Using instagram allows QSRs to capture a different, more personal side of their brand to connect with consumers. With the ability to add filters to images, the subject of the photo can take on different moods, thus helping to transform a picture of a simple hamburger or cup of coffee into a work of art. Many successful QSRs use real-life, or at least seemingly real, imagery on Instagram. This is a great way to connect with consumers, as it is relatable and closer to the real customer experience, allowing for a more authentic exchange with the brand’s social community.

Many QSRs have embraced this concept and are successfully leveraging the power of instagram to connect with consumers. In fact, some of the most followed food brands on Instagram are QSRs, including Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts. Beyond just following QSRs, consumers are actively tagging them on Instagram. While Starbucks far and away takes the lead, McDonald’s and In-N-Out are among the top 10 most Instagram-tagged restaurants.

Sources: How Instagram Can Help QSRs with Marketing. (August 2013). QSR Insights.
Top 10 Instagram-Tagged Restaurants. (August 28, 2013). Investor Place.


Millennials, our most powerful and influential generation, are not only into food, they’re obsessed with it. In fact, nearly 50% of millennials are self-described “foodies.” They talk about food and restaurants constantly and their social lives are organized around them. For these millennials, food is viewed as a legitimate hobby, a playground for one-upmanship, and a measuring stick of cool, according to journalist Michael Idov in “The Young Foodie Culture.”

Millennials view food as a form of self-expression and entertainment, associating it with personal storytelling. They Instagram what they eat, follow food celebrities on Twitter and try new places ranging from trendy chic to dive restaurants.

“Millennials are particularly tied to the social aspects of dining,” says Sara Monnette, director of consumer research for Technomic. It’s ingrained in their lifestyle so they’ll find ways to go out, even if it’s using the money they saved by moving in with their parents.

The good news for QSRs is that consuming fast food co-exists as a part of the millennial foodie lifestyle. They are major fast-food consumers who frequent leading QSR chains like McDonald’s, Subway and Burger King. And they do so often; In fact, 60% of millennial foodies eat at QSRs at least once a week.

Sources: BBDO Probes Millennials’ Dining-Out Habits. (August 8, 2013). Marketing Daily.

Bye, Baby Boomers—Hello, Millennials. (Spring 2013). US Foods.

Idov, Micheal. The Young Foodie Culture. (March 25, 2012). New York Magazine.

Millennials and Culinary. (Mar 22, 2013). The Connect Group.


The days of pushing a brand message only through storytelling are over. Brands must embrace a two-way dialog, which means giving consumers the opportunity to co-create products, services and the experiences by which they are delivered and enjoyed.

Starbucks leveraged digital tools to start this type of dialogue with their loyal customers on mystarbucksidea.com. Fans can share ideas for improvements, new flavors, product innovations, etc. Since launching mystarbucksidea.com Starbucks has launched hundreds of ideas ranging from new menu items to store experience improvements.

The massive potential for brands goes beyond just the research and innovation value of engaging fans and customers for insights. When fan inspired products are launched, companies can leverage the networks that inspired the product development to help push the product out and drive revenue.

Brands have a great opportunity to begin engaging with customers as partners to innovate faster, build advocacy and grow revenue.


The premium market for coffee continues to gain ground. According to IBISWorld research, consumers have educated themselves more about coffee beans and traded up in quality over the past five years. Experts credit the growing availability of a broad range of coffee varieties in supermarkets and other retail outlets for this increased demand and awareness. Also noted are the expansion of coffeehouses and their sociological implications.

This premiumization of coffee has benefited whole bean sales. According to IBISWorld, the segment has increased gradually from 2008 to 2012 and now accounts for more than 13 percent of the category’s revenue.

Although still the category leader, ground coffee sales decreased 2.4 percent for $4.4 billion in sales for the 52 weeks ending May 19 in U.S., according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI). Now in the market for more than a year, Kraft Foods Group Inc.’s premium brand Gevalia had the largest gains with over 284 percent sales growth, IRI reports.

As the market shifts due to the premiumization of coffee, “quality will continue to dominate as a deciding factor for consumers,” the IBISWorld report states. Additionally, as disposable income rises over the next five years at an average annual rate of 1.8 percent, consumers are expected to continue to pay more for high-quality coffee.

Sources: Premium outlook for coffee. (September 12, 2012). Beverage Industry.
The 2013 State of the Industry: Coffee & RTD coffee. (July 10, 2013). Beverage Industry.
The trend towards premium capsules. (July 2013). Global Coffee Review.


It is widely known that Hispanics drink more coffee than anyone else in the U.S. What is not widely understood are the differences in the perceived psychological benefits and experiences surrounding coffee for the U.S. Hispanic consumer.

While many non-Hispanics might say that coffee helps wake them up in the morning, for Hispanics, coffee symbolizes calm.  Relaxation (65%), comfort (53%), and stress-release (40%) are the top three benefits associated with drinking coffee, beating out the caffeine buzz (38%) most associate with the drink.

Additionally, while serving coffee may indicate the end of a meal for some families, for U.S. Hispanics breaking out the coffee means the conversation is getting good.  For this segment, coffee time means learning something new about a family member (48%), hearing exciting news from a friend (47%), telling friends or family important news (44%), and planning for the future with friends or family (40%).

As the Hispanic-American population grows, it is essential for the coffee industry to meet their needs through understating the psychological benefits of coffee and the experiences that it supports.

Sources: Consumer Trends: Hispanic-Americans Drink More Coffee. (February 08, 2013). Food Manufacturing.
Study: For U.S. Latinos, Coffee’s Benefits go Beyond the Physical. (August 2, 2012). NESCAFÉ.
National Coffee Drinking Trends 2013. (June 20, 2013). National Coffee Association.



Leveraging Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the social media world can strengthen consumer trust and loyalty, encourage followers (andtheirfriends)totakeactionandparticipate,andputahalooveryourbrand. And consumers are on board, in fact, according to the 2013 Cone CSR Study, nearly two-thirds of global consumers (62%) say that they use social media to address or engage with companies around CSR.

One company that is leading the social media CSR charge is Unilever. Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan includes a multifaceted strategy for communicating their CSR progress through a wide variety of methods, from engaging video to live twitter chats and powerful social campaigns, such as Project Sunlight – which brings together the social mission stories of Unilever’s brands and invites consumers to get involved in doing small things to help their own families and others around the world create a brighter future.

It’s too early to tell how successful Project Sunlight will be and whether Unilever can maintain the type of sustainability initiatives and storytelling required to keep this project authentic and relevant for consumers. However, experts agree, Project Sunlight is a potential game changer in sustainability communications. Taken together with the social media collaboration the company uses to educate employees and learn from industry peers (part of its Sustainable Living Plan), Unilever is the CSR social media leader to watch in 2014.

Source: Curley, C. B., & Noormohamed, N. (2014). Social Media Marketing Effects On Corporate Social Responsibility. Journal Of Business & Economics Research.

Yeomans, Matthew. “How to tell sustainability stories on social media.” Guardian Sustainable Business. February 17, 2014.




This year’s Customer Loyalty Engagement Index revealed the top five brands consumers see as doing the best job delivering against their expectations for healthy food as Subway, Chick-fil-A, Panera, Chipotle and Dunkin’.

So what, in particular, are these brands doing to meet customer expectations? Going the extra mile – and consumers are taking notice. Subway announced it was eliminating azodicarbonide, something commercial bakers use to increase softness of dough. Chick-fil-A announced it would no longer sell chickens raised on antibiotics. Panera marked a decade of using meat raised free from antibiotics. Chipotle has instituted new standards having to do with nontherapeutic antibiotics and will look to source meats that have never been given antibiotics. And Dunkin’ has developed a line of gluten-free offerings.

While health used to be a relationship between you and your body, these days, consumers are extending that relationship to restaurant brands that better meet their emotional engagement expectations for a healthy dining experience.

Source: Which Came First, The Consumer or the Brand? (March 18, 2014). Forbes.




Reaching customers during their key decision-making processes is one of the most coveted positions in marketing and influencer marketing is turning out to be one of the most powerful strategies to get there. In fact, according to SocialChorus, influencer marketing campaigns drive 16x more engagement than paid or owned media. So how do you engage influencers? Many marketers start with an e-mail; others try Twitter or commenting on blogs. While these tactics work, programs that tap into the powerful psychology at play and facilitate storytelling and a personalized user experience seem to be seeing the greatest success, such as Kia and Acura.

To engage influencers, Kia launched its Kia Social Club, which enlists influential bloggers as advocates and empowers them to tell their stories, be creative and have their own voice.By targeting and empowering advocates in categories like Women’s Lifestyle and Parenting, Kia Social Club reached over 198 advocates, received 24,000 social endorsements and resulted in more than 30 million engagements. Acura, through its ILX Influencer Campaign, took an experiential approach and gave select millennial influencers a week with the new Acura ILX. These influencers blogged, tweeted and filmed their experience, sharing it across their social channels. The successful influencer campaign drove 750% ROI and boosted sales across the region.

Source: Influencer Marketing. (March 31, 2014). CMI.



Though it’s not quite the Facebook competitor it had initially set out to be, with 100M active users, Google+ is on the rise. And just because not all users have made the switch is not reason enough to discredit the social networking site. A Google+ account for your brand means improved SEO ranking and increased Google search visibility. While growing a Google+ following is a goal for some brands, for most, it is just about the benefit of having an account. In fact, simply signing up for an account can place you one or two places ahead of your competitors.

The +1 button also increases the chance of this visibility as the more +1’s a link has, the more attention it gets in search results. Additionally, Google+ circles create more personal relationships with consumers, even allowing businesses to have live video chat sessions with their audience through “hangouts.”

In terms of Google+ brand Pages done well, Red Bull and Ford are two great examples. In keeping with the rest of its marketing strategy, the Red Bull Google+ Page showcases the types of lifestyles its consumers choose rather than the product itself. Ford’s Page features its product and how it has evolved over the years, using its illustrious history to evoke feelings of strength, loyalty and trust.



Talking about our own thoughts and experiences activates the rewards system of the brain, providing that same shot of dopamine we get from food and exercise – and that reward activity is even greater when people get to share their thoughts with others. Sharing a picture, video, advertisement or really any content achieves more than just a chemical reward – it is also an act of self-creation. Marketing researchers repeatedly find that the entertainment value, emotional power and the practical value of content can explain part of our motivation to share, and sharing can rise to a creative act in which marketing materials are used for self-expression.

Every social media site gives consumers the opportunity to acquire dopamine through self-disclosure, but brands have a unique opportunity to assist in the creation of consumers’ social identity and the achievement of their own goals – including bringing valuable and entertaining content to others, self-fulfillment and getting the word out about causes and issues that they care about. Brands can give consumers tools to get dopamine, look good and pay it forward in their community. In many cases, this is more valuable to consumers than anything brands can sell them and if a consumer receives this genuine assistance, he or she will advocate for the brands that provide it.

Source: Hawley, Dave. “What Sex, Food and Selfies have to do with effective social marketing.” Fast Company. March 19, 2014.

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