Why Big Food Needs To Get In The Social Game Or Risk Losing Out

Image from Daily Harvest

[N.B. This post was originally posted on my LinkedIn profile]

I was going to just post a link to this article as something I found interesting and be done with it, but I’ve been inspired to add a few more thoughts to provoke some discussion for those who may indulge me.

Frozen foods company Daily Harvest is overcoming consumers’ negative perceptions about freshness and quality of frozen foods — using Instagram. They make soups and smoothies and chia pots — oh my! They’ve built their entire brand on Instagram. They’ve secured high profile celebrity endorsement because of it.

So, they’ve focussed on Instagram as part of a pull strategy made up of photos of their uber-photogenic packaging (go and check out their website too — it’s bloody beautiful) and the colourful, ‘farm fresh’ ingredients that go into their product. Yes, their marketing efforts extended beyond this channel alone, but the ‘Gram certainly formed the majority of their energy.

It’s still a frozen food. Probably packaged the same way so many ‘big food’ companies package theirs. There’s nothing overly proprietary going on here.

“Our target consumer is one who subscribes to a healthy lifestyle, but is busy and has time restrictions,” says Daily Harvest founder and CEO Rachel Drori says.

Ummm, yep. Nothing super distinct there.

But they’ve flat-laid, filtered and hashtagged their way to over 100,000 followers in just 3 years of being active on IG (that’s a rate of nearly 100 a day, every day for 3 years), and having been a national brand in the U.S. for just over a year — not bad, huh?

So, why are big brands not really in the social game? As a former employee of two major packaged food companies in Australia, I naturally pondered the possibilities…

Big food can learn a lot from smaller brands like this and their mastery of social media channels.

So many big players are already well behind in the social game. This is partly because there’s a skill gap internally (in a lot of cases, and speaking mainly from my own experience here — I’d be happily corrected 😉). This is then coupled with a reluctance to allocate sufficient funds to outsource social media management properly (again, happy to be corrected, but I’m lookin’ at the socials… and in most cases, all I’m seeing is missed opportunities: ceasing activity outside of campaign time, anyone? That’s missing the whole point).

It’s also hard to move away from the ‘drug’ of traditional channels which appear more larger than life (*cough* TV), which is what really piques retailers’ interest — because that’s what they’ll see when they sit in front of the box at night after a long day of gruelling supplier “negotiations” (“Will there be a [insert retailer name here]-specific 30-second TVC in your campaign? We *might* give you a prominent display if you give make us an ad”).

And by the way, I haven’t forgotten how complex it is to manage these brand budgets, funding everything you need to, keeping everyone happy and trying so so SO hard to make as many of those dollars as possible actually ‘reach’ the end consumer. It’s tough work! But if little brands can do it, there’s no reason why brands with multiple millions can’t.

It’s a highly measurable channel. With the right consumer experience in place, it leads to actual physical sales just like any other channel (I’m talking all brand communications assets lined up to bring the consumer to the desired objective — and maybe this is where Daily Harvest are winning… because their consumers can buy via the website). Not to mention it’s an avenue for one-to-one conversations with real consumers. Isn’t that the dream?

With the real ‘breakthrough’ channels #aldiisnotabreakthroughchannel like e-commerce and subscription services on the brink of explosion (because they tap into the ‘on-demand’ and ‘customisation’ trends we’ve been watching approach and take shape for years now — oh and nope, they’re not going away), it will be fascinating to see the landscape change over the next 5–10 years and whether big food will get in the social game (and for that matter, online generally) and play for real.

*drops* 🎤

Discuss 👉🏼 Has my almost 18 months out of the biz impaired my thinking here? Has something drastically changed that proves me wrong? I’d love to hear.

Originally published at Melissa Packham.



👩🏼‍🎤 #BrandStrategist & all round #Marketing Nerd. Lover of shoe gazing & post-punk 80's music, good coffee & #craftbeer. Aspiring #digitalnomadgirl

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Melissa Packham

👩🏼‍🎤 #BrandStrategist & all round #Marketing Nerd. Lover of shoe gazing & post-punk 80's music, good coffee & #craftbeer. Aspiring #digitalnomadgirl