Food Brands Capitalize on Fourth of July to Build Long-Term Digital Chops

3 marketers bet on Facebook, Instagram and video

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Cracker Jack, Peanut Butter & Co. and StarKist are celebrating the Fourth of July this year with efforts that turn one-off campaigns into more strategic digital plans.

All three brands' efforts put social and mobile twists on classic American foods and mascots, and also feed into strategies that stretch beyond the patriotic holiday. The growth in photo sharing over the past year plays a particularly strong role in how a couple of the brands plan to target millennials.

Here's a look inside the three brands' Independence Day campaigns.

Cracker Jack

Frito-Lay's Cracker Jack launched one of its biggest campaigns in the past few years on Tuesday with a heavy social push.

The brand will be incorporated into next week's Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectaular as a sponsor. A partnership with Major League Baseball this summer also aims to tap into the nostalgia between the snack and the baseball league with team-specific stickers inside boxes.

The digital component to "The Surprise Inside Project" campaign involves a Facebook app and microsite encouraging fans to share a small surprise (up to $20 value) that they'd like to give a family member or friend. The marketer will then turn some of these surprises into actual prizes by doling out custom Cracker Jack boxes to winners.

Cracker Jack has also claimed the #CJSurprise hashtag so that nominees can share pictures and videos of the winners opening up their prizes.

Blogger personality Liz Gumbinner—who runs the sites Cool Mom Picks and Mom-101—will also churn out content this summer that supports the campaign, including coupons, activities and tips for families.

"With this program, we're looking to grow our audience and increase our relevance among new generations of fans, in particular millennial families," said Haston Lewis, senior director of marketing at Frito-Lay North America.


Tuna brand StarKist will roll out a six-week photo sharing contest on July 1 that will be used to launch an Instagram account next week with the help of agency quench and Curalate.

The idea is to capitalize on the amount of photos that are taken and shared on social media during the Fourth of July. "Once we start getting these photos in, it’s going to go right into our Instagram page, so we’re going to re-share some of the great things people are giving us and really launch [Instagram] with the organic content from the contest," said Greg Carney, integrated media manager at quench.

The promotion centers around mascot Charlie the Tuna via the #Charlieonthego hashtag and the best photos will be selected to win prizes including merchandise or a "selfie stick" (a device that attaches to a phone and sticks out two feet to take better selfies).

StarKist’s digital media plan includes Facebook and Twitter ads, display, pre-roll and takeover units on PopSugar and PureWow.

The campaign is part of StarKist’s push to extend social beyond Facebook and Twitter this year, which also includes a Pinterest ramp-up in the fall. "With Facebook and all the changes that are occurring there, it’s really about how do you extend your brand across many social platforms and doing so in a way that the fan bases desires," Carney added.

Peanut Butter & Co.

Few foods are as American as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which Peanut Butter & Co. hopes to make clear this year with a 15-second video that will be posted to the brand’s Instagram, Facebook and Vimeo accounts on the Fourth of July.

The short clip animates the process of turning a piece of bread into an American flag with peanut butter, jelly and fruits. A call-to-action at the end of the video promotes the hashtag #tasteamazing that is also employed by the brand on Twitter to tag recipe and product posts.

The New York restaurant turned peanut butter brand’s themed promo fits into a bigger social video strategy that began rolling out a year ago.

Weekly three to six-minute YouTube videos highlight recipes. And about six months ago, the brand expanded those efforts to include clips less than 30 seconds long. "We began creating short-form videos featuring seasonal recipe ideas and holiday messages as a way to augment our long-form content and also take advantage of the new video streaming capabilities of some of the most popular social media platforms," explained Lee Zalben, founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co.

The Fourth of July clip will also be promoted on the brand’s Twitter, Google+ and Tumblr pages to extend its reach.

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.