We all need it, love it, indulge in it. Food is a basic requirement of life, but with clever marketing, it can become a coveted pleasure. The secret to successful food marketing campaigns lies in having a good understanding of the foundations of food marketing and using food manufacturing software.
The basics of food marketing
Build a strong brand
Firstly it’s important to create a strategy, which should consider overarching business goals, the brand’s central ‘narrative’, who the audiences are, ways to reach them, and a tactical plan. The strategy should also have success metrics, with short and long-term goals.
It may also be helpful to analyse the competitors, map where your product sits relative to them, and how your brand will fit into this landscape.
As Jasmine Bina writes, the key to a successful brand strategy is to then lead with the story, creating an emotional connection with the consumer that elevates the product far beyond its basic offering. And the process, as Bina notes, feels like “an excavation. You dig and dig and dig until you arrive at what the core of the company is about, and then suddenly, a market path is revealed.“
The next steps – the tactics – will depend on this market path. Each element of the food marketing will be informed by the questions answered through the development of the strategy. But there are some broad-brush ideas that have been tried and tested over decades, particularly those in the digital space and pop-ups in supermarkets and the like.
The rise of social media has created a natural home for food marketing amplification, with its emphasis on the visual, while the explosion of food apps and software also provides an opportunity for marketing smarts.
As such, food marketing plans should generally include a strategy to push content through social media channels, likely through image-focused outlets such as Instagram or Facebook. As we explore further down, social media such as this also allows for high engagement, conversations with the consumer, and direct sales.
Loyalty programmes are also a proven way to successfully market food, with apps offering bonuses after a certain number of products are bought, for example, proving a popular strategy. In the same vein, apps which partner food with consumers – delivery providers, for example – can also be a useful tactic to consider.
More traditional ways of food marketing, such as through trade shows or tasters in supermarkets, are also frequent and successful tactics for food marketers.
In-store sampling has long been a favourite tactic for food marketing, with dramatic increases in sales if it is done well. The ability to engage directly with customers creates goodwill and a personal connection, leading to the possibility of an immediate and easy sale. While COVID-19 has caused some strain in this marketing tactic, its popularity is expected to return once the pandemic is under control.
The same is expected for trade shows, which have also suffered as a result of the pandemic but are expected to return and remain a successful way to market food.
Food attracts the most eyes on Instagram — are you missing out?
Digital marketing for the food industry
Food and beverages are kings of the digital realm, with the rise of visual-based channels such as Instagram and Facebook providing a natural home for mouthwatering, sales-prompting images.
Instagram found that food and drink is the most popular topic for users, with 39% of UK users declaring themselves ‘aficionados’ of the industry, and more following the topic than music, travel or fashion.
There are nearly four billion users on social media and internet users spend 144 minutes each day browsing social media and using apps to message each other. As such, it is an essential ingredient of any food marketing plan.
Create great content
Consider the content carefully, including the use of images, video, words, filters and the like. Ensure the content meets the brand positioning, which has ideally been developed through the broader brand strategy.
Choose channels carefully
Each social media platform has subtle differences so pick wisely. While Facebook remains a behemoth of social, it is now an old hand in the industry, which means its audiences tend to skew older. Younger audiences have been flocking to new sites, such as TikTok, which is popular among teenagers.
It is important to consider exactly who you are trying to reach, and where they may be, before deciding where and how to place your content. Does your brand appeal to a youthful audience? Or older? Or both?
Decide how much to spend
Part of the decision-making will also include spend. While brands can run very successful channels through social media without advertising, investing some funds will significantly grow reach.
Generally, boosting content with some expenditure will dramatically increase audience engagement and lead to an uptick in sales or leads. It also allows for specific targeting of audience types, regions and interests.
When considering expenditure, assess the ideal ‘cost per click’ you want, and test spending against that. In digital, ‘test and refine’ is a key concept to maximise the return on investment.
Leverage your fan base
User-generated content (UGC) is also a valuable tool for driving reach, brand awareness and value. UGC can be created in several ways, with savvy marketers considering the ‘visual’ element of their products and how ‘Instagrammable’ it may be. If a product looks appealing or has unusual visual elements, consumers are often tempted to photograph it and post on social.
UGC can also be created in other ways, such as a marketing campaign with a specific hashtag or goal for users to participate in.
Again, this sort of content is a win for the marketer, creating as it does a buzz around the product at a relatively low cost. Endorsement from the consumer also carries a certain authenticity that can be hard to replicate with paid-for content.
Use Google’s free SEO tools to leverage your marketing campaign
Optimise your content with SEO
Beyond social, marketing via websites or online has other important elements. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a vital element of any marketing plan, and each piece of marketing content should be analysed to ensure it is using best SEO practice.
While search algorithms are constantly being tweaked, there are basic rules to follow, such as ensuring headlines and metadata of each piece of content are using words that have high searchability. This means the content will surface high in Google searches, increasing click-throughs and, ultimately, sales.
Google Ads can also be an effective use of marketing funds, particularly as it can work within any budget. The advertising platform allows advertisers to ‘bid’ for display ads or other pieces of content. Those pieces of content are then surfaced high within search, driving traffic and sales.
Content marketing for the food industry
Content is the first building block of a successful food marketing campaign. Every element counts – the images, the words, the colour palette, the tone – and must be created to reflect and compliment the brand and its positioning in the market.
While images are generally the easiest content to create, video can be more compelling and surprisingly easy to generate through various apps and tools available online.
Further, layering text over video can ensure its message is conveyed whether or not the sound is up. This has proved particularly effective in the social media space, as consumers are often scrolling through their social channels while surrounded by others – in transit, for example – and it is important to ensure the message is conveyed in every way possible.
Research shows consumers are drawn to natural, ‘authentic’ content, presented in a way that reflects their lifestyle choices or appeals to their emotions. There is also an increasing level of interest in sustainability, knowledge of where the food comes from, and responsible packaging.
Another effective way to increase engagement with content is to offer recipes or ways that the product can be used. This enables the consumer to effectively visualise the product in the way it is designed to be used, and encourages engagement.
The ability to engage and communicate directly with consumers can also be a highly effective way to increase leads. Content that enables click through, or includes relevant links to associated websites or purchase opportunities can allow for a better user experience and higher conversion rates.
Influencer marketing for the food industry
Influencer marketing can be a highly effective way of increasing sales, particularly given the rise of such an industry on social media. However, good influencer marketing can also be a subtle art, with many pitfalls to avoid.
It is important to ensure the marketing looks and feels ‘authentic’, ideally by working with an influencer who meets the brand positioning and is able to communicate the message without it seeming like a hard sell. Identifying the appropriate influencer is a case of matching the person with the brand positioning, and its place in the market. That may be around health, lifestyle, indulgence, or other elements of the brand.
That influencer should then incorporate the brand or product in a way that again, works with the brand and doesn’t look disruptive in the social media feed. The images and words are both important elements of the post and should reflect ways in which the product can be incorporated into the consumer’s life, whether that be in the area of health, as a treat, or another element of their lifestyle.
A recent trend has been toward nano and micro influencers, with smaller but more targeted audiences, where the messages can get conveyed quite subtly to their audiences, in ways that blend into the natural flow of the social media feed.
Of course, it will also be important to include information on where the consumer can find the product, as the post ideally would have prompted such interest.
B2B marketing ideas for the food industry
B2B marketing within the food industry should be considered an important part of the overall brand strategy. Interactions between complementary businesses can contribute a significant amount of revenue, and should be considered alongside any consumer-facing marketing.
Within the manufacturing and creation of the product, there are ample touchpoints with other businesses that provide an opportunity to increase and leverage sales.
The single most important element of your B2B marketing will be the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) as this will differentiate your product from others jostling to make a sale or build a partnership.
B2B relationships can then be built in several ways, including by developing an effective website presence, maintaining regular newsletter and email mailouts, and ensuring all leads are followed up promptly and with effective and helpful responses.
It is also important to stay across the analytics of B2B marketing, and implement any changes under some speed if the data shows certain strategies work better than others.
Say you’ve implemented some great food marketing campaigns and sales are rolling in — how do you know your business is ready to handle an increase in sales? This is where it pays to have efficient food manufacturing software in place. It ensures you’re fully stocked on the right products so that orders are fulfilled quickly.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.