Brands Launch Into Summer With Value-Oriented Campaigns

If the warm weather and end of the school year aren’t indication enough that a new season is upon us, perhaps you haven’t been exposed to enough digital consumer-packaged goods campaigns. Summer ads displaying images of hot grills, bikini-clad girls, and kids leaping through sprinklers in the sun are here to coax consumers into stocking up on the products that promise to enhance the carefree coming months.

If there’s a theme to this year’s offerings, it’s most certainly savings. Through their marketing efforts, brands are reflecting and responding to an ongoing trend: the desire to spend more wisely, and to favor the brands that offer the most real value.

A recent study from Brand Keys, a research consultancy focused on customer loyalty and engagement, found that while some consumers (20 percent) intend to spend less in 2010 and are questioning the “ethics around consumption,” overall shoppers are simply being smarter about what – and how – they buy. Coupon redemption, the study says, is up 25 percent, and price really does matter.

At the same time, a brand’s “unique meaning” – including such characteristics as authenticity, innovation, and engaging advertising – resonates with shoppers. Consumers are willing to spend more on brands that exceed their expectations and deliver value, and word of mouth (along with related efforts like customer relationship management) will continue to keep them engaged.

How are consumer goods companies addressing these mixed messages? They’re strategically marrying summer savings with a sense of community through social media and seasonal content.

Frito-Lay North America is taking the season head-on with BeSnackReady.com, which currently highlights its many consumer-packaged goods snack products in the context of summer. Launched earlier this year in collaboration with Walmart and being promoted with banners on sites like Shutterfly.com, the microsite was built to give moms value and a convenient place where they can plan activities with family and friends. As such, it features recipes with a focus on grilling and entertaining, lifestyle tips, polls, product coupons, and links to outdoor products on Walmart.com.

An effort is also made to draw on consumers’ sense of community with two individual features: an introduction to new Lay’s Regional Flavors product line, and an online game to test consumers’ “Shopping Readiness.” In terms of execution, however, both fall a little short. While Frito-Lay demonstrates its market savvy with its regional products – designed to inspire “local pride in food heritage” – a related Facebook application, in which users can send their friends a virtual bag of chips, doesn’t actually allow them to select the flavor relating to their region. And although the online shopping game is intended to incite a friendly competition among family and friends, it’s woefully underdeveloped.

That said, the message of summer savings comes across loud and clear, as it does with another brand eager to highlight its value as a product for the season. Morningstar Farms, known for its meatless burgers, has partnered with Food Network to launch a home page skin and rich media campaign that offers recipes coupled with in-banner coupons, all wrapped up in the apropos seasonal message, “Great ways to go meatless on the grill.”

The brand’s rich media ads feature candid video testimonials from consumers as they react to trying Morningstar meatless burgers grilled instead of prepared another way; more videos are available on the brand’s site. The banners also allow users to scroll through products to select the printable coupon they most desire, which serves two purposes simultaneously: it underscores the brand’s large product line and affords the ability to express one’s individual tastes, all without requiring the user to leave the publisher’s site. In addition to the brand site, recipes are also available on the Morningstar Facebook page.

The prize for best social media strategy, however, goes to Jose Cuervo, which is also advertising on FoodNetwork.com to promote its pre-mixed margarita with additional savings. Its home page skin and adjacent rich media banner also offer a coupon, but link directly to the brand’s Facebook page before sending users to parent site Diageo (in a new browser window, of course) to print the coupon. This intermediary step increases awareness of Jose Cuervo’s social media presence and helps to boost “Likes.”

As we launch into our summer campaigns, those three S’s – savings, social media, and seasonal content – should be top of mind. So should campaigns like these and the unique ways in which they handle the delivery of their message of value (for better or for worse). Consumers will be looking for all three of these characteristics from the brands they buy this summer, and with the right strategy and execution, you’re guaranteed to engage them.

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