It’s nothing new for a brand to incorporate digital elements to engage and interact with consumers. They have a website, Facebook page, or Twitter account to become more interactive and engage their audiences. In fact, it’s generally expected. Consumers have become accustomed to interacting with their favorite brands and sometimes getting exposed to new brands based on these customer experiences, especially with the viral nature of the consumers sharing their content.

Often there are benefits for the consumer such as access to special offers, coupons, discounts and content. All of these add to the over all brand experience.The introduction of QR codes has helped to mobilize interactive brand experiences – consumers can take action right then and there with their smart phone. Just scan and be taken to more information, content, etc.

Now brands are beginning to push the envelope even further by making printed content/ads and packaging interactive in some very innovative ways. Using innovations such as augmented reality, in combination with neat ideas and promotions, brands are doing all sorts of out-of-the-box engagement. Here are some examples:

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Last week was the Shopper Marketing Expo, put on by the Path to Purchase Institute in Chicago, IL. The best of the best in shopper marketing were there sharing valuable information. I attended four sessions and found some common themes running throughout:


I heard about insights from everyone. Art Sebastian from Kraft Foods spoke about how it took him six months to comb through the binders of insights Kraft had when he arrived. While I understand that most of us don’t have anywhere near that volume of research, I wonder if we are really looking at what we have and filling in the missing gaps. Our insights should build a story around the brand… if the story is incomplete, more insights are needed. If the insights tell you something other than what you know, trust it or do more research.

The short answer to this question...No..and Yes.

Google cares very little, or some may say not at all anymore, about what you have to say about your own website.  After a decade or more of  tolerating people gaming the system, the experts think they have finally come up with a way to stop the cheating.  We will get into that in a minute, but let's first discuss how we got here...

Google used to rely heavily on Keywords.  These are terms picked up by search engines on your website, whether in title tags, meta tags or your content.  They would use these terms to establish what your site was about and how they should direct search traffic.  Allowing website creators to determine what search traffic they should garner quickly proved a fool's errand.  Crafty developers and SEO consultants found ways to rank highly and not necessarily for the phrases in which their site was most relevant.  The name of the game was, is and probably always will be traffic. The constant need for traffic gave birth to all kinds of "black hat" SEO tricks of the trade and spurred the exponential growth of a cottage industry called Search Engine Optimization.  Once Google successfully stamped out black hat techniques such as repeating terms, white on white text (so that only the search engine spiders see it) as well as content and link farms, it had to find a way to be more credible in the results it was returning.  Google wants more than anything to deliver you to the most relevant possible site for your search and relying on the developer just wasn't working.

I have a tendency to do my food shopping on the fly, tucking it into the empty spots in my schedule, often when something on my list has become a critical need. I am going in for items that I buy regularly, know where they are, know what they look like, and have calculated how long it will take me to conquer my list.  I enjoy the activity of hunting down and gathering the items on my list, much like a scavenger hunt.  My challenge is when I find myself in front of a display shelf, looking for “my product”.  It can almost feel like a personal offense when I cannot find something that I have purchased regularly.

One of my regularly shopped items is yogurt and in the last year I’ve expanded my yogurt choices to include Greek yogurt, with its thick, creamy texture and the higher protein. I have tried several brands and even the store brand in a few selective situations.  When I determined to try Greek yogurt and set out for the dairy section, my challenge was deciding on a brand. The only thing I had to draw upon was a brand name that was  familiar, the only brand I had heard of - Chobani. This new purchase was not hard to handle, as the packaging was bold and plentiful.

How much time does it take to engage an audience? A rodeo bull rider gets it done in 8 seconds: 1,200 horsepower nitro-burning fuel dragsters do it in under 5.

Bearing that in mind, 15 seconds should be plenty of time for a social video, right?

That’s the thinking behind the new 15 second social networks that are popping up, like Viddy and Tout. Optimized for mobile devices, they take advantage of the increased use of smartphones for primary web access across all age groups. Not only do the new networks make it easy to upload video clips, there’s less competition for viewers than on YouTube or Facebook (although instant sharing to both social giants is built into both Viddy and Tout).


Combining street food convenience and restaurant quality, mobile kitchens are bringing good, cheap food to a pavement near you.  And while some industry observers had begun to dismiss food trucks, declaring them promotional ploys or training wheels for brick-and-mortar – they are far from reaching their peak.  Food trucks are like a test kitchen on wheels.  From tacos, to falafels, to waffles – food trucks are known for their creative ingredients and newly fabricated cuts of meat, and artisan beverages.

Food trucks and carts have been around for generations. Most selling hot dogs, Popsicles and ice cream bars or are canteens on wheels that bring staple breakfast and lunch items to factories, auto repair shops and other businesses.  What's different about the mobile food vehicles that have popped up in cities and suburbs in the last few years is that they serve trendy fare like Korean barbecue, Jamaican jerk chicken and cupcakes. They travel from one spot to another, often congregating in high-traffic areas.

Too often brands are busy promoting themselves rather than becoming a trusted resource and/or partner. Brands need to earn the right to tell consumers how great they are. I ran across two sites and a blog recently that are doing a great job of becoming a partner/resource.

Click to enlarge full viewKellogg’s Non-Branded Website

A great site from Kellogg’s. They include information from a variety of their snacking brands but really focus on overall entertaining. Do they include recipes and serving suggestions that feature their products? Yes. Do they go beyond that by including craft ideas for parties, entertaining tips and more? Absolutely!

QRCodeOver the past few years we have seen the implementation or QR codes increase. We have seen this on the shelves in stores, on product packaging, print ads, posters and business cards. They are being used everywhere.

The consumer has become more and more familiar with QR codes and brands everywhere seem to be adopting their use. They are fairly easy to set up and can be successful and effective when used correctly.

However, there are some things to keep in mind:

Fact: The majority of people prefer to watch instead of read.

Don’t believe it? Try this on:

  • YouTube is the 3rd most visited website–with over 2 billion views per day
  • Over 829,000 videos are uploaded every day
  • YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine after Google

Yes, it’s a fact; online video content has become a powerful tool to market your brand or service to foodservice professionals.  Video is one of the hottest resources for restaurant entrepreneurs, managers, chefs, and buyers. Videos are being developed for new product introductions, recipe demos, training, creative tutorials, education, and much more.

We all know what a sell sheet or product information brochure is, and the information it needs to contain — SKUs, sizes, who to call — but there are two things that are often forgotten: Appetite Appeal and WIIFM (What's In It For Me?).


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