Pull up a chair and bring your appetite, because food - yes, food - is quickly becoming one of the most popular marketing mediums, unique in its ability to be adaptable to almost any industry.
The beauty of food as a marketing tool stems from its whimsical nature and the nostalgia it elicits - a steaming hot stew with pot roast and tender potatoes brings you all the comforts of home, and a citrus salad topped with char-grilled shrimp elicits the feeling of a salty summer breeze on the back of your neck. The reaction that food evokes is unparalleled by other marketing tools because of its capability to engage all five of the senses in fully immersive participation. Tapping into this power would enable a company to control the consumer experience like never before -- which is exactly why some of the biggest titans of industry have decided to incorporate food into their marketing strategy, despite the fact that many of these companies have nothing to do with the culinary world.
Burberry, the high-end British design house, and TOMS Shoes, the more affordable footwear brand with a social mission, have both incorporated a dining experience into their retail stores. On Regent Street in London, Burberry’s flagship store boasts luxurious marble floors, chandeliers, and artisanal British cuisine - a far cry from the hipster chalkboard menu, casual couch seating, and paper coffee cups at the TOMS Cafe in Venice Beach, CA. However, the polar opposite spectrums that each dining experience embodies could not be more representative of the brands themselves, and by allowing the consumer to see, feel, hear, smell, and even taste the essence of each brand is something that will cultivate a lasting impression in a way that fleeting advertising campaigns cannot.
Even music festivals like Coachella and Governor's Ball have rebranded themselves as food and music festivals, where the release of the “lineup” of food vendors is almost as anticipated as the artists performing. At Governors Ball, the line for insta-famous Black Tap milkshakes was so long you would’ve thought Kanye was signing autographs, and the hashtag “#GovBallEats” was used more than 500 times.
One of the most recent phenomena in the realm of food marketing has been Buzzfeed’s Tasty, a collective of aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-follow recipe videos that have completely taken over the internet. The Tasty Kitchen has even featured famous chefs like Wolfgang Puck, showing the world one 30-second video at a time that anyone can cook a delicious meal. As a media company, BuzzFeed relies on heavy user traffic on their website and social media pages to drive ad revenue, and because of the appeal of a delectable meal and the prevalence of food in all of our lives, Tasty has become their most profitable sector. Even Walmart, #1 on Fortune’s 500 list, has taken notice, partnering with Tasty to advertise the use of ingredients from their store.
However, with more and more “unconventional” companies that don’t normally have anything to do with food dipping their toes in the culinary world, the question is raised if companies that do affiliate more with the culinary industry will struggle to market themselves the same way. For instance, airlines and hotels, both of which serve food, have made major pushes in recent years to market themselves by adding new organic and vegan options and promoting celebrity chefs -- but will their campaigns be overshadowed by the new generation of edible marketing?
Whoever said music is our only universal language was either insane or on a diet -- because whether it’s a 25 cent slice of greasy, cheesy pizza or a $100 steak served with truffle butter and aged red wine, food is not only necessary to our survival, but has been a source of unity since the beginning of mankind. Communities only began to form when hunter-gatherers realized their efficiency increased when individuals worked together, and there’s a reason why the age old saying to find commonality and form friendship is to “break bread.” The fact of the matter is, we love food and always will. Is food as a marketing medium genius? Yes. Will I go to Governors Ball just for a ramen burger? Of course.
Lynnea Bolin, MSD Intern