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Published August 12th 2014

It’s All In The Timing: How Brands Get It Right (And Oh So Wrong)

Want to also find out how Chobani effectively dealt with a backlash from a batch of mouldy yoghurts, or how different states of the US have very different things to say about bacon and kale?

We have a long-running joke in our house that if we go food shopping straight after work, I have to take my boyfriend a snack to have in the car so he doesn’t go completely batshit and buy everything in the supermarket.

And I mean everything. Things we usually wouldn’t dare have in the house are suddenly overflowing out of the shopping cart and into our faces.

Shopping while hungry is the absolute worst. WORST.

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 9.07.28 AMBad for us, the consumers, as we end up spending more money than we’d planned and more often than not end up buying products we maybe shouldn’t.

Ever shopped hungry and ended up buying a multipack of Doritos and three kinds of dip, when you had every intention of buying kale and quinoa? Just me?

Come off it. You’re kidding no-one.

junk-food1234567This isn’t bad, however, for the brands that fill the shelves.

They know that a hungry shopper is a ticking timebomb, ready to chuck money at the situation and buy into the high fat, high sugar options greeting us on the cleverly designed supermarket shelves.

It’s all in the timing

Brands in the know are well aware that timing is everything.

Food and drink brands spend millions a year on their marketing. No campaign too big, no budget too high. But what’s the point if they’re allocating it unwisely – at the wrong times, in the wrong places?

Starbucks are a brand who’ve built a solid reputation on being the market leader in summertime drinks products, selling millions of Frappuccinos to the masses every summer.

When we looked at conversations online around iced beverages, Starbucks absolutely blew the competition out of the water – with over double the amount of mentions than fast food leviathan McDonald’s.

How do they manage to create such a buzz year after year?

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 9.43.34 AMThey use a savvy bit of positioning, by offering half-price Frappuccinos throughout the month of May. Looking back over the previous years, traditionally, nobody really spoke about iced drinks that early in the summer season – so Starbucks decided to jump straight into that gap and get people talking about them.

What’s better when the weather starts to heat up than half price, icy-cold caffeine? Good shout, Starbucks.

People talk about the promotion on social media in their tens of thousands, sentiment around the brand rises positively, we take advice from our friends online and go and get our cut-price drinks and most importantly, Starbucks brings in a pretty penny.

And repeat.

Missed opportunities and how to make it right

Other brands should learn from this.

By using a social media monitoring tool, brands can monitor conversations around their industry to monitor the peaks and lulls of interactions online and use this data to their sweet, sweet advantage.

Consumer interest is affected by world events, seasons and by the time of day.

Food and beverage brands have a great opportunity in particular to capitalise on one of our most basic urges – hunger.

How, for example, can brands selling health food products use our hunger to their advantage?

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 8.57.30 AM 

We examined this in detail, using Brandwatch Analytics. We crawled the internet for conversations talking about intentions to make healthy food choices, and compared this with the online activity of health food shops.

If the social efforts of these vendors aligned with the times of day when people are most likely to be talking about being hungry and wanting something healthy, they could swoop in and sow the seed with a well aimed tweet.

Our research, however, found that brands aren’t using social to their advantage in this way across the board.

As Chelsea previously mentioned, people are most likely to tweet about intending to have a healthy snack at 3pm and again at around 9pm. The social accounts of the health food vendors we monitored, however, are most active between 11am and 2pm – they’re not engaging with an inclined audience.


This discrepancy could be a big old money hole – if brands were to monitor the social activity of their target market and align their efforts, they could be subtly (or not-so subtly) encouraging customers to buy their particular healthy snack in no time.

As reported today on the Food and Manufacture news site, the marketing director of Mash Direct confirmed that strategically timing social media posts to reach their customers at key times of the day – such as before teatime – has boosted sales.

It’s clear that timing is a big factor in the purchasing of food and drink products.

It’s also clear that using a tool to analyse both the bigger picture and to go granular, deep into the micro picture, can be a really important factor in cleverly planning campaigns and ensuring that you’re getting maximum ROI.

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