Celebrate National Oyster Day With These Tips for Ordering Them Like a Pro

By Jennifer Daniel / On / In Blog, Food & Beverage

Photo Courtesy of Five Point Public House Oyster Bar in Birmingham, Alabama

Today is your day if oysters are your thing, but if you’ve never tried them don’t fret. They may look a little intimidating, but once you get a taste for them, there’s no turning back. If you’re up for trying something new, keep these three short and sweet tips in mind:

1. Know your oysters. Are you eating East Coast oysters are West Coast Oysters? Are they from The Gulf or farther up the Eastern Seaboard?

2. If you don’t know, ask. It’s really OK! There’s nothing wrong with asking your server for a recommendation. That’s what they’re there for, and besides. This is a great way to get a free sample or two. After asking, start trying!  The whole point is to taste a variety of oysters, so mix up your order and find your favorites.

3. Know what oysters shouldn’t be like. Oysters should smell like the sea. Salty and fresh. If it smells off, don’t eat it. If the oyster has a big belly and is leaking juices that are cloudy, that means that the oyster is reproducing. It’s not bad to eat an oyster in this condition, but they don’t taste their best this way.

For Return Travelers, The Hotel Industry Should Embrace Culinary Tourism

By Jennifer Daniel / On / In Blog, Food & Beverage, Hospitality & Travel, Public Relations

Traveling Spoon, a website in Beta, offers a unique culinary experience for travelers who want to dig into regional cuisine.

Culture and tourism go hand in hand when it comes to marketing.


A region’s history, community, people and attractions all give the travel and tourism industries reason to celebrate their specific locale.


But, everyone eats! Especially tourists.


It’s one of the top three reasons why travelers pick a specific destination. Not to mention, a great meal makes any vacation that much more memorable, just like a great place to stay does. It also means your travelers will keep coming back!


Check out this recent post on Forbes Life called The Next Generation Of Culinary Tourism: Traveling Spoon.


Traveling Spoon connects travelers with local cooking hosts who offer classes and in-home meals. While you might think that all travelers want to experience the restaurants of a particular area, there’s more to it than that.


“Everyone is talking about connections, authenticity and experiences these days,” writes Ann Abel for Forbes. “We want to get real. Even if we have no intention of replicating any recipes, it’s far more memorable to be welcomed into a home than led into a gleaming professional-instruction kitchen in Singapore or a demonstration kitchen at a five-star resort in Chiang Mai. Many Traveling Spoon clients say their lunch or dinner is the highlight of their trip.”


Consumers want authenticity. They want to know the story behind the food, and they want to dig into an area’s culture. Why? Because it makes the trip that much more memorable. It adds value to the money being spent on a particular vacation. And, while not everyone wants to sleep in a hammock next to a dinghy overlooking the sea or dig their own clams, they do want to make memories.


The Charlotte Observer hits the nail on the head in this recent post about culinary tourism in Clarksdale, Mississippi.


Simply put, “It takes a little culture to jump start tourism.”


Clarksdale is all about barbecue, the blues and a city full of southern history. Not to mention, it’s not overrun with tourists (yet!) like New Orleans and Nashville. The town is capitalizing on its small town charm and unique arts, cultural and culinary offerings. Just ask Morgan Freeman. He owns the blues club Ground Zero in Clarksdale.


What a great insight for the hotel industry.


Culinary tourism isn’t just the latest marketing trend. It’s the meat and potatoes of a great stay, and most importantly, it will guarantee return travelers.


Check out this video from the Southern Foodways Alliance on the history of the Hot Tamale Trail. You can read more about that here.


What is your business doing to stay on top of the latest consumer trends? We’d love to hear about your ideas in the comments.


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Risks of Brand Sponsorship: Anheuser-Busch and the NFL

By Darlene / On / In Blog, Brand Positioning, Food & Beverage, Public Relations

The latest round of pro athlete misbehavior, reminds us again that there’s high level risks involved with brand sponsorship. So, did NFL sponsor Anheuser-Busch do the right thing by publicly taking the football organization to task?

Sponsors spend billions of dollars every year to connect with their audiences through other high profile brands. Sponsoring a pro league, NASCAR team, nonprofit cause or a beauty pageant, is a highly sophisticated, expensive and calculated effort. But what happens when business and brands no longer align? Does a sponsor have the right to demand changes if the brand it has aligned with allows or condones inappropriate or criminal behavior? Let’s see.

When a man slugs a woman in an elevator and knocks her out it is a criminal act; when that slug is delivered by a high-profile NFL athlete there are also tangible business effects. An NFL sponsor’s trust has been violated contractually—a textbook bait and switch, however unintentional.

Sponsors choose to align with brands that extend their own brands reach. They choose a particular sport or cause because what it stands for in the eyes of their own customers. When that customer’s approval has been compromised by an action inconsistent with the sponsored entity’s image, the sponsor must speak out. To remain silent on the sideline, allowing domestic violence, child abuse or illegal drugs, to gain your tacit approval (or disinterest), would be costly. Many brands never quite recover from such a mistake.

In response to the recent behavior of NFL players, Anheuser-Busch did exactly the right thing. Here is what they said:

“We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season. We are not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code. We have shared our concerns and expectations with the league.”

Some have said Anheuser-Busch’s statement is all about self-serving PR: (A.) That is correct, but certainly not damning—they have made a promise to their consumers about what kind of brand they are and don’t intend to violate consumer trust, (B.) Had they not issued this strong statement, they would have lost a tremendous amount of brand equity and worse, condoned the abuse by their silence.

We’re talking about a company that knows it customers. We get choked up and shed a tear during halftime when the Clydesdales prance out with their Dalmatian companion at their side. Such scenes convey a sense of earned pride. The “King of Beers” is all and more of what you expect, maintaining a consistent company culture and moral code—now, there’s a novel thought! Wake up NFL. Cheers to Anheuser–Busch.

Gluten-Free: Fleeting Trend or Long-term Concern for the Food & Beverage Industry

By Calli Robinson / On / In Blog, Food & Beverage

You have a delicious product that consumers have loved for years. However there is one problem, it’s not gluten-free.


Why should I care?

You should care because consumers care. According to a 2014 NY Times article, the portion of households reporting purchases of gluten-free food products to Nielsen rose from 5 percent (2010) to 11 percent (2013). The same article cites Harry Balzer, VP at the market research company NPD Group, “About 30 percent of the public says it would like to cut back on the amount of gluten it’s eating, and if you find 30 percent of the public doing anything, you’ll find a lot of marketers right there, too.”


 What’s the problem with gluten?

Gluten is a substance (a mixture of two proteins) found in cereal grains, especially wheat. Gluten is responsible for the elastic texture of dough.


Doctors recommend a gluten-free diet for people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease. A Mayo Clinic survey from 2012 found that about 1.8 million Americans have celiac disease, but an additional 18 million people are believed to have gluten sensitivity.


Individuals with celiac disease are not driving the gluten-free market alone. From yogurt to the organic trend, there is a growing push toward low-processed foods. However, some maintain that going gluten-free isn’t the best option.


Shelley Case, R.D., author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide, says in this article thatgoing gluten-free can potentially increase your risk of developing a micronutrient deficiency, especially if you rely on hyper-processed and fat/sugar-packed, packaged foods rather than the nutritionally stable and vitamin-packed fresh fruits, vegetables, and gluten-free grains (like quinoa) you should be eating anyway.”


What are my options?

1. Don’t change

Not every brand in going gluten-free just like not every person suffers from gluten sensitivity. It’s up to each company to look at their products, assess costs v. benefits, and make the decision. While this isn’t the “sexy” or progressive choice, it could be the best option for you.


2. Have gluten-free choices

This seems like the best option for maintaining your core audience while still reaching those with gluten sensitivity. Even foods that are naturally gluten-free such as popcorn are being clearly labeled as such to signal that the product is safe for those with gluten-sensitivities.


Start small then decide whether or not to expand or maintain gluten-free choices. Tiffany Lach opened Sola Café in 2008. About 5% of her baked goods were gluten-free, now more than a quarter of her items are gluten-free.


3. Go entirely gluten-free

This may seem like an extreme change, but it could be worth it. Virginia Morris, VP for consumer strategy and insights at Daymon Worldwide says in this article that she doesn’t think the gluten-free craze will end anytime soon. “The reason I do believe this has legs is that it ties into this whole naked and ‘free from’ trend,” she said. “I think we as a country and as a globe will continue to be concerned about what’s going into our food supply.”


In the same article, Hitesh Hajarnavis, chief executive of Popcorn Indiana, says the following:

“The thing here, in my opinion, is that there is a small number of people who have celiac disease or are gluten intolerant, but there is a growing population of people who have somehow heard that gluten-free is healthier or think of it as fashionable, and when they remove gluten from their diet, they’re inadvertently taking out a lot of processed foods and are really feeling the benefits of eating healthier foods.”


If Mr. Hajarnavis is correct, then the companies that make the most effort to be low-processed, gluten-free, and/or “healthiest” could be the most successful long-term.

Sensory Branding Brings Home the Virtual Bacon

By Gayle / On / In Blog, Brand Positioning, Food & Beverage, Interactive Marketing

Oscar Mayer Bacon appEven if sales numbers don’t immediately reflect success, Oscar Mayer got a lot of promotional sizzle from their recent foray into sensory branding. The iPhone app and specialty scent dongle wakes you up by using sight, sound, and smell to evoke the love of bacon.

At the very least, the campaign garnered media attention and buzz that has to be valued well above the cost of the integrated marketing campaign. Numerous print, online, and television outlets covered the novel app. The scent dongle is not even available yet and, even when it is, it will only be available to a few thousand folks chosen at random from email submissions on their companion web site.

Bacon, in and of itself, is a traffic driver and an internet meme. There are companies specializing in bacon scented products of every stripe, bacon-inspired clothing and all sorts of bacon kitsch. Bacon has taken over the world.

Taken together, the Wake Up And Smell The Bacon campaign is a multi-faceted marketing/promotional beauty. There is the media buzz fueled by novelty and the food porn nature of bacon, email signups from bacon and or tech enthusiasts, scarcity of the scent dongle, and the word-of-mouth social media spread that was remarkable.

In just that one week, @OscarMayer saw an increase in followers from just above 9,500 to almost 11,400. And tweets containing their brand name rose from basically none to 50+ per day in the midst of the campaign buzz.

Twitter stats Oscar Mayer

#OscarMayer saw an increase in popularity of 17.2 points for the week the bacon app story hit. Social Mention stats showed an increase of 11% in the strength of the term “Oscar Mayer bacon” over the last week. Sentiment was 108:1 positive on 192 mentions the week the story hit as compared to the prior rate of 28:1.

Oscar Mayer Tweets/Day

Judging by what is trending in Google web searches over the past month, the passion for Oscar Mayer bacon was flat prior to and increased dramatically with the promotional campaign. And it has not declined much in the few days since the story was sizzling on all news outlets.

Google Trend Oscar Mayer Bacon

Use of the sense of smell in marketing is perhaps the last frontier of sensory branding for many products. Aromas are just a few neurons away from the centers of emotion and memory in the brain. Smell is powerfully evocative of associated memories and feelings, both pleasant and unpleasant. Scents can be memory markers that help people remember a brand and those of childhood are especially powerful.

Oscar Mayer has it easy in regards to olfactory branding. The scent of bacon has a unique, iconic, evocative scent and is associated with real and deep connections to pleasure. Very few brands have developed a signature aroma—6% of the Fortune 1000 had even thought about it according to Martin Lindstrom’s Brand Sense, Sensory Secrets Behind The Stuff We Buy. He estimated that 40% of the Fortune 500 brands would employ a sensory branding strategy in their marketing by 2010.

Other examples of brands that have used scent as a branding element include Singapore Airlines, Tommy Bahama and Abercrombie & Fitch. Purveyors of food and beverages have it easier than others in associating aroma with brand—just think Starbucks, Panera Bread, or Hershey’s.

Even though the sense of smell has not been widely used in branding, audio branding is similarly ignored by most brands. Only 11% of all brands use audio to make their brands more distinct according to Lindstrom’s Brand Sense.

Oscar Mayer scored a trifecta of sensory branding with their Awaken To Bacon campaign and app. They have employed sight, sound, and smell sensory engagement to promote their product. All of these inputs can cause so-called Mirror neurons in the brain to fire in the observer—making seeing and doing the same thing.

Whether all this sensory engagement translates into sales revenue is still unknown, but it is hard to argue that this was not a home run in terms of publicity and media buzz, even if no one wakes up to smell the bacon.


About our guest author: Gayle Christopher is a interactive media professional in Birmingham, AL. Take a look at her portfolio for examples of her work.