Blog: Katy AskewBrands: too in your Face-book?

Katy Askew | 11 March 2011

With social networking all the rage, food manufacturers have for some time been looking for ways to reach out to consumers through this relatively new medium. However, a recent study suggests that some of the more common methods of online marketing are failing to do so.

While three out of every four US teens go online every day, only 6% want to interact with brands on popular networking site Facebook, a survey released by Forrester Research has concluded.

Additionally, teens want to be the initiators of any conversations they have with brands via social networking sites - rather than being passively fed marketing messages. While 16% of 12- to 18-year-olds expect companies to use social tools to interact with them, 28% want companies to listen to what they are saying on networking sites and answer any questions they may have, the researchers found.

More tellingly still, Forrester said that only one in four teens surveyed said they find brand profiles on social networks to be "trustworthy" - but two in four trust television advertisments. So, teens are far more likely to place faith in traditional marketing mediums, the researchers suggested.

These findings pour cold water on many manufacturers' efforts to reach out to the sought-after teen demographic online and suggest that marketers may need to take a fresh look at how they use social media like Facebook.

Heinz has attempted to do just that with the launch a ketchup flavour that is currently only available through the brand's Facebook page. The initial roll out of Heinz' new balsamic flavoured ketchup in the UK will see 3,000 bottles go on sale to "fans" who have said that they "like" the group's Facebook page.

After this initial promotion, Heinz will then initiate a broader roll out to UK retailers.

"Social media is increasingly at the forefront of this consumer consumption evolution which is why we've decided to use our popular UK Facebook page to ensure our most loyal fans get the chance to try Heinz Tomato Ketchup with Balsamic Vinegar before anyone else. We are anticipating demand will be high and the product will sell out in days," Heinz head of marketing Ian McCarthy said.

To an extent, Heinz is preaching to the converted by reaching out to those who have already identified themselves with the brand on Facebook. However, the company is clearly hoping that rewarding loyal customers and increasing the online "buzz" surrounding the product launch will attract attention and a sales lift at regular retail outlets will follow.




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