Ah, Instagram. A digital world where we can mindlessly scroll, double-tap, and drool over an abundance of carefully photographed food platters spread across our newsfeed. Taking pictures of food has never been more mainstream than it is today. Five years ago, we shared pictures of sunsets, lakes, and cute babies wearing bowties. Now, we take pictures of food because, let’s be real, you didn’t eat it if you didn’t share a picture of it, am I right?
With New Year’s resolutions in full force, kale salads and cauliflower-fried rice have taken over my Instagram feed. Meanwhile, I’m chowing down on cinnamon crusted bagels stuffed with honey butter cream cheese and feeling bad about myself (but not really. Those bagels are worth it). #noshame.
There’s no denying that food is the new black when it comes to content on social media, especially Instagram. Twenty-nine million Americans have jumped on the bandwagon (or food truck, should I say?) and posted a picture of their food or drink from a restaurant on social media. We use food to express ourselves. We want to show our friends what we’re up to. We want to prove how health-conscious, adventurous, cultured, and cool we are, and we use food as the catalyst to do so.
Companies of all sizes are taking full advantage of this foodie culture by connecting their brand to a food-related experience using experiential marketing. This strategy involves bringing a brand to life by giving consumers an enjoyable, impressionable, and (preferably) delicious experience. Brands related to food (and even those that aren’t) have the opportunity to execute experiential campaigns where food serves as the experience itself. They present a “call to action” – take a picture of our product and use a campaign hashtag – to promote their brand. Campaign hashtags are essentially tools that transform consumers into brand ambassadors without them realizing it. Experiential marketers are like magicians, I tell ya.
Let’s take a look at an example using one of America’s favorite neighborhood restaurants – Applebee’s. (Have you tried their chicken wonton tacos!? They’re amazeballs. Trust me.) Anyway, Applebee’s released a campaign in 2014 called Fantographer. It was a super simple concept in which diners were encouraged to share a pic of their meal using #Fantographer. In exchange, participants had a shot at showcasing their photos on Applebee’s personal Instragram feed.
Sounds too simple, right? But it was actually very effective. The brand gained over 4,500 new followers and the campaign hashtag showed up in over 78 million Twitter profiles. Their social chatter and brand presence exploded (in a good way) thanks to our love of food and our desire to be part of a collective experience.
So, have I made you hungry yet? Great. Now go order yourself some chicken wonton tacos and share a foodgram. You can thank me later.