The Incredible, Edible Sale
BLAME IT ON simple biology—humans just can’t get by without food. As the building blocks of life, nutrients are intrinsic to the survival of every individual. But these facts are common knowledge. What nutrients can do for the life expectancy of a marketing campaign, however, now that’s something to chew on.
When promotional products are gracing the table, end-users are getting their daily recommended allowance of brand messaging in an easy-to-swallow format. By extension, a company gets much-coveted
visibility, not to mention greater probability of retention.
The simple health benefits of three squares a day? That’s science. The marketing possibilities associated with each dish? That’s a meal ticket any distributor can cash in on.
Forget nutrients for a sec. For many, it’s coffee that sustains the busiest lifestyles. “It’s just a naturally accepted product. … People use it at home [and] drink it at their business,” said Richard Salzman, president of Richard’s Gourmet Coffee, W. Bridgewater, Mass.
Though coffee drinkers typically fall into one of two clearly defined groups—those who love the strong, bold flavors of the ubiquitous green-and-white java pusher, and those who prefer a more mellow blend—mild rules the day when it comes to promotional success. “You need a coffee that’s going to please most of the people most of the time,” Salzman affirmed. He related the story of a pharmaceutical company’s coffee promotion to illustrate his point.
“They kept asking us to do a knockoff of Starbucks, and I kept talking them out of it. … Finally I said fine, I will do an exact knockoff to a heavy-roasted coffee and they had the worst response,” he explained. For this reason, Richard’s often uses coffee from Guatemala, which is unique but not quite as bold as the more-typical Colombian or a Starbucks-esque French roast.
Though Salzman reported a former marketing push for his company was to encourage distributors to fill their mug promos with coffee or another of its assorted beverages, he noted the upsell strategy has fallen a bit by the wayside. Instead, 75 percent of his coffee packets are being handed out individually, either as thank-you gifts or simply as a way to get in front of a customer.
As office workers around the world can attest, when the midday doldrums hit, it takes more than just one food group to satisfy. With diversified offerings such as meat-and-cheese platters as well as chocolates and cookies, Mosinee, Wisconsin-based Maple Ridge Farms understands the power of the sweet and savory. According to company president Tom Riordan, the dueling flavors have duked it out (saleswise) over the years. “When we started our business 29 years ago, cheese-and-sausage packages represented 100 percent of our sales. Over the next 27 years, as we added more and more products like chocolate, fresh-roasted nuts and smoked meats we saw that percentage drop to about five percent of sales,” he reported. Over the past two years, however, sales for cheese-and-sausage combos have almost doubled. And so it goes.
Yet, Riordan is quick to point out that strategy is almost as important as content when it comes to the short-lived nature of edible promotions. He offered up two important questions worth asking customers: “Do they want a gift that contains some tangible item (with their logo on it) that will remain after the food has been enjoyed,” and, “What do they know about the recipient?” Putting extra thought into packaging and treat assortment can ensure more people remember the snack, long after the food is gone.
Sending meat through the mail might seem puzzling, but according to Fran Ford, executive vice president at Saginaw, Texas-based Vaquero Meat & Provisions Company, it’s a great opportunity to get inside a customer’s world. “You [can] take your customer [or] employee out to dinner in their own home and have them enjoy it with the most universal outdoor experience you can have with friends and family,” she said.
But with a unique promotion always comes questions—particularly regarding food safety. As such, distributors would be wise to emphasize the utmost care in packaging and processing. Vaquero’s steaks are cut only after an order has been made and are shipped using cold packs on the same day, Ford maintained. Plus, on-site USDA personnel conduct a “careful review, monitoring, testing and grading [of] all products,” she added.
This level of checks and balances has led to some innovative branding opportunities. “Included with the price of our product [is] a custom enclosure, whether it be a letter, a recipe, a thank you, an invitation or just a nice note from the powers that be,” said Ford.
After a day’s worth of promotional cuisine, there might not be much space left, but as those with a sweet tooth know: there’s always room for dessert.
This mantra has worked well for Fresh Beginnings, said Lauren Fox, sales and marketing manager for the Valdosta, Ga. company. “Customers come to enjoy and expect their yearly treats and become disappointed if they don’t receive them,” she said. The opportunity for repetition is a big draw for food gifts, particularly where sweets are concerned. “If a high-quality gourmet treat that can be shared by many is sent each year, recipients look forward to their gift from the sender,” Fox added.
The response is almost Pavlovian. Once recipients see packaging, they can’t help but conjure positive taste associations and expectations for the gift inside.
To capitalize on this, plus preserve freshness, there are numerous imprinting options for Fresh Beginnings’ items. “With each process, customers have become very creative and have turned their packaging into a commemorative tin,” she reported. By adding the date or creating a new design using screen printing or four-color processing, end-users ensure it’s a lasting impression.