool for forging those connections, according to Don Mathis, CEO of Kinetic Social, a social data and marketing technology company.

Food and snack brands have realized over the past few years that the shopper journey has become much more complex. The path to purchase is no longer a funnel – it’s a pinball machine of interactions that ultimately ends at the shelf.

“Food and snack brands have a unique challenge,” said Dawn Dubinka, director, digital, for Anthem Worldwide. “They have learned to engage shoppers through social media and content, but how do they drive them to the store and open their wallets? For CPGs, that’s their elusive unicorn of social success.

“Today, that only comes from recognizing consumers’ need states and behaviors and genuinely connecting with them on a one-to-one basis,” she said. “Consumers need to feel they are getting tangible value from engaging with you and that you’re not adding clutter to their lives.” 

Frito-Lay’s brand campaigns often are cited as examples of smart, relevant marketing.

“Whether it is a brand campaign that empowers consumers such as Lay’s Do Us a Flavor, or it is creating a community of brand advocates like Doritos Legion of the Bold, or connecting in-store elements seamlessly into socially centric campaigns, Frito-Lay is approaching social in a smart and relevant way that connects with consumers and ultimately impacts purchase,” said Tom Edwards, senior vice president, strategy, digital at The Marketing Arm, Dallas.

In Frito-Lay’s massive, crowdsourced “Do Us A Flavor” campaign, expanded this year to Instagram and Twitter, consumers could type their flavor ideas into a microsite or take a short quiz about their food preferences to create the perfect chip flavor.

Consumers could share their creations via Twitter for the chance to be included in a shout-out from TV personality Wayne Brady.

The campaign pointed to crowdsourcing’s growth into a trend that marketers are leveraging to create content through smartphones and tablets.

Another memorable Frito-Lay snacks social media campaign is its annual Crash the Super Bowl contest. Consumers create their own Doritos ads, with at least one fan-made commercial guaranteed to air during the widely watched football showcase.

In recent years, Doritos has offered bonus prizes ranging from $400,000 to $1 million for any Crash the Super Bowl ad that scores a top spot on the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter poll.

Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke campaign also is cited as an example of effective social-purchase marketing. Participants can purchase bottles featuring 250 names popular among teens and millennials, and scan a QR code to send a coupon and personalize their own virtual bottles and share them via social media.

One risk with any new product release or ad campaign promoted on social, is that brands are always at some risk of exposing themselves to public comment. The best way to manage that is in the campaign preparation – compiling research and social intelligence prior to execution, so that the brand starts with a sound foundation.

“Advertisers must also be prepared to react and take action throughout the campaign,” Mr. Mathis said. “This extra layer of intelligence gives brands an edge when it comes to predicting product interest, determining the most effective targeting strategy, reacting to the real-time nature of social, building relevant and engaging creative and ultimately ensuring a positive consumer experience. 

“It’s also important to not be complacent during the campaign, make the most of it and continually test audience and creative iterations to ensure the experience is relevant and fresh,” he said. “The right measurement and reporting tools can ensure advertisers make educated decisions for the next phase of their campaigns.”

Still, social’s lack of total acceptance poses a challenge for marketers.

“Social media is still not generally thought of or used as a shopping activator by consumers,” said Tim Dunn, director of mobile and strategy with Isobar US.  “In Google’s recently published ‘Customer Journey to Online Purchase’, social is still very heavily used in the early part of the funnel, with the only media types further up the funnel being email and Display ads.

“Consumers really aren’t on social media for this purpose, so with CPG generally being low-engagement products, the role for social for purchase conversion is not that convincing,” he said.

Other benefits
While there’s not always a good case for instant purchase conversion, there are a number of other benefits to driving engagement through social.

“CPG product choice is still often made in the ‘last 3 feet’ of marketing as the user approaches the aisle,” Mr. Dunn said. “Therefore, any residual favorable awareness generated in previous encounters, particularly with friend endorsement can sway the brand choice.

“Social can also help to build a direct relationship with consumers which have traditionally been intermediated, at great expense, by the retailer,” he said.

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.