J.M Smucker Banks on Creative Digital Promotions
To Boost Brands  

By Dale Buss

Every CPG brand is reckoning with its investment in digital marketing these days, but few have been as resolute as J.M. Smucker about plunging in.

From social media forays to advertising partnerships with key retailers, the Orville, Ohio-based marketer of Jif, Hungry Jack, Folgers and many other iconic brands – including, of course, its eponymous jams and jellies – Smucker has allocated a significant 15% of its total marketing budget to spend on digital activities across a variety of platforms.

“Our research continues to demonstrate that digital marketing has been an efficient and effective method for our marketing mix,” CEO Richard M. Smucker told securities analysts in Boca Raton, Fla. at a recent conference hosted by the Consumer Analyst Group of New York. “More than ever, consumers need to feel connected, whether to other shoppers or to the companies and brands that they support. Once connected, we want to ensure that our products are available wherever they shop, including online.”

To that end, for instance, Smucker recently became one of the first CPG food companies to launch a mobile e-commerce site, whose look and capabilities closely match those of its regular web site. It has partnered with more than 75 influential food bloggers, allowing Smucker and its brands to reach an audience of more than 6.5 million consumers. It worked with a major retailer customer to launch a commercial on both TV and on YouTube to highlight leading brands in their baking aisle including Smucker’s Pillsbury brand. And it sponsored a contest on Facebook, headlined by singer Gavin DeGraw, to crowdsource a new version of the well-known Folgers jingle.

Executives at Smucker declined a request for an interview by CPGmatters to discuss the success of its digital marketing efforts.

When asked to comment on the Smucker’s program, digital marketing expert Michael Schiff told CPGmatters that while Folgers has more than 1.1 million “likes” on Facebook, it’s relevant to ask: “What kind of ‘likes’ are those?” He was suspicious about some of the features of the Folgers site on Facebook, including an offer of free samples of the coffee.

“That has the potential to attract only the weaker, deal-seeking consumer,” explained Schiff, who is managing partner of Partners in Loyalty Marketing, based in Chicago. “As soon as they posted the ‘sample’ deal, it probably was on a few deal sites, where it gets more ‘likes’ for Facebook. But if it’s all about the deal, that waters down the type of consumer you’re dealing with.”

Schiff advises CPG clients to focus on “current core buyers” and to “surprise and delight them” in social media as well as other venues, rather than allowing brands’ activities on digital channels to dilute the quality of those customers.

While generally impressed with what he understands about Smucker’s digital efforts, Schiff said that it’s easy for CPG companies to get dangerously enamored with digital marketing methods – especially in an industry that, even today, is running historically behind others in terms of early and effective adoption of online marketing. The biggest caveat is mistaking effective results for effective results on a massive scale.

“Without a doubt, when a digital program does well from an ROI perspective, it beats the pants off any offline counterpart,” Schiff said. “But it doesn’t have anywhere near the scale of traditional marketing. These programs still have a long way to go before they can have the business impact that more traditional media still have.”

But Smucker, the CEO, told the analysts at the CAGNY conference that “the addition of digital has enabled us to easily target key consumer groups, and in combination with traditional media, expand our consumer reach.”

For example, one seemingly effective new area of incursion by the comany has been with the growing population of American Hispanics, by leveraging digital capabilities along with traditional media.

“Our use of integrated online and mobile campaigns, combined with traditional tactics, has further widened our market leadership position for both the Jif and Smucker brands among Hispanic consumers,” Smucker said.

In addition, the company has been aggressively expanding its use of digital marketing to optimize its investment in the Café Bustelo brand of Cuban coffee. Smucker acquired it two years ago with the purchase of Rowland Coffee Roasters, headquartered in Miami, center of the biggest Cuban-American population in the United States. Rowland was a leading producer of espresso coffee with sales of more than $110 million in 2010.

Smucker’s bilingual social-media strategy, the CEO and scion said, has included a “highly engaging Facebook page, which has tripled the fan base for the brand.” The page now has more than 115,000 fans and boasts bold photos and graphics using the black-and-yellow packaging scheme of the brand, subtle product pitches, and homey bits of encouragement – “Stay awesome, amigos” – all in a mélange of Spanish and English that mimics the cultural orientation of most Cuban-Americans.

J.M. Smucker has only begun to scratch the capabilities of social and digital media marketing, like most CPG companies. But unlike many of them, it seems to have made a lot of headway already.

Editor’s Note: This story is based partially on a transcript provided by Seeking Alpha (www.seekingalpha.com).

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                                                                               April 2013