Grassroots Marketing: 4 Low-Cost, High-Impact Strategies for Food Brands

Grassroots marketing, as the name implies, is a “bottom-up” approach to marketing. Rather than casting down a brand message from expensive billboards, TV commercials or stadium signage, grassroots marketing looks for a small but zealous group of fans and inspires them to do the talking for you.

Grassroots marketing operates on the premise that a single high-quality exposure to your brand is worth far more than a barrage of low-quality exposures. While traditional marketing techniques typically aim for maximum impressions (i.e. the number of times an individual is exposed to your brand), grassroots marketing flips this logic on its head, trusting that personal connection and word-of-mouth will create higher affinity for your brand than hearing the same radio spot for the 100th time.

But all this begs the question: How will you get people talking about your brand?

Grassroots Marketing Strategy 1: Make a Scene

One obvious strategy is to participate in local fairs or festivals. This works especially well for food brands for a number of reasons:

  1. You are most likely your brand’s best salesperson and meeting people face to face at local events lets you infect others with your enthusiasm for your brand.
  2. The first step to loving your product is getting people to try your product, which–for many festivals–is the top reason people attend.
  3. The bar for product trial is much lower at an event than at a supermarket, since prepared versions, smaller portions or even free samples of your product require less commitment than buying something unfamiliar off the shelf.

But don’t just make an appearance. Make a wave. Give people a reason to talk about you. Whether it means using your product in an unusual or over-the-top recipe, running an exciting promotion or creating some interactive element like a photo booth that creates fun pictures for your fans and your brand’s Instagram account, if you provide people with a story to tell, they’ll tell it.

Oh, and if there’s not a relevant festival near you to participate in, just thrown your own party, like Chipotle did.

Grassroots Marketing Strategy 2: Find a Partner

Another savvy grassroots strategy is to team up with other organizations or brands that your core fans hold in high regard.

Ask yourself–from the mindset of your ideal customer base–what communities do I belong to, what crafts do I participate in and what causes do I care about? These are known as the the 3 Cs for building affinity through grassroots marketing.

Such a line of questioning might reveal that your core fans are soccer moms or avid gardeners or extremely supportive of the local animal shelter, offering possible groups to align your brand with. You could donate product to their events, create a new co-branded product, support them as a corporate sponsor or invite your employees to join in a volunteering campaign. This Texas Utilities Company realized volunteering for the local Habitat for Humanity was a great way to reach out to new customers in a neighborhood.

Grassroots Marketing Strategy 3: Give It Away

Nothing generates buzz like freebies. Keen on saving, people will eagerly talk about your brand, especially if it increases their chances of winning.

You could offer up some form of your product (a sampler pack, a “year’s worth” or a custom product not usually available helps drum up interest) or some other product or experience that’s consistent with your brand’s identity. It also helps to find an interesting angle or timely peg to make your contest more giveaway.

Just make sure you’re getting something in return. You could create a hashtag campaign that asks participants to share something on your behalf on social media, or at the very least collect some form of contact info, so you could build a relationship with customers over the long term. Be careful to keep the entry requirements proportional to the prize–ask too much of participants and offer too little and your promotion will fizzle.

Check out how this online meat delivery start-up recently ran a Messermeister knife set giveaway in conjunction with National Haiku Day. The form of entry? Writing and sharing a haiku that promoted their brand or product.

Grassroots Marketing Strategy 4: Go Rogue

Guerrilla marketing is a subset of grassroots marketing because it also aims for maximum effect while using limited resources. And that’s where the commonalities end because guerrilla marketing tries to be anything but common.

As the name suggests, there’s an element of stealth at play. Successful guerrilla marketing creates an enjoyable “Aha!” moment by using unexpected ad placement, unconventional materials, and/or unorthodox messaging. Consider these stickers Axe Body Spray placed adjacent to exit signs around NYC, this crosswalk Mr. Clean altered to promote its products’ hygienic powers or these giant footprints King Kong 3D planted on the beach to promote the movie’s release (which also counts as a form of gorilla marketing).

Guerrilla marketing can spread your brand’s name like wildfire because it prompts social sharing. One, it’s not in the form of traditional advertising, so people are less resistant to it. Two, it develops an in-crowd of people who see it, get it and want to brag about their discovery. Three, if it’s easy to photograph, it’s easy to share virally. And four, it’s often done without official permission, making it controversial and thus more newsworthy.

Are you interested in adding grassroots marketing to your overall marketing plan? If you interested in any of the strategies above, reach out to NewPoint today!