‘It has to be value-centric’: How a regional food brand leverages organic social strategy to boost brand awareness

While most brands have ramped up their social media ad spend, food and spice brand Zatarain’s remains bullish on leveraging an organic strategy. 

Instead of spending big to acquire customers and boost brand awareness on social media channels, the Louisiana-based, McCormick-owned brand is relying on organic content by way of memes, user-generated content or tapping into cultural moments. The brand’s go-to social media accounts include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

“We really have had to be scrappy and utilize digital as our first point of contact and way of connecting with consumers,” said Alia Kemet, svp of global creative and digital transformation at McCormick. “Sometimes having to use really organic means of doing so.”

As part of its strategy, Kemet said Zatarain’s looks at what’s trending on a weekly basis to determine content and a posting schedule. The brand works with Petermayer marketing agency for creative. Petermayer creates all organic content with assistance from McCormick for recipe photography, per a spokesperson for the brand.  

Last year, Zatarain’s spent nearly $630,000 on media, significantly down from the $2.3 million spent in 2020, according to Kantar. In 2019, the brand spent $67,600. Those figures do not include social media spend as Kantar does not track those numbers.

According to Pathmatics, Zatarain’s spent an estimated $823,000 on Facebook and Instagram in 2021. That number is significantly higher than the $353,000 spent in 2020. In 2019, the brand spent just $39,000 on Facebook and Instagram, per Pathmatics. Per Kemet, Zatarain’s often puts paid ad spend behind organic content that does well on those platforms.

As a regional brand, Kemet said Zatarain’s marketing budget to boost brand awareness and get in front of its target audience of busy moms is limited. Meaning the marketing team opts to save ad dollars for major cultural events, including Mardi Gras. In time for Mardi Gras this past February, Zatarain’s partnered with singer Tank for its Bold Like That campaign, which ran ads on Facebook, according to Facebook ads manager. 

“It’s not that we don’t use paid [social media ads] — we don’t rely on it,” Kemet said, adding that the brand opts to boost content that performs well.  

Recently, the brand has made more effort to pursue media channels such as public relations and earned media. Zatarain’s has also been experimenting with live formats, like Facebook and Instagram “when you want to do something that’s engaging but don’t want to spend your entire budget,” Kemet said. She did not disclose any Zatarain’s ad spend figures. 

Per Kemet, Zatarain’s organic social strategy allows the brand to facilitate two-way conversations with account followers and be more nimble when it comes to adjusting strategy to play into timely social media trends.

While social media has become a pay-to-play space over the years, there is still value in an organic social strategy, according to Brandon Biancalani, head of paid media at Modifly social agency. 

TikTok and Instagram Reels have reignited the conversation around organic strategy as brands have looked to go viral to boost brand awareness and sales. Still, Biancalani says for organic to be a winning strategy, brands need to ensure there’s community-based value in the content.

“It has to be value-centric. If brands ignore that, that’s how they’re going to not be successful with these strategies,” Biancalani said. “They still have to make sure the user gets something out of it.”

Going forward, Zatarain’s plans to continue its predominantly organic social strategy, tapping into memes and cultural moments across the internet to connect with its audience inexpensively. 

“When you’re not relying on paid media, and you’re really relying on the storytelling and the truth of the brand coming through, that’s really important,” Kemet said.


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