In an environment as competitive as food and beverage marketing is today, a thought-provoking insight can be the difference between a campaign that gets lost in the noise and one that makes an impression. And, though the marketing world would love to automate insights, the truth is that getting to something thought-provoking requires human emotion, commitment and a little bit of time.

As agency of record to a host of food and beverage companies, part of our ongoing commitment to insight-forward planning involves monitoring recent campaigns from the category and studying the insights that define them.

In the spirit of sharing our devotion to the planning journey (and yes, it’s always a journey!), here’s my take on a few recent food and beverage campaigns with insights at the heart:

Door Dash: Food Is Forever. The ethos of Valentine’s Day marketing continues to branch out from the stereotypical champagne and roses, and this year Door Dash and The Martin Agency set a new bar. My best guess at the insight that inspired this campaign? Valentine’s Day isn’t just a reminder of romance, it’s also a reminder of regrets. Kinda mysterious. Kinda intriguing. Kinda like Valentine’s Day is becoming the enemy… Then, they did a beautiful thing to keep the campaign from going too dark. They thought of something unrelated that, like Valentine’s Day, can be a difficult-to-avoid reminder of regrets – a tattoo. Merging these two lateral thoughts together with a pillar of their brand (connection to food you love), they created Food is Forever, a social media campaign inviting people to replace that tattooed reminder of old love lost with a tattooed reminder of everlasting food love. Their treat. The connection/comms planning on this one was as sharp as the insight. Read more here.  

An interview with a tattoo trader, from DoorDash’s Food Is Forever campaign

Folgers’ Wake Up Call. In lock step with one of the defining cultural trends our team highlighted a year ago, the brand known for aspirational, tear-jerking television spots chose to take a far more relatable tone in its ads this holiday season. I suspect the insight behind it was something like: We’re not expecting coffee to make mornings beautiful; we just want it to make mornings bearable. The result is a series of spots that highlight some absurdly unfortunate morning moments where Folgers can help take the edge off. While the SNL-style comedy represents a significant departure for Folgers, the brand did manage to find a clever way to retain the equity of its classic jingle, albeit with a modern twist.

One of several spoofy :30 spots in Folgers’ holiday campaign with a twist

Chick Fil A: Time Shop. Chick Fil A’s holiday campaign is a direct response to one of the trends we see defining 2020, hustle culture.  The insight behind the whimsical digital and analog Time Shop experience Chick Fil A created for its family-oriented customers was likely some variation on this: Gifts don’t make a kid’s holiday; time with you does. This one is a timeless truth, but ten years ago, it wouldn’t have held quite the cultural relevance it does today. Against the backdrop of workism, a loneliness epidemic and increasing rates of depression and anxiety among teens, we see it through new eyes. For a brand that in many ways facilitates the daily hustle for busy families, it seemed especially pertinent to pause and encourage people to seek out balance around the holidays.

Chick Fil A’s short film, The Time Shop, strikes a culturally relevant chord

Absolut Vodka: Drink Responsibly, Sex Responsibly. Rather than foolishly pushing vodka consumption in an environment where sexual assault is a major hot button, Absolut’s nontraditional approach to Valentine’s marketing gave a respectful nod to the current zeitgeist and to its parent company’s new sense of purpose. The insight for this campaign, the way I see it, goes something like this: It’s not about alcohol making victims vulnerable; it’s about alcohol making aggressors act out. And it didn’t arrive out of the clear blue. It arrived via the empathy and passion of the new Pernod Ricard CEO, who herself was assaulted by a drunk person when she was four years old. Absolut added a layer of depth to its campaign by partnering with RAINN (the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) to ensure it structured and sparked the conversation in a sensitive, productive way.  Well done, Absolut.

A sample out-of-home ad from Absolut’s new conversation-changing campaign

Identifying the insights at the heart of noteworthy campaigns benefits us and our clients in a few ways. It sheds light on the factors that distinguish standout brands from blend-ins. It helps root out the patterns that predict success in today’s landscape. And, it keeps us informed on the white space developing for food and beverage brands at any given time. Ready to reap the benefits? Drop us a line.