When the brand launched 10 years ago, it built its initial success in part on personal connections forged through sampling events and having consumers experience for themselves the fun flavors and crunch of the better-for-you brand that snacks like its traditional counterparts. And so to mark its anniversary, the brand decided to return to its roots, but target four new markets, chief marketing officer Marc Seguin told FoodNavigator-USA.
He explained, over the three months of summer marketing brand ambassadors descended on Seattle, Salt Lake City, Atlanta and Nashville to pass out 110,000 samples at 300 iconic summer events in the four markets.
“We set up sampling activations at local events and at retailers to try and connect with all the things going on in those communities, such as the Country Music Awards in Nashville and Slide the City in Salt Lake City,” he said. “We wanted to really be present and participate fully in the summer in those cities, which is why we also had field teams in place to overlay our digital marketing campaign, which was both static and video and targeted at digital media.”
Seguin said the company chose the target cities because they were areas where the brand wasn’t traditionally as strong as it was on the coasts, where it focused 10 years ago when it first launched. He added the brand also was attracted to the four cities because they had strong better-for-you snacking markets and a high concentration of consumers who were interested in better-for-you snacking or were well primed to hear messages about eating healthier. And finally, they had active city-wide and iconic summer time events that were natural fits for sampling.
“It was so successful this year, that we are going to replicate it next summer and really double-down because we feel like we found a way to go in for three months, integrate brand ambassadors, put in a branded presence, partner with retailers in that market, take advantage of local activities that are happening in every city across the country and really participate in a big way,” Seguin said.
How to select VIP brand ambassadors and influencers
The targeted sampling program was part of the company’s larger “Skinny Chipping” summer campaign, that tapped celebrity ambassadors, social media influencers and VIP chefs to create buzz around the brand for its 10-year anniversary.
The campaign kicked off with a ritzy night at The W Hotel in Los Angeles where actress Lea Michele “garnered lots of attention across earned media in a really positive way” by representing the brand to invited press and influencers, and rubbing shoulders with company executives and other guests.
The company decided to team with Michele because she epitomizes the brand’s target “busy balancers” demographic – people, mostly women, who love chips, splurging and having fun with their food but who also care about what goes into their bodies and are willing to hit the gym later to work off any extra calories if they are so inclined, Seguin said.
“Lea is a great example of who we consider to be a busy balancer. She is beautiful, fit, funny, high-energy and she really loves popchips,” Seguin said.
But, he added, when picking a celebrity ambassador, brands also should consider what is going on in their lives and careers at the time, to ensure they have “social currency” that will attract target consumers. In the case of Michele, she “is pretty hot right now with her career and on TV,” including the launch of her second studio album, Places, an upcoming role as Valentina Barella on ABC’s The Mayor, and her high-profile, award-winning role as Rachel Berry on Fox’s Glee from 2009 to 2015.
Seguin said popchips applied the same criterion to the influencers it invited to The W Hotel and with whom it worked throughout the summer to generate buzz.
“When we look for influencers we wanted people who love chips, really enjoy food and are health-minded and present themselves a health-conscious, but who are not crazy and never-swaying from a really strictly regimented diet,” Seguin said.
He also said the company looked for micro-influencers and those who were a little larger to ensure that their reach and connection with followers was authentic. In addition, he said, the company wanted influencers who were “big on Instagram and YouTube,” and who create “real, organic engagement.”
For example, he said, most of the Skinny Chipping posts were not done in the confessional style with the influencer holding the bag and talking about it. Rather, the chips were incorporated into larger, memorable experiences like going to the beach, hosting a barbecue or other classic summertime moments.
By focusing on this organic style of storytelling, the brands saw engagement rates of 15-18% on some of its best posts, which is seven to nine times the industry standard, Seguin said.
Overall, the digital advertising campaign garnered 80 million impressions, and the event at The W Hotel yielded 1 million impressions, according to the company.
Engaging celebrity chefs and consumers together
Finally, the campaign included a celebrity chef digital better-for-you dip and chip contest with the organization ChefsFeed.
“We worked hard to come up with great dips for popchips that would go great with summer barbecues, pool parties or just a summer afternoon,” but which would ultimately bring people together and help them create memories, Seguin said.
The contest winner was crowned at a celebrity, VIP and influencer celebration in New York City.
When all was said and done, the campaign garnered more than 222 million PR impressions with coverage in high-profile outlets, including InStyle, E!, SELF, People, Us Weekly, Star Magazine and others.