This post is sponsored by Idahoan Foods.
After years of virtual events being the norm, many consumers are eager to return to concerts, sports games and other in-person events. These gatherings offer an opportunity for brands to connect with consumers in a way that’s been off the table for a while – engaging new customers with sampling and strengthening brand identity through memorable experiences. One company taking advantage of consumers’ appetite for events in a big way is Idahoan Foods. The company’s “Mashed in America” tour kicked off in September of last year and will run through Aug. 14, bringing product samples and potato-themed experiences to NASCAR races, NCAA football and basketball games, NFL events, music festivals and supermarkets across the country.
“In the first year of the pandemic, when in-person events weren’t an option, we sent 125,000 coupon and recipe mailers to consumers in key markets and mailed 425,000 actual samples of Idahoan Buttery Homestyle® Mashed Potatoes to households in retention-focused areas,” said Wes Myer, director of retail marketing for Idahoan Foods. “We also introduced a series of recipes with global flavors through digital marketing efforts to appeal to consumers who were experimenting in the kitchen more than ever and activated on TikTok at a time when that platform was experiencing record growth,” he said.
These efforts, in conjunction with the launch of Idahoan’s direct-to-consumer e-commerce site, helped the company reach 4 million new households during the pandemic. To retain these new customers and engage new ones, Idahoan knew an experiential program would appeal to consumers in these times.
“After many months of virtual experiences reigning supreme out of necessity, we’re finding consumers are craving connectivity at ‘IRL’ [in-real-life] events and suspect this sentiment will remain for quite a while post pandemic,” Myer said.
Throughout the tour, visitors can participate in photo opportunities and potato-themed games, such as an arcade-style game called Mash-A-Potato. Visitors will receive coupons for future purchases as well as a full single-serve mashed potato cup in one of three flavors – Buttery Homestyle®, Four Cheese or Loaded Baked® Mashed Potatoes. Idahoan uses 100% real Idaho potatoes and, with hot water added, the company’s convenient mashed potato cups are ready to serve in just one minute.
Since the launch of the tour, Idahoan has distributed more than 45,000 cup samples, and the consumer response has been excellent, according to Myer.
“We’ve received rave reviews from visitors, and we’re tracking exactly as anticipated against our goals,” he said. “Each element of the tour provides an excellent platform to deliver a consistent message that remains at the heart of everything we do: Real Potatoes, Real Easy. Consumers continue to be amazed by how closely making mashed potatoes at home mirrors our proprietary process. The fact that our Fresh-Dried™ mashed potato products also have no artificial flavors or synthetic colors of any kind also resonates well with consumers. This truly becomes a win-win situation!”
As the tour continues, Myer said the company will keep a close eye on coupon redemptions and measure ROI by monitoring sales in the markets of each stop before, during and after the event to determine sales lift.
For other brands looking to capitalize on consumers’ appetite for events, Myer said, “experiential events are most successful when they feel true to what you represent as a brand, while offering a unique experience that will stand out to consumers.”
He said it’s also important for brands to remain nimble with their event plans during these unprecedented times.
“Part of the reason we’ve seen such success is because we’re able to optimize our experience to each event,” he said, noting that large events like NASCAR races feature a full 30 feet by 30 feet setup, while supermarket events may center around the Idahoan branded van.
“This allows us to maximize the number of events we can show up at, while also accounting for variables like weather that require extreme flexibility,” Myer said.