Home  › Media › Media Planning
ketchupfeatured

Social Media Is Ketchup

  |  January 6, 2011   |  Comments   |  

The lasting power and success of ketchup is similar to how marketers use social media in their overall marketing campaigns.

During this past holiday season, there were two things on my mind: food and social media.

Have you ever thought about why ketchup has remained unchanged over so many years, while other condiments and sauces continue to adapt? Think about how mustard started as plain yellow mustard, but upgraded to Dijon mustard, and then diversified to honey mustard and so on. What made ketchup so perfect from the start that it never needed to change?

There's a lesson to be learned from examining ketchup's success in relation to social media. To understand this, we must first go back to the origin of the idea that explains the mastery behind ketchup's lasting power.

The Misunderstood Secret Sauce

Malcom Gladwell first raised this question in his article, "The Ketchup Conundrum" and it sparked me to think about how something as common and universal as ketchup could be so wildly successful yet so greatly misunderstood. Why does ketchup have no competitors? What was ketchup's secret? The scientific reason behind why ketchup has stood the test of time is in the secret recipe. Henry John Heinz perfected a recipe many years ago that balances all five fundamental tastes of the human palate - salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. Any variation only throws off this beautiful balance that wonderfully compliments so many different foods. Other condiments, like mustard, could never achieve this multi-dimensional balance and hence the never-ending quest to find the next best variation of mustard. Many other condiments have suffered the same fate of chasing the new magic recipe. Condiment makers have tried to make better ketchup variations since Heinz, but consumers continue to choose the original recipe. And to this day no one has found a more optimal version of ketchup.

(Does this sound a bit like how marketers try and fail at different ways to use social media to connect their brand with consumers? It should.) It's important to note that core ingredients of food are controlled by the food preparer, whereas condiments are used at the discretion of the food eater.

This is a simple but incredibly important insight. Ketchup has a distinct position because it stands apart as the favorite condiment and also readily applies to many different foods. Therefore ketchup plays a very big role in the overall satisfaction of food. As marketers trying to reach consumers, we must remember that we are the cooks but the consumers add their own condiments.


Social Media Is Ketchup But Who's the Hot Dog?

Shift gears back to the marketing world. Social media is ketchup. Does our analogy check out? Media represents the condiment and creative represents the main course. Consumers control when and how much media is consumed, but are heavily influenced by the tastiness of creative content. (Check.)

Social media is the perfectly unchangeable ketchup, and every other media is mustard on the quest to find the perfect iteration. In particular, digital media spawns a new variation seemingly every week. (Check.)

Much like how you don't drink ketchup out of the bottle, you don't consume social media in isolation of the main course. Social media is the conversation, but not the content. Good content is the catalyst to good social media. (Check.)

Consumers love ketchup because it's cheap and it goes with everything. Marketers love social media because it is earned media and it rides off of surrounding marketing efforts. (Check.)

When to Use Ketchup and How Much

Chances are the average marketer still does not understand how social media fits into their business. The ketchup analogy is intended to realign expectations on how social media should be positioned within marketing plans.

Start small and imagine that every ounce of ketchup needs a good hot dog or French fry. Too often, marketers fear the complexity of ketchup and serve their hot dogs with expired mustard or no condiments at all. Sometimes, marketers try to mask a bad tasting hot dog with a lot of ketchup. Neither scenario leads to a good meal for the consumer.

Whether it's reviewing a hotel or reposting a funny video on Facebook, social media is the reason and ability of our consumers to talk or share. No more and no less. It's simple in theory but complex in design. And just like ketchup, this "magic" recipe to create word of mouth media has remained unchanged for a long time.

Executed with the right balance, social media can enhance your main dish in wonderful ways. On the flip side, the wrong balance can leave your consumers eating rotten tomatoes.

Subscribe to ClickZ Asia to receive your weekly dose of the region's latest trends, tips, and insights straight to your inbox.

ClickZ Live San Francisco This Year's Premier Digital Marketing Event is #CZLSF
ClickZ Live San Francisco (Aug 11-14) brings together the industry's leading practitioners and marketing strategists to deliver 4 days of educational sessions and training workshops. From Data-Driven Marketing to Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email, this year's comprehensive agenda will help you maximize your marketing efforts and ROI. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cheung

As regional digital strategy director at Tribal DDB Asia Pacific, Brandon is an integral part of the development and execution of Radar, Tribal DDB's regional social media offering. He also provides digital leadership for the agency's clients. Brandon was previously (group) strategic planning director at Isobar and Carat Hong Kong, where he led digital and social media development for a range of clients, such as Chivas Regal, Swire Properties, Tiffany & Co., Nokia, and Adidas. He also developed Astro, a proprietary social media customer relationship management (CRM) system. Brandon has eight years of experience in digital marketing strategy, having worked in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong. He loves the Internet and thinks we don't say it enough. Show him some love on Twitter: @brcheung.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get ClickZ Media newsletters delivered right to your inbox. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

BigDoor: The Marketers Guide to Customer Loyalty

The Marketer's Guide to Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty is imperative to success, but fostering and maintaining loyalty takes a lot of work. This guide is here to help marketers build, execute, and maintain a successful loyalty initiative.

Marin Software: The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising

The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising
Latest research reveals 68% higher revenue per conversion for marketers who integrate their search & social advertising. In addition to the research results, this whitepaper also outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Jobs

    • Internet Marketing Campaign Manager
      Internet Marketing Campaign Manager (Straight North, LLC) - Fort MillWe are looking for a talented Internet Marketing Campaign Manager to join the...
    • Online Marketing Coordinator
      Online Marketing Coordinator (NewMarket Health) - BaltimoreWant to learn marketing from the best minds in the business? NewMarket Health, a subsidiary...
    • Call Center Manager
      Call Center Manager (Common Sense Publishing) - Delray BeachWanted: Dynamic Call Center Manager with a Proven Track Record of Improving Response...