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Behind Betty Crocker's Winning Holiday Social Campaign

  |  January 17, 2012   |  Comments

The cake mix maker's in-house kitchen staff is ready to interact with fans and followers.

General Mills-owned Betty Crocker won ClickZ's Holiday Social Showdown for putting together a holiday campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube with baked-in brand equity. The cake mix maker has a special ingredient its competitors don't: an in-house kitchen staff ready to interact with fans and followers.

Several things about Betty Crocker's holiday marketing efforts impressed ClickZ, and Betty911 was a standout. The program, now in its second year, allowed people to post their emergency cooking and baking inquiries to Facebook, or tweet them using the #Betty911 hashtag.

Betty Crocker's team of 13 test kitchen cooks, dieticians, and food experts - on location at the company's Minneapolis headquarters - were on call for 13 hours each day on Thanksgiving and then again from December 16 through Christmas day. The kitchen staff chosen to engage with consumers through social media channels are routinely involved in answering questions on Facebook and Twitter.

bettycrockerLeading up to Christmas, the #Betty911 hashtag gained traction on Twitter, as people promoted the tip service or asked questions there. And the brand did something most brands featured in this contest failed to do: it created a cohesive approach to all three top social media platforms while customizing content and tone for each one.

While Facebook posts often asked questions and generated lots of discussion and sharing, Twitter posts employed hashtags like #Betty911. Meanwhile, YouTube videos complemented the #Betty911 theme with a handful of how-to cooking and baking videos to calm nerves in the kitchen.

Compared to just 45 questions during the 2010 holiday season, around 600 questions from anxious cooks came in through Facebook and Twitter during the 2011 holidays, according to Laurie Borgen, senior editorial manager at General Mills.

"It was so successful for us that we're going to make Betty911 a permanent feature on the website," said Mike Bettison, interactive marketing manager at General Mills. "We want to basically be able to bring the idea to life on an ongoing basis,” he said.

It's no surprise the test kitchen staff and their knowledge not only informs Betty Crocker fans, but the brand's marketing itself. The world-class test kitchen, visible via an atrium from two floors at General Mills HQ, is a part of life for the company's employees. "We are always down there," said Bettison, noting the marketing staff sits directly above the kitchen.

"The marketing staff is routinely asked to participate... and evaluate new recipes," added Bettison.

Another testament to Betty Crocker's social media marketing sophistication: last year's most commonly-asked Betty911 questions influenced this year's YouTube video content. Questions such as "How Many People Will My Ham Feed?" and "How Can I Bake Evenly-Browned Cookies?" became the titles of Christmas-themed Betty911 videos posted during the campaign.

Incorporating feedback into the holiday campaign was merely an extension of the approach the brand takes on a regular basis. Comments and questions from people on Facebook and Twitter often inspire development of new recipes, like miniature pies, for instance. "A lot of people are looking for cooking-for-one or ways to keep the cooking sizes under control,” said Borgen.

Several posts to the Betty Crocker Facebook page in December generated lots of likes, shares, and comments. A post featuring a photo of a festive red and green cake inspired more than 300 shares and over 1,500 likes. Another holiday gift related post asking people to fill in a blank spurred 14 shares, 95 likes, and 60 comments in less than 10 minutes.

"Their Facebook wall is very active," said Ken Kraemer, executive creative director at social media marketing agency Deep Focus. "There's a lot of people just posting stuff...That's sort of a brass ring kind of thing."

In addition to its crew of kitchen experts, Betty Crocker had social marketing help from Imagination Publishing, a Chicago-based agency. "They helped us promote Betty911 for our social channels," said Borgen. Imagination also assisted when it came to ensuring speedy responses to cooks and bakers, reminding kitchen staff when questions needed answers posted.

Betty Crocker's social media efforts are a "way to connect to people the brand has been connecting to throughout prior generations through magazines, through a radio show, and through cookbooks," said Bettison. "We really want to help solve people’s problems."

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