Published on: October 1, 2014
by Kate McMahon
Forget the much-hyped social media success stories from Silicon Valley, Madison Avenue or Amazon headquarters. Just as Kevin Costner learned to believe amid Iowa corn stalks in Field of Dreams, today we have a lesson straight from the heartland on how to parlay potato chips and Facebook posts into paying customers.
It started with an August 6th MNB column on the four finalists in Lay’s $1 million Do Us A Flavor potato chip contest, and the sour grapes Facebook comments from those who weren’t chosen and/or hadn’t even tasted the flavors. I located the chip final four mixed in with Lay’s and other salted snack products at my area grocers, noting that none were grouped in a stand-alone promotional display that I had seen in an online photo. I commented that seemed a missed opportunity for both Lay’s and any retailer, and we went ahead to create our own MNB taste test panel (the target audience of 13- to 28-year-olds) to evaluate the flavors.
The column caught the attention of Marty Jarvis, director of marking for B&R Stores, a Lincoln, Nebraska-based, employee-owned corporation with 18 stores. The company set out to create a taste test for its nine Super Saver locations in southeast Nebraska and western Iowa. Jarvis’ team reached out to Frito-Lay for graphics and then customized promotion materials for a chip test on Saturday August 23rd from noon-3 p.m. Super Saver advertised the four products the old fashioned way – its weekly circular. And it promoted the taste test on Facebook and through in-store displays, promising participants in each location the chance to win a $20 store gift card as an incentive.
The results? Some 200-300 people participating at each Super Saver site. “The goal was to have some fun and create some excitement in the store,” said Jarvis. “It did. The customers enjoyed it.”
The cost? One employee assigned to the taste test table and the time spent developing the graphics and posting on Facebook. And the nine $20 gifts cards which required the randomly chosen winner to come back to the store.
All too often social media coverage focuses on the hippest Facebook page, the wittiest Tweet, the best “food porn” on Instagram or the laugh-out-loud parody on YouTube. All of which create buzz but may not necessarily drive customers from their laptop or smartphone into a bricks-and-mortar store or on to a website to make a purchase.
Jarvis said their social media goal is to “funnel it back into the store. We want to create relationships so consumers know our people and the products.”
The net-net on this promotion? Customer engagement and revenue – the best return on investment.
Looking ahead to next year, Frito-Lay and retailers may want to take note:
If you promote it (wisely), they will come.
And for those keeping score, the totally unscientific MNB taste test ranked the Do Us A Flavor finalists as follows:
1. Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese
2. Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger
3. Wavy Mango Salsa
The results from the nine Super Saver stores were comparable:
1. Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese (37.5%)
2. Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger (35%)
3. Wavy Mango Salsa (22%)
4. Cappuccino (5.5%)
The voting ends October 18th, and the winner will be announced next month.
Comments? As always, send them to me at email@example.com .
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