Cancel OK

Produce marketing shifts online in the age of quarantines

Alton Brown Quarantine Kitchen
Nearly 200,000 people watched Alton Brown dig through his fridge to make a “quarantine kitchen” dinner. It was hilarious.

It’s clear the world has hit pause on most marketing and communications plans that were in place before the COVID-19 outbreak.

But what do we do now?

I know what I’m doing. I’m planning video content.

There is no better time than right now to provide fresh, new content for the tens of millions of consumers isolating at home with not much else to do than cook meals for their families—and look for inspiration for those meals.

I did a few impromptu Facebook Live videos over the weekend. It wasn’t anything strategic. It was just goofing around in the kitchen cooking a meal and digging through my pantry. We found a box of Post Chicken & Waffles cereal that I forgot I had, and we tried it. (Spoiler alert: it’s not good)

So many people tuned in and I had way more engagement than I normally do. I have a few theories.

  1. People have “news fatigue” and don’t want any more news, especially in the evening. They want fun, and some ideas on what to do with all of this corona-disaster-pantry shopping they did.
  2. People have binged too much Netflix and crave interaction with other people.

That’s where trusted produce brands come in. If you are a brand marketer, you should be creating content that engages consumers where they are – at home, looking in the fridge, possibly with bored kids, wanting something familiar, something fun, and something to take their minds off of the fact that the outside world, frankly, is a little scary right now.

There’s even a hashtag for quarantine-related cooking: #QuarantineKitchen, which I’ve seen on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

I highly suggest something with active engagement like live video. And don’t worry about being in a professional setting. Live video is booming right now. Just think of all of the artists and musicians who are performing for live audiences on social media right now. I have a friend who had a virtual 40th birthday party over the weekend. Another friend, who is a piano bar performer, did a live performance for virtual partygoers. What a world we live in right now.

Live video is my favorite medium for low cost authentic engagement.

Actually, authenticity was one of the core concepts suggested by some of the best minds in produce marketing in a recent Members Helping Members publication by the Produce Marketing Association BB #:153708. Chief Marketing Officer Lauren Scott said PMA reached out to marketing agency members from the fresh produce and floral industry for advice on how to manage uncertainties and challenges related to COVID-19.

My key takeaways:

  • Sharpen your digital strategy and get comfortable with video.
  • Be authentic, transparent, and empathetic.
  • Don’t be too focused on “selling” versus being helpful as people navigate the unknown.
  • Consider “edutainment” like live field (or warehouse behind-the-scenes) tours, healthy meal plans, and how-to’s.
  • Help consumers use fresh produce – share tips on proper storage for longer shelf life, and best practices for freezing or canning.
  • Don’t panic or make drastic decisions.

There were too many excellent responses to list them all. Here’s the full list.


Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.