Why Food Brands Are Turning To Hotlines
Updated: Jan 16
Thirty years ago, household bookshelves groaned under the weight of encyclopedia sets. (Google it, kids!) 22+ heavy, leather-bound books filled with all the information we thought we would ever need. Now, Google gives us access to more information than we ever thought possible. Whether you're researching a project or searching for fresh recipe inspiration, a quick online search will set you in the right direction. There is such a thing as too much information though, and there are times when a single trusted source of information is what consumers crave. Food brands eager to build relationships with existing and prospective customers understand this. Eager to capitalise on the need for trusted cooking and recipe information and inspiration, brands are increasingly turning to another blast from the past: hotlines.
In reality, hotlines have served as an important source of information for consumers for many years, but food brand marketing teams have more recently grabbed onto their potential as a fun, inspiring and informative marketing tool.
As a marketing tool, hotlines make sense. Consumers crave personalisation but struggle with the thought of giving away too much personal information in order to access it. Hotlines often offer consumers a personalised experience minus the requirement to share huge amounts of personal data. Food brand hotlines set out to solve a problem for consumers. Perhaps the most interesting thing about food brand hotlines is how they're deployed by brands. By deploying them to coincide with major food holidays such as Thanksgiving and the 4th of July, food brands hope to capture the attention of stressed home cooks, many of whom are basting a turkey or grilling for a crowd for the first time. While day-to-day we might turn to Google to answer a cooking question or source recipe content, during holidays where food takes centre stage, chatting to an expert can be invaluable.
Most recently, hummus brand Sabra jumped on board with hotlines just in time for the 4th of July. Since 61% of consumers celebrate the holiday with cookouts, picnics or barbecues, the 4th of July presents a prime opportunity for food brands to connect with hungry consumers. While the 4th of July is traditionally a meat-heavy holiday, more and more consumers are embracing a plant-based diet. Sabra saw an opportunity to help stressed home cooks create delicious plant-based options for vegans and flexitarians alike, and capitalised on this by setting up a hotline to provide consumers with recipe inspiration and coupons. Not only does this strategy offer genuine value to consumers, solving a genuine pain point and saving money, it also increases brand awareness and sales. This is particularly important when consumers are shopping for ingredients to make an unfamiliar recipe. Why buy a different brand when you have a coupon for Sabra and a Sabra-created recipe?
Sabra is just the latest in a long line of food and beverage brands that are embracing the potential of hotlines. Earlier this year, Tropicana unveiled a Mother's Day hotline designed to 'give moms everywhere a day off from breakfast duty by providing some inspiration in your Mother's Day breakfast preparation.' Unlike the Sabra hotline, Tropicana went all-in on personalisation with live agents on hand to answer any breakfast-related queries that came their way. Similar to the Sabra hotline, Tropicana's hotline offered genuine value to users in search of cooking tips and recipe inspiration to make Mother's Day special. Engaging as it is, this level of personalisation isn't new by any means.
Since 1981, Butterball's Turkey Talk-Line has been dishing out advice to home cooks eager to impress their guests over the holidays or hoping to salvage a turkey-related disaster. 'Personalisation' has been top of the agenda for every marketing team over the last number of years, but many are still struggling to implement personalisation strategies online. Butterball, meanwhile, perfected the art of one-to-one marketing almost 40 years ago. Not just that, but the company has evolved in line with technology and now offers support on social media, via text and even through Alexa.
Source: King Arthur Flour
Butterball is not alone in creating a successful, trusted and personalised source of recipe help and inspiration though. King Arthur Flour set up their Baker's Hotline in 1993 and now offers phone, email and online chat support. It's a clever strategy for a company that continues to position itself as a reliable source of recipe content and baking tips. The expertise behind the hotline is placed front and centre on the King Arthur Flour Baker's Hotline page, giving consumers confidence in the offering.
The continued success of Butterball's Turkey Talk-Line every November and December and King Arthur's Baker's Hotline year-round illustrates a number of things. Consumers respond to hyper-personalised marketing strategies even when they require a little more effort. With food brand hotlines, the payout in the form of cooking tips and recipe inspiration is clearly worth the extra effort. It also illustrates that consumers value a trusted, expert source of cooking information. We already know that 93% of millennials use YouTube to learn how to do something, but the likes of Sabra and Tropicana clearly believe that this quest for knowledge, particularly when it comes to food, remains regardless of the platform.