Thursday, October 16, 2008

Marketing Memo: Search Marketing is a Growing and Key Part of the Marketing Arsenal; Offers Great Opportunity For Natural~Specialty Foods Companies

Yesterday we wrote about how using social media Web sites offers the perfect opportunity for natural and specialty foods suppliers, marketers and retailers to interactively market their brands to consumers by communicating their company and brand message through various means in an online social and conversational environment -- the online social media site such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and others.

The Internet and Web offer players in all sectors of the natural and specialty foods industry additional opportunities along with the use of social media sites for communications and ultimately brand building uses.

Although it does require a small marketing budget because it is paid advertising, unlike social media sites, which have no cost to use, search marketing, using sites such as Google and Yahoo, also is an excellent means (and virtually untapped) for natural and specialty foods suppliers, marketers, brokers and retailers to create high impact, low cost marketing campaigns.

A chief advantage of search marketing is the ability to target your message using various search terms. It's niche marketing that reaches anybody who searches a topic related to your brand or product.

Big consumer packages goods companies like Coca-Cola, ConAgra and Kellogg have discovered the power of search, and each are using it extensively.

Coke, ConAgra and Kellogg all are players in the natural and specialty foods categories as well. Coke owns the Vitamin Water and related brands, ConAgra markets organic packaged goods products under different brands, and Kellogg is a major player in the natural breakfast cereal and snack categories.

The marketing publication Brandweek reports Coca-Cola has set up a marketing campaign on Google and Yahoo in which each time a user types in the search terms "Coke," Diet Coke," "Sprite," "Vitamin Water" or any other brand marketed by the beverage giant, the phrase "My Coke Rewards" comes up at the top of the search list as on of the options.

My Coke Rewards is the company's consumer loyalty marketing program. Coke's using it on the search engines makes thousands more consumers aware of the program compared to if the loyalty scheme was only advertised in traditional media and in-store.

This week Kellogg is using search to help kick off its new Web site, which promotes the food company's Rice Krispies brand cereal.

Because Halloween (October 31) is such a big sales period for Rice Krispies (people make the famous Rice Krispies marshmallow snack treats for Halloween) Kellogg has bought search words like "Halloween" and "Recipe" on the Google and Yahoo search engines. When userers (read potential Rice Krispies' customers) types in these search terms and others, the Web site comes to the top of the search answers list.

ConAgra has gotten into search marketing in a big way as well. The food company has bought up scores of search terms related to its brands and products, including "great tasting recipe" and "easy-to-prepare." Type those (and numerous others) search terms in and at or near the top of the results will be information about various ConAgra brands, recipes features the company's products and related brand information, according to Brandweek.

The use of search marketing by consumer packaged goods companies is expected to grow about 30% to $594 million by 2012, according to recent research by Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass.

Additionally, both Google and Yahoo say the use of search marketing by consumer packaged goods companies is one of their respective fastest growing categories.

Search marketing and the natural and specialty foods industry

Search marketing using Google or Yahoo or other search engines offers numerous pluses for natural and specialty foods companies.

First, the cost of entry is low. Companies can get into search using a few key search terms to start for very little money. It's far less of a cost than producing a four-color brochure, for example.

Additionally, make this comparison. Natural and specialty foods suppliers/marketers often use in-store food sampling demos as a major aspect of their marketing and promotional campaigns. Doing a demo at just one store can run $100 or more today. That means if you do demos at 20 stores the cost would be about $2,000-$3,000 If you reach 1,500 consumers at those 20 stores that's considered a pretty successful conclusion.

However, from the standpoint of return on investment (ROI) reaching 1,500 consumers with a brand message for $2,000-$3,000 isn't great. It's true their is a certain qualitative aspect to in-store demos in that you get your product tasted. However the ROI is low.

By comparison, for $2,000-$3,000 a company can get into search marketing in a substantial way to start, including buying numerous search words or terms. And instead of reaching just $1,500 consumers with the investment, tens of thousands of consumers can be reached.

We aren't suggesting search marketing as a substitute for in-store demos per se -- although in these lean times it isn't something we advocate much . Rather we are suggesting search marketing can leverage a brand message in terms of ROI far more than a promotional tactic such as an in-store demo can.

Second, search marketing has a very good return on investment (ROI), as we mentioned above In fact it offers one of the biggest bangs for the marketing bucks currently available.

This is true not only compared to in-store demos but compared to numerous other marketing tactics as well, especially within the paid advertising segment.

Lastly, Search is a trusted tool for consumers. And consumers are increasingly turning to sites like Google and Yahoo to look up recipes, types of foods and other related information. Embedding your brand message within search offers not just an advertising message but also an informational one. food products and search go together well.

For example, say a user is looking to make some treats for the kids' Halloween party. She goes to Google, types in "Halloween treat recipes," and among the thousands of search results that come up there's Kelloggs Rice Krispies Treats right at the top, including the recipe. She sees this result, thinks about how her mother always made the marshmallow treats for Halloween, and makes a note to do so herself, adding Rice Krispies to her grocery list.

Such can be the power of search for consumer packaged goods companies of all sizes.

Search marketing is perfect for companies producing and marketing natural and organic food products since so many consumers are using search sites to research healthier food options.

For example, "organic foods" is one of the top search terms on Google and Yahoo. So is "food allergies."

The same is the case in the specialty foods segment. Consumers increasingly are using search sites to look for recipes including premium ingredients and products.

For example, let's say you produce and market a unique product such as a Key Lime cookies. We bet there are thousands of Key Lime cookie lovers out there who actually use Google or Yahoo to search the term in order to find out what's out there in Key Lime cookie world. A company that makes the cookies can buy a dozen or so related search terms for very little money and get a major impact, which also is measurable, using Google or Yahoo search. It's a specialty advertising for a niche, specialty product.

For natural and specialty foods manufacturers, marketers and even retailers that aren't using search marketing we suggest you look into it. It's not only fast growing but also becoming among the most powerful ways to reach consumers with a targeted message. It's also a level playing field. You need not be a Coke, Kellogg or ConAgra to get into search marketing. It's cost of entry is low and it potential impact as a marketing tool is high.

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