The past two decades have been an interesting time period for the food and beverage industry. Whether a business is a retail fast-moving consumer goods manufacturer, restaurant, or catering, there have been observable shifts in the way business owners market their products.
Small food manufacturers are no longer inhibited by competitive entry to retail. New restaurants can have a great consumer reach even without a single franchise. Catering services are able to supply their products a great distance away. All of this is possible because of online technologies.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to do online marketing for food and beverage businesses. You may be tempted to think in terms of how a marketing strategy would fit the format of specific online marketing tools such as search ads, social media, or email marketing.
Instead, let us now start by thinking in terms of how these online marketing tools can help us achieve marketing goals.
There is only one overarching goal of marketing
As a business owner or marketing executive, you may have several marketing metrics to improve to project future sales revenue. But beyond the administrative tasks of optimizing site traffic, post likes and shares, and click-through rates, there is really only one (overarching) goal of marketing: to get people to talk about your business.
There are many marketing tactics – engaging in social discussions online, creating the most media-rich content, and choosing the best keywords for search ads. However, ultimately what brings the most people to your business is word-of-mouth.
Word-of-mouth is generated by essentially two ways – existing customers (referrals) and content marketing. We won’t talk about referrals in this article, because it is a post-sales customer action.
Content marketing, on the other hand, is a marketing engine on its own, and is able to attract new customers into the marketing funnel.
Why people share:
A brief introduction to ‘virality’
There are millions of pieces of content produced each day, and an average person is likely to consume no more than a hundred posts, articles, and videos a day. The numbers are much less if we look at how many pieces of content get shared per the total impression of all content for every individual audience.
Clearly, word-of-mouth can’t be generated if nobody wants to share your content. However, some content is passed on easily, and we call this ‘viral content’. Now, do you need to make viral content to be successful in online marketing? Yes, but not the kind of viral that “breaks the Internet”.
We want to create share-worthy content that at least has some qualities of viral content.
Viral content are interesting cases to study, because many successful campaigns rely on several common attributes that are found in viral content. We do want to create content, adverts, or whatever messages that we want to put in our chosen media, to spread out to our target audiences effectively.
Many great lessons can be learned from Jonah Berger’s Contagious: Why Things Catch On. In this short but dense book, Berger, a Wharton School marketing professor, deconstructs viral messages (from TV ads to publicity stunts) in the past two decades, to see if interesting patterns are apparent.
He found that content is likely to be shared if it contain at least one of these six things:
- It offers social currency.
It makes the person who shares the content seem ‘cool’, updated, intelligent, or every other desirable qualities.
- It is easily remembered with certain triggers.
Can a thing or situation in your target market’s daily life remind them of your brand? Your content should help people make associations between your brand and a potential ‘trigger’ object or situation.
- It evokes strong emotions.
Whether the emotion is positive or negative, good marketing attaches a strong emotional influence to any idea or product, even for products as bland as a blender or a search engine service. We recommend you look up Google’s 2010 advert “Parisian Love” on Youtube.
- It shows social proof.
Starbucks sells tumblers that may not be used to contain their main coffee product. In fact, users like high school students fill these with water. But this marketing strategy works because tumblers are likely to be visible to the public – on tables at work spaces, schools and other indoor spaces. It offers social currency, and blends with the brand’s natural trigger – indoor spaces where people work and collaborate.
- The content offers practical value.
People tend to share useful information to others, because ‘sharing is caring’. This offers social currency as well, since people who share them will be seen as knowledgeable and helpful.
- The message is wrapped inside of stories.
In our blog, we often emphasize that content should look like storytelling rather than ‘advertising’. This is because people seek to be entertained with stories, and brands can make use of people’s inherent curiosity for narratives to build a connection with them.
The next section shows some examples of how these six principles work on Indonesian food and beverage brands.
Sushi house with stairs:
Social currency and social proof through social media
Sushi Hiro in Senopati, Jakarta has a unique way of presenting the classical lovable Japanese sushi. Their ‘Hiro Bombs’ is a miniature staircase, around 30 cm in length, with a display of six salmon and beef rolls, each placed in each step. Apart from that, they also have a wooden multi-tiered bird house-like model, which houses five delicious rolls.
Sushi Hiro is among the first to serve a combo package with this unique presentation. If you look at their social media posts on Instagram, you’ll notice that there are not many comments and only around a hundred likes. In terms of online marketing metrics, maybe the posts are not successful.
But Sushi Hiro’s presentation had gone viral. You’ll have to look away from their official page, and take a look at posts made by other customers. Even if a person had not seen Sushi Hiro’s post and shared them with their friends yet, perhaps the people that they were following may have already posted the Hiro Bomb. Seeing that so many people were posting this (and this was true back in 2017), social currency was created.
Peoples desire to be in the scene, posing with the food and using #StairwaytoHappiness to officiate their achievement. This was how word-of-mouth is generated for such a small street corner restaurant.
Packed lunch – a can of sardines:
Hilarious storytelling with an unlikely trigger
Most large retail food companies want to play it safe. They’d post rich and colorful content that showcases their products’ health and/or economic benefits, and they would perhaps feature an influencer or even a celebrity. Last year, Bantan did something different with their online marketing tactic.
An Instagram post depicts a boy just beginning his journey to school when his mother inserts a can of sardines into his backpack – most likely his lunch to bring to school. The caption only mentions the benefits of the product as if nothing is out of the ordinary.
A can of sardines for packed lunch? Really? This was the reaction of more than a thousand comments. The post was soon featured in sensational news sites and blogs, and for sure, word-of-mouth was generated.
Two subsequent posts later, a post depicts the same boy and his friend in the teacher’s lounge, with an unseen teacher holding a conspicuous can of sardines in her hand. “How are you going to eat this?” she asks, in the caption. The next post reveals the answer and the punchline – the can of sardines was canned at high temperature, and is essentially ready-to-eat. That’s why the school boys were able to eat them directly for lunch.
Did the online marketing campaign work to establish a trigger between Bantan and school lunch? Probably not, even Bantan admits it is an unusual way to serve their product. However, a link between Bantan and the fact that the can is ready-to-eat may have been firmly established into the audiences’ mind. This stresses the fact that Bantan’s product is not only healthy and economical, but also convenient.
Another interesting remark: They could have depicted campers using Bantan’s product in the outdoors. However, these people aren’t the target audience, plus it wouldn’t make a hilarious story that is relatable to the target market.
Content that offers practical value
in food and beverages.
The most common “practical content” around food and beverages that will least likely to go viral are recipes. Although it offers practical value, people are less likely to share because consumers aren’t always enthusiastic about making their own food or drink.
However, some content other than recipes can offer practical value. Restaurant or product reviews is one example. In fact, this is how a lot of influencers make money. Food and beverage businesses would offer some form of payment (at least money) to invite them for an honest (or slightly biased) review of their products and services.
Reviews made by other people are useful (or at least entertaining) online marketing tactics. They help other people get to know your business without experiencing it first-hand (reduces uncertainty). It also offers social proof so that good brands can garner even more trust from customers.
Allow people to freely and honestly review your products and services, because if you believe that your business is amazing, then you have nothing to hide.
Using other online marketing tools
to create a buzz
So far we’ve discussed predominantly social media marketing, but creating a buzz is also possible with a website. If you own a restaurant that requires online booking, then have a website that is well-designed, navigable and have very descriptive media (i.e. images and video). You would have an easier time to optimize your site for search engines.
Encourage food bloggers to link directly to your site, but create share-worthy content using the principles mentioned above. Content is still king, and it is the best way to attract customers who have never had previous exposure to your brand.
Island Media Management
Creating viral or share-worthy content takes time, and not all your published content will become that one post that brings the greatest buzz. On a regular day, safe but interesting content is still required for day-to-day marketing operations.
That’s why we encourage you to automate your online marketing efforts. Island Media Management is a digital marketing agency in Bali and Jakarta. We are not just a branding agency – we do everything from web development, social media, and online advertising. Our passionate team will assist you in every step of the way, to ensure that the next potential customer will be interested in your business because of your online presence.