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What Marketers Can Learn from the Frozen Food Aisle

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Frozen food is a gamble if ever there was one. Sometimes you luck out and lunch is a 5-minute microwaveable miracle. And other times? You kick yourself for being so easily seduced by the scrumptious images on the package– since the product inside tastes less like those pictures and far more like the cardboard box it came in.


By now you've likely heard of BlendTec's zany series of online videos in which the founder uses his company's high-end blenders to pose various "Will it Blend?" challenges. From blending iPhones and glowsticks to footballs and even the Federal Bailout Bill, BlendTec has produced a viral hit, many laughs and an incredible surge in profits.
FreezerBurns, on the other hand, isn't a Web show that focuses on a product that the company produces, but on brands that the show's host consumes (literally). Enter Greg Ng; the self-proclaimed "frozen food master" who eats his way through the frozen foods aisle one box–and one brand–at a time.
The show's genius is focusing on an aspect of food reviews that, until now, has been untapped yet is ubiquitous: frozen food.
Since October of last year, Greg has published over 130 reviews featuring products from 105 different brands. A likable, down-to-earth guy, Greg's an everyman, if you will. I think of him as the Web's resident Frozen Foodie. For some context, please just view this 2-minute overview of his show:

Giving viewers "Everything you need to know to make an informed decision in the freezer aisle," Greg assesses the product packaging, clarity of the directions, nutrition information, how the product looks, smells and tastes–and whether the product was worth the price. And then he wraps up each segment by rating each product on a scale of 0-5 stars.
Offering variety not just in the foods he reviews but in his review formats, Greg provides 3 different types of shows. From single in-depth reviews to popular one-word quick reviews where he tastes the food on camera and says the first word that comes to mind, to occasional "Frowdowns" (short for "Frozen Food Throwdowns") where he compares different brands head to head–as he did during National Pancake Week where he compared Aunt Jemima's frozen pancakes against Pillsbury's... and aptly did the breakfast segment in a bathrobe.
But we're not here to talk food (though it's one of my favorite topics). We're here to talk marketing. And what perplexes me is just how little these reviews–as well as the myriad of other reviews and commentary for products and services that circulate the Web daily–are being leveraged by brand marketers. After all, they provide us such tremendous opportunity. It's enough to make a marketer scratch their head, or pull her hair out.
I could understand if the reviews were negative, but so many of them are positive. On average the products that Greg reviews receive 3.5 stars. Even more compelling? For each of Greg's reviews the brand is front and center for the entirety of the show which equates to anywhere between 1-12 minutes. Ergo, the brands are truly the *star* of each segment.
Thus far, only 4 of Greg's segments have been sponsored by brands–and by "sponsored" I mean that companies have sent Greg foods to review (he doesn't accept payment from brands to review their foods as his segments are objective critiques). But even fewer of his reviews have received any acknowledgment whatsoever by companies– yet consumer testimonials are the strongest form of advertising because they come from the mouth of the customer not the company.
Alas, the tides might be starting to slowly turn as a few smart brands have pointed to Greg's review on their blog or Facebook page and, in the boldest move yet, Margaritaville Foods is currently featuring Greg's review on their homepage after finding out how highly he rated one of their products.
My biggest idea for FreezerBurns is that it could also be featured on a television food network. I'd suggest keeping the segments on the Web, but perhaps give viewers a snapshot of the most recent review during programming and then pointing them to Greg's online series for full segments. Or, give Greg an entire show and let frozen foodies unite across broadcast and social media.
But my key takeaways for marketers of all flavors (not just food) entail:

  • Make the commitment to Monitor. At this point in the evolution of Web 2.0 technologies, I would like to say that this basic-yet-critical practice should go without saying. But it doesn't. Marketers must (absolutely must!) be monitoring the Web for mentions of their brands–and those of competitive ones. But that's not all, they need to also assess the substance of them, be they positive or negative. Whether you file this activity under research or customer communications, monitoring is a process to be taken seriously and to place time and care against. While many sophisticated monitoring tools exist, between enlisting Google Alerts and subscribing to a Twitter RSS feed for brand mentions, you can monitor for free.
  • Recognize others when they recognize you. When someone reviews or comments on your product, thank them. And when it's a positive review? Feature them! Also, when someone gives you unfavorable feedback, reach out to them and find out why. Marketers, it's very likely they're doing you a favor as their feedback could significantly improve your product and marketing efforts. Remember, if one customer is having a problem with your product, they're likely not the only one.
  • Syndicate In, not just Out. Brand marketers shouldn't only think about broadcasting out their marketing messages, but syndicating in reviews that could be kept current on their Web sites and marketing materials. Marketers might even give thought to posting Google and Twitter RSS feeds on their sites citing mentions of their products and services in real time–but if they do so, they need to be prepared for all feedback (ranging the good, the bad and the ugly).
  • Customize promotions in real time. Companies could also extend to publishers like Greg the opportunity to give his audience customized coupons and promotions. Instead of offering existing coupons, create something tailored to specific audiences so that it's unique to these unique communities, and then diligently track the ROI. The lesson here is to not only request that your brands to be featured on segments such as these (a goal all about your brand) but to also give something back to them (an incentive that's focused on the audience, as well as your brand).
  • Understand that communities are formed around anything–yes, even frozen foods. The lesson here is that there are seemingly endless passions, preferences, hobbies, interests and niches giving root to online communities, with more communities forming daily. Brand marketers need to constantly do their research on which communities complement their brands, as well as identifying how they can extend them value in order to participate in meaningful ways. Folks, that last part is so important I'm going to repeat it: once you've found a community that has an affinity to your brand, focus first on how you can extend value to them before you work to extract value from them.
  • Think outside of the (frozen food) box. As part of monitoring, brand marketers will want to not only focus on how the host, or community leader, has rated or discussed their brand, but on how others have responded and the resulting opportunities therein. For example, just look at the comments on Greg's site for each of the segments–many of those people could be potential members for a company's online Customer Advisory Board since they've already expressed interest in the brand and could be a tremendous source of insight on a long-term basis. Brands search far and wide for representative samplings of their markets, yet sometimes they're forming right before your eyes, if you know where to look.

  • So there you go marketers, a host of lessons straight from the frozen food aisle! Please let me know if I've missed any key takeaways– and if you'd like for FreezerBurns to review a frozen food that you like, or are curious about trying, just drop it in the comments. Bon appetite!


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    Christina "CK" Kerley is a strategist, speaker, and trainer on innovation through mobile and smart technologies ("The Internet of Things"). Access her e-books and videos.

    Twitter: @CKsays

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    Comments

    • by EH Tue May 5, 2009 via blog

      Thanks for the post. A brand that I've seen do a good job about monitoring and featuring positive things about their brand is Subway. A random music video was made by a few guys totally unrelated to Subway singing about the Jared story. The video truly was viral and quickly spread. Subway featured this video and eventually bought the rights to it because it was so good.

    • by Alan Wolk Tue May 5, 2009 via blog

      Great advice and input. One thought: I'd never heard of Greg until this post. And my first inclination was to say "well, he should have gotten in touch with them too, let them know that he's there." But thinking on it a bit more, I realized that he probably had no idea who to talk to at any of these companies (I wouldn't have) and that few (if any) were set up to hear from people like him. That's one of the benefits of a social media presence: people like Greg now have a way to get in touch with your company and make you aware that they're out there.

    • by Rob Frappier Wed May 6, 2009 via blog

      "Folks, that last part is so important I'm going to repeat it: once you've found a community that has an affinity to your brand, focus first on how you can extend value to them before you work to extract value from them." Very well-put. Too many companies assume that merely having a presence in social media is enough. It's all about giving customers something valuable.

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