This weekend, three finalists from Dole Foods’ recipe contest will be at popular shopping destination The Grove in Los Angeles to compete live for the grand prize. Over 10 days last month, the three beat out more than 20,000 people who used Dole canned Mandarin oranges, raisins, bagged salads, and other Dole fruits and vegetables to develop a recipe they hoped would carry them all the way to LA.
The event on June 24 marks the fourth iteration of “The Dole California Cook Off,” which was staged on Facebook. A supporting sweepstakes offers the chance for one of the entrants to be a blogger and a judge on Sunday to help determine the winner.
Michael Contreras, the digital marketing manager, for Dole Packaged Foods, talks about contests, smoothies, bloggers and what keeps him up at night.
PROMO: This is the fourth year you are running the same contest, how have you updated it?
CONTRERAS: It’s gone from being a closed venue event to a very public event at The Grove where more than 40,000 people are expected to come through on Sunday. We’ve added additional partners like Weber so we have a very recognizable brand. Weber donated all the grills that we’re using during the event for the cooking demonstrations and for the finalists to use to prepare their recipes. As part of the local activation, we’re raffling off some grills and Dole goodie bags to get the public more involved.
PROMO: Any other updates?
CONTRERAS: We added sampling, which allows people walking by to participate or engage with the cooking demonstrations. It also allows us to sample new products like our Fruit Smoothie Shakers and products from Mrs. Mays.
PROMO: How did you market the contest?
CONTRERAS: We used an FSI and leveraged Dole.com and announced the contest direct to our Facebook community through a wall post. We also leveraged Twitter and partnered with mommy and food bloggers to help get the word out and increase submissions. We’ve actively gone out and held private parties for 20 bloggers and then we selected one to come down and participate in and blog from this live event.
PROMO: Are bloggers a staple marketing tool for you?
CONTRERAS: Over the last couple of years we have developed relationships with bloggers directly. We’ve hosted our own blogger events so it’s very easy for us to share product or coupons or provide giveaways for them on their blogs.
PROMO: How are the bloggers compensated for their participation in this contest?
CONTRERAS: They are not being paid. We give them all the details and they are eligible to compete in the contest. For them it’s an opportunity to showcase their ability to make something from scratch and submit an original recipe. The bloggers like to provide that information to their communities and inspire their communities to participate in the contest.
PROMO: Are you using any mass media?
CONTRERAS: Last year was a bit of a challenge just getting the information out about the event, so this year we are running a TV commercial through a local channel featuring Chef Ben Ford talking about the event and telling viewers to come out and participate. We’re also running billboards around The Grove.
PROMO: How often do you run contests?
CONTRERAS: We run sweepstakes throughout the year, but this is the only recipe-driven contest that we do across all of our products as a brand.
PROMO: What goals do you set for the recipe contest?
CONTRERAS: We want to know how consumers are using our products and its very inspirational for us to see what they do.
PROMO: What does the winner receive?
CONTRERAS: Last year, the grand prize was $2,500 and we increased that this year to $10,000 and that has helped to increase the number of submissions. And the two finalists win $2,500 whereas last year it was $1,000.
PROMO: Why did you decide to run this on Facebook as opposed to a microsite?
CONTRERAS: Because this is an online promotion we really want to increase that social engagement and we want our current consumers to find new ways to interact with us about how they’re using the product. We’re listening to what they are saying. It’s inspiring to run the contest on a platform like Facebook, because if this was on a microsite we really wouldn’t be able to get into the conversations that we have on Facebook.
PROMO: What do you view as the best social platform for marketers to use at the moment?
CONTRERAS: From our own experience we’ve definitely had greater opportunities and success with Facebook just from the ability to have conversations with our consumers and the ability to run apps for contests and sweepstakes. Second to that, Twitter. We are starting to leverage it much more but there are new platforms coming online that we’re currently working on like Pinterest or even Instagram because visuals play such an important role when you talk about food. So, if it looks appetizing, they might look to recreate that recipe at home, but it has to start with visuals.
PROMO: What keeps you up at night?
CONTRERAS: Partly just trying to keep a handle on the latest platforms that come online and understanding what they are and how we as marketers can leverage those platforms. Given the landscape around digital marketing there is a constant evolution. I enjoy looking at what else is coming online and what consumer behavior changes are coming and how we as marketers can leverage these tools to market to consumers.