How Blue Apron meal kit is revamping its marketing strategy with digital video

Blue Apron is making a marketing comeback. For the first time since 2018, the direct-to-consumer meal kit company is making a serious investment in marketing again, rebounding after falling sales and stalled subscriptions in 2019.

In April, the New York City-based company made its first move, rolling out national 15 and 30-second spots across linear and connected television as well as online video in an effort to build up brand awareness and stand out in the crowded meal kit marketplace.

The brand’s rebound effort stems from $82 million worth of investments raised by Blue Apron to drive brand growth, according to a news release. Blue Apron’s marketing spend increased 68% year-over-year, reaching $21 million by the end of last year.

“We are financially in a position to spend in marketing in the right way, in an efficient way but smart way, and really build back that top-of-funnel awareness,” said Dani Simpson, Blue Apron’s CMO, adding that the brand is focused on video advertising efforts to boost that awareness. “[Last year] really was leading up to a time where we can invest in our brand with a full-funnel media approach that we intend to continue.”

It’s unclear exactly what Blue Apron’s ad spend looks like as Simpson declined to provide details. Last year, Blue Apron spent just short of $5 million on media, down from the nearly $8 million spent in 2020, according to Kantar. In 2019, Blue Apron spent just shy of $500,000 on media. Those numbers do not include social media spend as Kantar does not track those figures.

Back in 2019, the DTC significantly cut back on its marketing spend in an attempt to recoup after suffering a major financial loss, as previously reported by Digiday. Part of the DTC’s recovery plan was to “only spend money on acquiring customers that it can earn back the money it spent to acquire them within one year,” per Digiday reporting. 

Linear and connected television are two major parts of the brand’s new marketing strategy as the DTC brand looks to boost brand awareness. Blue Apron currently has 15- and 30-second spots, produced by Brooklyn-based agency Quirk Creative, boasting Blue Apron’s recipes and convenience. They aim to reach consumers who haven’t tried meal kits, per the brand.

“There’s also that resurgence of where else can we be talking,” Simpson said. “TV, when you’re talking about awareness, it gives you the largest reach, national reach. So essentially, that’s what we did.”

Over the last few years, technological improvements have made digital video advertising measurable and attributable, making it a viable marketing channel for Blue Apron’s revamped marketing efforts, per Simpson. In addition to video advertising, the DTC is exploring direct mail, programmatic and content partnerships with publishers like BuzzFeed and Food52 this year. Facebook ad manager reveals the brand currently has paid video and static image ads running.

This year, according to Simpson, Blue Apron is in the financial position to rebuild its marketing strategy, focusing efforts on brand awareness and media mix diversification.

“This is not a pilot of whether or not the brand campaign works,” she said. “The channels are a pilot to see what’s the right mix and what’s the right spend.” 

Blue Apron isn’t alone in its digital video advertising efforts. Brands like Merrell footwear and Quility Insurance have also invested in CTV and streaming efforts. 

Increasingly, DTC brands are ramping up brand awareness efforts, heavily relying on CTV and streaming as the vehicle to boost awareness, according to Steve Diamond, chief creative officer at Rain the Growth Agency. 

“CTV appeals to brands who want the impact of TV without the expense,” Diamond said via email. “But because these digitally native brands can target very specific audiences this way, they feel like they are being smarter with their budgets.”

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