For food manufacturers and specialty food producers attending the 38th annual Winter Fancy Food Show this week in San Francisco, sealing the deal with a distributor or grocery chain means your products will run off the shelves, right? Not exactly. According to global food advertising network Gourmet Ads, the real challenge is getting out in front of consumers in a compelling way, in order to generate sales and maintain your position in the grocer’s aisle. And the key to doing that these days is the internet.
“The web is where today’s consumers research products, plan family meals and in some cases make actual buying decisions, and manufacturers need to go there to market and promote their products to gain attention,” says Benjamin Christie, managing director of Gourmet Ads, which works with more than 350 food-related websites to get brand messages and values before ever-more-fickle and cost-conscious grocery buyers.
“The great thing is there are many, many techniques and opportunities to do that. Some national brands reach the entire country, while others use geo targeting to reach just a handful of cities. Some advertisers make use of contextual targeting to reach those shoppers most receptive to their messages. For example, if you produce a great steak marinade or barbecue sauce, you can ensure your brand is seen by anyone browsing beef or steak recipes, or looking up grilling tips.”
Even established, multinational food brands are sometimes behind the curve when it comes to exploiting online marketing, Christie notes.
“Simply creating a Facebook page or Twitter page for your product just won’t cut it anymore,” he says. “You have to develop an online marketing strategy to grab attention, give consumers something of value like a recipe or discount coupon, and do it time and again to get them to recognize your packaging and ultimately to build customer loyalty. Having a great product also helps.”
Getting consumers to visualize how to use your product through vivid photographs and appealing recipes, and pegging your ads contextually to the most relevant web pages, are two keys to successfully marketing your food items online, according to Gourmet Ads’ free whitepaper, “The Ultimate Guide to Food Advertising Online.”
“Any online marketing plan will include a variety of ad types across a wide breadth of sites, but they’ll do little good if the product doesn’t look irresistible,” says Christie. “Consumers make spending decisions with their eyes, especially when it comes to food.”
Here are some other tips manufacturers will find in the 21-page whitepaper:
• Don’t forget to show the packaging. “Most of the best-performing ads have had two elements: a great photo of a fully prepared meal, and an image of the packaging. Consumers see a great looking meal, which appears at face value as easily prepared by using the product. And next to the meal is the package so they’ll recognize the brand when they see it on shelves,” says Christie.
• Have a clear call to action. Make sure your ad inspires the consumer to do something, like find recipes, save a dollar on their next purchase, or request a free sample. “You can have a great looking advertisement, but if you don’t have a clear and persuasive call to action, consumers may leave and forget about your value proposition,” Christie says.
• Use brand websites and landing pages. Most corporate websites are focused on B2B, and seldom engage the visitor socially. It is essential to have a dedicated consumer-focused site, preferably one for each brand.