Tia Hall-Davis

Why Food and Drink Brands Need to Make Social Media Users Hungry

Tia Hall-Davis
Why Food and Drink Brands Need to Make Social Media Users Hungry

Could social media be the key to tempting the eyes and stomach for food and drink brands? Ally Waring, strategist at Rapp, discusses how word of mouth (literally) and the social community must be at the top of the radar for food and drink brands looking to engage with the hungry masses.

From phenomenon such as Buzzfeed’s ‘Tasty’ to Joe Wicks’ ‘Lean in 15’, it’s no wonder that views of food videos were up by 170% in 2015. Snackable content is not just short, but sweeter than nectar for marketers and consumers alike. We open our newsfeeds with apathy, consuming everything with passive mindsets and so it is little wonder that we react to short, punchy content that makes our hearts skip a beat, or our tummies rumble. Consumers are all familiar with the adage ‘eyes bigger than your stomach’, but why has this phenomenon taken off so exponentially? And what does this mean for food and drink brands?

Worth a thousand words

Word of mouth is still food and drink brands’ best friend, but now our perceptions are changing. The rise of the image platform has seen a transcendence of language with social platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram leading the charge on user-growth. A picture certainly does say a thousand words, and in the case of food, why say anything more than a perfectly-formed snap with a winning filter?

Indeed, if a meal, drink or piece of food is deemed ‘uninstagrammable’, you may as well not have eaten it at all. My feeds are constantly glutted with the radiance of a well put-together açai breakfast bowl or a hipster-worthy avocado toast. At the moment, this is where advertising falls down on authenticity and the world of social acts as a breath of fresh air: self-made, real and indisputable, it democratises content like never before. That picture of my friend’s acai bowl may not have the perfection of a photoshopped ad, but it’s as close to it as we can all hope to achieve. So, in a world where an ad is compiled from props, shoots and hyper-production, how can food and drink brands cut through the fabricated nature of the industry and stand out?

Consumer control and accessibility

By putting the consumer at the heart of their branded content, food and drinks brands can offer highly appealing control and accessibility to their target audience. One such brand doing just this is digitally-native supermarket, Sainsbury’s.

By downgrading its branded comms from implausible perfection to feasible opportunity, Sainsbury’s has redefined the home cooking experience for customers with its ‘little twists’ campaign. Not only does it play perfectly into the notion that your homemade food doesn’t have to be boring, but by adding that ‘weird’ ingredient into a traditional recipe (personally, I love chocolate in my chilli con carne), it can make the mundane magnificent. Making the leap from offline to online with the addition of a hashtag, Sainsbury’s has opened the doors to further social proofing where hungry advocates share their own little twists online.

Precision targeting

Equally, food delivery services such as Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats continue to gain in popularity due to their ability to offer original, local food to distinct target audiences. When I’m scrolling through my feed on a Sunday night, an ad for my local curry house via Deliveroo is not only a viable choice, but a quick and convenient one too.

Indeed, instead of mass targeting, proven to turn-off an already uninterested public, social provides the opportunity to target relevant custom audiences who can be targeted not only by their interests and demographic, but also by their temporal and geographical state. Geolocative capabilities thanks to Wi-Fi networks and more, give Facebook the ability to prompt users to check in at various local restaurants and event spaces, allowing customers to digitally affiliate themselves with the brand.

Additionally, emoji-targeting on Twitter has proven rife for food and drink brands that are cashing in on the ever-growing Unicode and iterations of emoji-size cuisine. Based on the popularity of customised and automated gif mechanics on Twitter in the past by brands such as Taco Bell, this can only provide food and drinks brands the opportunity to stand out by offering more opportunities for higher engagement among their target audiences.

Sense of community

Food brands aside, the drinks market has an equally interesting approach to social with Innocent’s ‘Big Knit’ campaign among the most successful. Over £1m pounds has been raised in years past alongside making participants feel personally valued by Innocent, which heroes their knitting efforts on the top of its bottles.

Social offers a platform to the thriving and exceedingly dedicated community that supports the brand and its corresponding morals through re-sharing user generated content and actively speaking to knitters and customers alike. Not only can brand advocates feel part of an initiative in which they are doing good for other people, they can bond with others through a genuine, community-oriented brand that actually cares about the people who support it.

So what’s next for food and drinks brands on social? Confounding in its mass, and brimming in opportunity, big data offers the ability to plan when most effectively to reach consumers with social content. While we may not be able to do data justice right now, the potential strength in its correct deployment would offer brands natively placed CTAs and sale opportunities to rival traditional CRM. Just like we, as agencies, are tasked with becoming smarter and more innovative on a daily basis, so too must brands organise their data internally, to allow for more targeting opportunities which would otherwise be missed.

In terms of content however, we could say that if it is the eyes that drive the stomach, then our brands’ authentic social posts derived from real life experiences and socially proven consumer generated content can more than cut through the noise: they can create decidedly accurate and passionately driven advocates of their brand on the most open form of communication we have at our fingertips today.

Food and drink brands should consider amplifying their social presence as a driver for their audiences – not just for its capabilities as a medium, but for the fact that it offers an image first platform to provide stimulus for the eyes which will always appeal highly to the stomach.

Ally Warring, Strategist. 

This was featured in the The Drum's Food & Drink Supplement.