Web of food

Technology and food have long been an obsession for many. Now that creating a voice online has never been easier, people are merging these two passions together.

Technology and food have long been an obsession for many. Now that creating a voice online has never been easier, people are merging these two passions together.

"The most fascinating thing for me with personalized media is how many people self-identify how passionate they are about particular things," says Adam Brown, director of Ketchum's eKetchum practice.


He says that on Facebook.com or MySpace, you can find people being passionate about food products like Lean Cuisine and Diet Dr. Pepper, placing those brand names on the same level as "favorite books" or "favorite music."


"It doesn't mean every blog post will deal with [those products], but it presents a great opportunity to work with them whether through samples or dialogue," Brown says.


Brown says this opportunity is immediate. When Coca-Cola launched its Coca-Cola Bl?k product, a coffee-cola hybrid, in Chicago, thousands of posts tagged "Coca-Cola Bl?k" soon followed on Technorati. So Coca-Cola can garner instant feedback as to how the public is receiving the product.


Brown says that as much information as there is online, the ability to create categorizations makes it much easier to determine those who are truly passionate about the brand and those who are one-off consumers.


"The question is: are they interested in the conversation?" he says, pointing out that even those who think the product stinks might be talking a lot about the product they loathe. "Buzz is not necessarily always a good thing."


Brown also points out that while "companies have an opportunity to try to impact those conversations, whether they should is still another question" yet unsettled.


Dana Kopp, a VP in the consumer division for M. Booth & Associates, said the agency is seeing great online results for clients I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (ICBINB) and Country Crock.


"Food marketers are using the Web for that opportunity to have an interaction," Kopp says.


Kopp adds that ICBINB's and Country Crock's different approaches to the Web only prove how fertile the market is.


ICBINB set up a "Kitchen of Love" Web site for spokesperson Fabio at TastyLove.com, where people can get recipes and interaction with the product. Country Crock's CountryCrock.com approach is to give visitors information and tips on how they can spend more time with their family, advocating a return to a communal family dining time.


"Both are offering people more than static Web sites," Kopp says.


Kopp says that online tools like blogs have created a new form of influencers wholly different from the celebrity and journalist influencers of the past. While the latter influencers likely carry more weight, she says that online influencers open up newer opportunities for companies that might not have been able to attract celebrity endorsers.


"[That influencer could be] the person next to you in the supermarket," Kopp says.

"Every manufacturer is trying to tap into that consumer online market." Especially for smaller brands that are trying to become more popular, you can see they're doing so by targeting consumers."


"Consumers trust consumers," Kopp adds. "If someone recommends a recipe on Epicurious, I'll think, 'Oh well, that's looks good,' even if I've never met the person who recommended it."

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