Food brands engage consumers on-line

by Charlotte Atchley
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The digital age has brought on a whole new level of engagement with consumers. Food brands can reach consumer not only through television, print and radio, but also on-line through video channels, social networks and blogs.

Clif Bar & Co., Emeryville, Calif., brings its message on its own Clif Bar TV, and its blogs cover topics near and dear to the company as well as its consumers: healthy food, athletic life, new products, updates from its marathon team, sustainability and a behind-the-scenes look at the Clif Bar office.

When Roman Meal Co., Tacoma, Wash., decided to turn its focus to women 50 and older, the company also centered its marketing and advertising campaigns on digital forms of media rather than television, radio and print.

“We had a brand that people are intensely loyal to, so we felt we could talk to them better in a digital space than in other forms of media,” explained Gary Jensen, president. “It’s been really outstanding to be able to get to know our consumers even better. You couldn’t have done this level of engagement 10 years ago; the technology just wasn’t there.”

This level of engagement on-line creates an opportunity for food brands to bring consumers in on the R.&D. process.

“Thanks to that interaction, our snackers are constantly inspiring ideas,” said Michael Parisi, senior vice-president, popchips, San Francisco. “Our closeness with snackers lets us deliver new products we’ll know they’ll love such as our veggie popchips.”

Roman Meal also heightened how it engages consumers. The company started by wiping its consumer database clean to ensure that it was composed of only consumers who had opted in to hear more about Roman Meal.

“That has grown in the meantime by tens of thousands of people who communicate with us on a regular basis,” Mr. Jensen said. Many of those consumers have become part of an expert panel for the company to discuss potential new product concepts.

“It’s really amazing to be able to work together with your consumers to help direct the future of your brand,” he said.
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