The Benefits Of Food Bloggers
The Vidalia Onion Committee gets it. Stemilt gets it. Rachael Ray loves it.
Marketing firms are raving about and catering to them. PR Newswire has a dedicated link “for bloggers” providing a “one-stop resource for … members of the blogosphere.”
DMA Solutions, specialists in marketing campaigns for fresh produce companies, writes constantly on “The Core” (what else, a marketing blog) about engaging “influencers.” In her November 2015 post (“5 Reasons to Invest in ‘Influencer Marketing’”), Mackenzie Michel said “food blogger networks are rapidly expanding and their influence over consumer decisions continue to rise,” citing a 2013 study showing that “blogs outranked social media sites when it comes to influencing consumer purchase decisions.”
It’s about credibility.
Just as a restaurant critique by a local food writer creates a more credible story than all the paid advertising you can muster, a blogger who has nothing to do with your business writing about a wonderful experience or produce from your farm will have the same effect.
New Jersey farm marketer and author of “Marketing for Success: Creative Marketing Tools for the Agricultural Industry” (1996) Bob “Matty” Matarazzo calls these strategies “Guerilla Marketing on the farm.” One of Matarazzo’s most effective tricks of the trade was to develop a mailing list of newspaper editors and reporters whom he kept supplied with regular updates via news releases. He wrote, “We can spend thousands of dollars on advertising, commercials, and radio… none give us the most important reward of the news release — credibility.”
Stemilt Growers took a proactive approach in 2015 and described its first year’s experience in a January 2016 news release this way:
“To build authentic credibility and engagement with consumers each month, Stemilt sent fresh, premium-quality fruit for three bloggers to create original content — anything from a recipe to a tablescape to tips and tricks. Since the introduction of the ‘Kitchen Council,’ more than 40 blog posts, 30 original recipes, and 75 social media mentions from the hand-selected bloggers have reached more than 1 million consumers and helped garner more than 75,000
pageviews to “The Stem” in 2015. “… it’s great to … see how our talented bloggers used Stemilt fruits and branded products in fresh and new ways to help inspire our growing network of consumers to enjoy our apples, pears, cherries, and summer fruits,” said Brianna Shales, Stemilt Communications Manager.
One million consumers, and I bet the price-per-view is significantly lower than what is garnered by a 30-second ad on that big football game in early February.
According to Anthony Ewing, founder of EthnicNJ.com, “Local online publications can be the best way to reach new audiences. People who are passionate about food care about where it comes from and how it is produced. Food writers are very interested in stories about local crops, growers, and markets.”
It doesn’t matter whether those writers have a local or national audience, partnering should be a win-win for both sides. Consider the mileage the Vidalia Onion Committee (VOC) has gotten by teaming up with television cooking show host Rachael Ray who blogged about her enthusiasm for Vidalia Onions:
“I’ve teamed up with Vidalia Onions to bring you this recipe … I swear, every time I partner with a brand, I learn something new. It’s one of my favorite things about blogging.”
The VOC has been using this technique for a few years now. Starting in 2013, their national spokesperson teamed up to “participate in social media activities with food and entertaining bloggers … chosen as the Flavors of Summer brand ambassadors.”
That was followed by outreach to food bloggers and other social media outlets in a successful “V is for Vidalia” campaign started in 2014 and continued last year as a long-term promotional effort. Susan Waters, Executive Director of the VOC, reported, “We were able to reach the targeted Millennial consumers and are beginning to establish their long-term loyalty for the Vidalia Onion brand.”
Make The Extra Effort
While many savvy marketing techniques cost little more than your time, reaching consumers via influencers, including bloggers, dieticians, nutritionists, editors, and journalists might take a little more effort. The VOC’s promotion program started each season by hosting bloggers on farm and packinghouse tours, accompanied by meals featuring Vidalia onions prepared by local celebrity chefs or in teaming up with the national restaurant chain Applebee’s to premier a new feature recipe.
Whether you’re starting on a shoestring budget, or the sky is the limit, you might want to consider inviting a few bloggers to your farm to help you tell your story. You just might find yourself wanting to give them a hug at the end of the season.