retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

It probably was inevitable that the iconic green bean casserole would be linked to the iPhone this holiday season, and that the venerable Butterball turkey experts would be rescuing dinners from disaster on Facebook.

From light-hearted debates about “bag or tent” and “stuffing vs. dressing” to more serious salmonella-prevention strategies, Thanksgiving meals rocked the internet last week, and we can expect to see this continuing through the end of the year. Though seasonal, the trend points to consumer’s increasing demand for recipes, nutritional information and instantaneous feedback from their laptop or Smartphone.

(Age-related disclosure: I learned to make Thanksgiving dinner by a) calling my mom on a rotary dial phone, and b) culling through her well-worn index cards in a recipe box or the “Joy of Cooking.”)

A staple back then – and now – was the aforementioned green bean casserole, topped with French Fried onions.

You have to hand it to the Campbell Soup Company for using social media to promote its very traditional brands – such as Cream of Mushroom soup (the central sauce for that casserole), Swanson broths and Pepperidge Farm stuffings.

In addition to its print ads, the company now has online ads, iAds for the Apple iPhone, apps for smartphones, and interactive consumer promotions on Facebook and Twitter. The move into digital space is aimed at “trying to be where consumers are” and particularly to “engage younger consumers,” Campbell Soup exec Lisa Walker told the New York Times.

Butterball, known for its Turkey Talk-Line telephone operators, also realized that the way to reach consumers/cooks is via their computers and PDAs. In fact, its Butterball Mobile link promises holiday cooking advice “no matter where you are — at home, on the road, in the grocery store, or at the stove.”

While most of the exchanges on Butterball’s Facebook page ended up with happy customers, the company did advise the more troubling cases (improperly thawed, stuffed or half-cooked turkey) to call the 800-help line direct to discuss “food safety concerns.”

Meanwhile, over on Reynolds Wrap’s Facebook page, Reynolds and Butterball teamed up for a “Bag or Tent” debate and sweepstakes (featuring Reynolds’ bag and foil, of course). As of yesterday, the bag method of roasting was leading the foil tent 51% to 48%.

Not to be outdone, Swanson’s broth is hosting “The Great Stuffing Debate” on its website and has partnered with the Taste of the NFL campaign to promote awareness about hunger and raise funds for food banks across the country.

Finally, not to be left on the sidelines is that other Thanksgiving staple, the cranberry, which staked its claim online through the Ocean Spray growers website and holiday hotline. It even twittered a link to Martha Stewart’s TV show featuring cranberries for decorating.

While huge consumer product companies such as Campbell’s and Butterball have the digital media teams to launch these promotions, even the smallest retailer can take a page from their playbooks to engage with the customer well beyond the grocery aisle.

Comments? Send me an email at .
KC's View: