Unilever’s prestigious catering brand, Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) has been committed to delivering specialised food solutions to various restaurants in China since 1994. With more than five million catering businesses in China, it is a major challenge for UFS to penetrate the huge and saturated market and establish a leadership position in the industry.
To overcome this, UFS has launched a campaign for the upcoming Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival) season that aims to create emotional bonds with their key target audience: chefs. The question is, how does UFS fully leverage social media not just to increase engagement and sales, but also boost brand preference and emotional connection with chefs?
Together with Isobar, UFS conceptualised “The Taste of Reunion Is Not Complete Without You”, a social marketing campaign that leverages the true meaning of Chinese New Year, which is all about celebrating family reunions. The campaign enables chefs, who cannot go home, to still be able to share the happiness and warmth of family time.
The Spring Festival is a time when family members would all come home and enjoy a well-prepared feast with their loved ones. However, on such occasions, chefs need to work hard in the restaurants, and it is nearly impossible for them to have home-cooked dishes with their families. After much in-depth conversations with many chefs, UFS and Isobar found that what they wanted the most during the Spring Festival is to get together with their loved ones.
On the basis of this core emotional appeal, Isobar developed a three-phased communications plan to meet the needs of UFS’ target audience this Spring Festival season.
In late November 2015, a new packaging was launched in the marketplace with a prize code. Extensive exposure on social media planned to appeal to and inform chefs regarding prize redemption. With a few simple steps of mobile interaction, users could easily redeem their "Treasure of Reunion" using the pin code on the packaging as well as share the activity with their friends and families.
In the months leading up to the 2016 Spring Festival, the campaign planned to resonate with its target audience through heart-warming interactive webpages within WeChat, videos, and relevant topics so as to connect emotionally with more chefs and to boost prize redemption and sales volume.
Nothing feels like home more than home-cooked dishes and cherished family voices. Therefore, Isobar also launched a WeChat webpage that featured the sounds of hometown dialects, in addition to spotlighting hometown specialties, covering more than 34 provinces and municipalities. After selecting their hometown and hitting the "Visit Home" button, users will receive a virtual home-cooked dish, accompanied by caring voices in their hometown dialect, giving them the authentic feel of being at a family reunion.
A wide range of hometown specialties is displayed dynamically in the corresponding hometown dialects, not only generating emotional resonance among users but also driving them to share on social, extending the communications effort.
February 1 is the day when chefs usually have time to take a breather, which is when the "Time-Limited Red Pocket Rush" was launched to encourage consumer engagement and social sharing. From January to February 22, the day of Lantern Festival, which marks the end of the Spring Festival, interactive WeChat webpages featuring "Voices of Wishes" and a commercial named "Heart Together" was pushed out on social platforms.
Focusing on the campaign theme, the "Heart Together" video communicated homesickness, a feeling that chefs can easily identify with. The video was promoted through innovative live feeds in WeChat and QQ Space, the two social channels that chefs visit the most.
Isobar also pushed out communications with target groups via an interactive WeChat website. The site allows users to choose from one of three symbolic dishes for Spring Festival (dumpling, fish and New Year cake), select a greeting or record their own, and send it to families and friends to express their sincere wishes for the coming new year.
By intensifying the campaign at key periods during the season, UFS aimed to strengthen the emotional bond between audience and brand as well as increase engagement.
The Spring Festival campaign initiated by UFS was the result of a collaboration between Isobar and the Tencent Big Data platform. With more insight into the online digital behaviours of chef groups, Isobar was able to categorize the chefs under different tags so as to launch the ads more precisely. In this way, Isobar helped the brand reach their target audience more effectively and connect emotionally with them. That is how Isobar addressed the challenges of market penetration for the brand, making UFS the first B2B brand in China to release an organic commercial on the Moments live feed in WeChat.
To date, the campaign has increased the brand’s followers on social, crossing over the one million mark. Meanwhile, communications efforts on WeChat have yielded outstanding results, evidenced by the record 300,000 views for one post.
Amanda Jia, Senior Trade Marketing Manager, Unilever Food Solutions said: "On the basis of the genuine emotional insights we received from chefs, the campaign covers heart-warming initiatives, which not only touches tens of thousands of chefs, but also ourselves. The insights of our target audience are always the focus of our marketing, even for a B2B campaign. Only through this, can we fully engage with our target audience. No matter how evolved communication tools are, the true essence of marketing remains centred on content creation that’s based on the right insight."
Joyce Zhou, Marketing Director of Unilever Food Solutions added: "As UFS is the first condiments brand to express the genuine feelings of chefs on a social platform (WeChat organic ads), we feel that our job goes beyond promoting superior products and food solutions, but also in helping chefs get more understanding and recognition. One highlight of the campaign is the cooperation with Tencent on data mining. The precise content distribution enables us to communicate with target audience more directly, so as to address the market penetration challenge of the traditional B2B industry effectively. This is a new move, way ahead of the curve even for B2C brands, and we are very proud of this campaign."
Rohan Lightfoot, Managing Director of Isobar Shanghai said: "We’re thrilled to be part of this campaign for Unilever Food Solutions. One of the amazing things about the scale of digital in China is that you can reach niche audiences, like professional chefs, at a mass level. For this campaign we worked with Tencent’s big data platform to reach our audience of chefs effectively and directly. In the age of Brand Commerce it’s important that we combine the art of storytelling with technology not just to reach our audience, but also to touch their emotions. We’re showing the audience that our client understands what they’re giving up to make everyone else’s Chinese New Year banquet special. Chefs across China already seem to be responding to that effort. ”