Connecting Images (CI) was briefed by Australian Char, manufacturer of Australia’s leading solid barbecue fuel, to promote and grow market share of its mature brand Heat Beads®.
The strategic communications campaign developed by CI in response to this brief set out to engage, educate and inspire a broad food/barbecue audience to chargrill over Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes, rather than use a gas barbecue.
The central feature of the campaign was the ‘Global Char Grill Showcase’, staged as part of the 2009 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Connex Sizzle! in March, where:
- Five chefs of different nationalities prepared multicultural recipes and used various cooking techniques to demonstrate the versatility of Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes.
- Well-known sports stars and food media personalities demonstrated how to chargrill healthy and appealing recipes for children.
Campaign tactics included surveys, television, radio, print and online media exposure, a consumer competition, street spruikers, partnerships with key influencers and food tastings.
More than 26,000 people turned up on the day – despite torrential rain.
Sales of Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes have increased significantly since the campaign started in December 2008.
Unlike Americans and Europeans, Australians generally don’t have a widespread appreciation of, chargrilling over live coals. (For example, Denmark, with a similar population to Victoria, uses more solid barbecue fuel annually than the whole of Australia.)
While there is a core group of passionate chargrilling Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes advocates, the general perceptions of the Australian barbecuing public is that gas barbecuing is quick, easy, clean and convenient; that barbecuing is throwing a steak or a sausage on a greasy hotplate (usually over gas); that cooking over Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes is dirty, difficult and costly.
Australian Char, manufacturer of Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes, aims to change these perceptions.
Another issue is that uninformed chargrillers also tend to choose cheaper, inferior no-name imported solid barbecue fuel, which ultimately denigrates the product sector.
Faced with this prevailing consumer apathy, CI identified a major public relations campaign as the most effective way to reach a broad barbecuing audience and to educate and excite them about the benefits of chargrilling.
- Online surveys directed to 3,000 Heat Beads® BBQ News eNewsletter subscribers in 2008 revealed that 76.2% of respondents were interested in learning more about the art of chargrilling (Appendix A).
- Blind taste test and interviews with a group of barbecue enthusiasts in December 2007 showed a unanimous preference for food cooked over live coals, quoting superior flavour.
- Retailer interviews and analysis of sales data indicated that convenience generally drives barbecue purchase decisions.
- The social nature of barbecuing, data from the 2008 Edelman’s Trust Barometer, and the growing number of subscribers to heatbeads.com indicated that experiential learning, word of mouth and key influencers’ recommendations most powerfully communicate the benefits of chargrilling.
- Major competitors of the Heat Beads® brand are private label barbecue fuels that are accepted by consumers due to price discounting.
- CI recognised the opportunity for Heat Beads® to reinforce its quality status and position as market leader by aligning with dedicated gourmet food enthusiasts.
- Nielsen research identified AM radio, weekend papers and the internet as the best channels to communicate with relevant target publics. Melbourne Food and Wine’s media partnerships with The Age newspaper and Channel 7 added impetus to CI’s own media outreach through 3AW, radio, print and online communication. Engaging media and food identities Cam Smith and Allan Campion added further appeal to target audiences.
Key target publics for the Heat Beads® ‘Global Char Grill Showcase’ were consistent with Melbourne Food and Wine’s Connex Sizzle!
Medium to high socioeconomic status, likely to purchase solid barbecue fuel and have an appreciation of gourmet food experiences (children between 2 –12 and parents 25–40 years).
Targeted through children’s entertainment and onstage demonstrations.
Broad age range (25–60), medium to high socioeconomic status. Passionate about food and enjoying indulgent lifestyle.
Specifically targeted through media outreach focused on food media and association with Melbourne Food and Wine Festival – renowned for its great ‘foodie’ experiences.
Aged 25–45 years, living in close proximity to Melbourne CBD, high socioeconomic status.
Later demonstrations (5–9pm): event attendance spontaneous. Targeted through media, signage in Federation Square, promotion on large screen in Federation Square and street spruikers.
Editorial and advertising, mainstream print/food media and broadcast media.
Targeted to attract entries in the Heat Beads® Best Chargrill Recipe Competition run concurrently with the event.
Attract a dedicated food/barbecue loving public to the ‘Global Char Grill Showcase’ and align the Heat Beads® brand with a gourmet food experience.
Five recognised chefs prepared international recipes on stage, each using different methods to cook the dishes over live coals and demonstrate the versatility of Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes.
The campaign communicated the ‘experience’ of cooking over live coals, supported by public tastings.
Pre-event promotion – editorial, advertising, online communication – was a major part of the campaign, centred on the Best Chargrill BBQ Recipe Competition.
The competition increased awareness of the event, engaged a wide audience, and the winner was announced at the event, attracting increased attendance on the day.
CI coordinated all activities to ensure that:
- Event implementation was seamless
- Each activity enhanced the next
- The communications campaign plan was targeted and actioned in a timely manner
- All stakeholders (key influencers and strategic partners) were fully aligned and informed
CI also worked closely with Australian Char’s internal team to ensure that company employees were engaged and involved.
- The Heat Beads® Best Chargrill BBQ Recipe Competition. Chargrill enthusiasts were invited to submit their best chargrill barbecue recipes as an introduction to the event. This would increase awareness, engage target audiences and attract more attendees to the event.
- E-newsletters promoted the ‘Global Char Grill Showcase’ and the Heat Beads® Best Chargrill BBQ Recipe Competition. These were distributed pre and post event to ‘food lover’ databases, including Melbourne Food and Wine, Campion and Curtis news and the Heat Beads® eNewsletter. The total reach of these combined databases was approximately 25,000 plus ‘food lovers’.
- A ‘food media’ advertising campaign supported editorial, ensured consistent messaging about the taste benefits of chargrilling and encouraged competition entries.
Targeted advertising included the ‘Thrill of the Grill’ segment on Melbourne radio station 3AW with Bob Hart and Denis Walter – specific to barbecue enthusiasts, the ‘Epicure’ section in The Age newspaper, and the Triple RRR ‘Eat It’ program.
Advertisements in the festival program reached 360,000.
A bonus competition was provided by 3AW, through Denis Walter, with Heat Beads® products as prizes (Appendix A).
CI scripted the radio advertisements and managed the media buying for both media outlets.
- Professional chefs endorsed the experience of live coal cooking over Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes on stage and in media interviews.
- Key messages including ‘food cooked over Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes tastes better’ and ‘Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes – endorsed by chefs and food experts!’ were communicated through a media campaign targeting ‘people who love to cook’. Implemented over a six-week lead up to the event.
- Free food samples of five international recipes were distributed at the event to engage the audience. The samples were prepared and distributed by Epicure Catering. Recipe testing was conducted prior to the event.
- Blog posts on heatbeads.com communicated latest news. This extended the value of the sponsorship and life of the campaign. Fifteen posts were placed online pre and post event.
- Key influencer support:
- The Bar-Be School (runs barbecue cooking classes in Victoria, NSW and Queensland) contributed to the first prize for the Best Chargrill BBQ Recipe Competition.
- Barbeques Galore provided a variety of barbecues.
- 3AW’s ‘Thrill of the Grill’ and Triple RRR’s ‘Eat it’ programs provided editorial promotion of the event.
- The Children’s Food Education Fund organised children’s entertainment and demonstrations.
- Street spruikers walked the city precinct and encouraged pedestrian traffic flow to the event, distributing promotional flyers.
- Project management reporting.
- The Heat Beads® brand enhanced its gourmet positioning through an effective pre-event promotional campaign (Appendix A).
- ‘Foodies’ were educated about the benefits of chargrilling over Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes at an intimate event, interacting with chefs and other key influencers, and through demonstrations, free food tastings and distribution of an event recipe book (Appendix A).
- The convenience of Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes was proven as cooking continued despite inclement weather. Other event activities were cancelled. A dedicated audience at the ‘Global Char Grill Showcase’ kept demonstrations fully subscribed.
- The variety of cuisine that can be chargrilled was communicated through the theme of the event: the ‘Global Char Grill Showcase’. Five professional chefs demonstrated five very different recipes and cooking styles from around the world, using Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes.
- Initial attendance expectation was around 15,000. More than 26,000 attended on the day, despite torrential rain, demonstrating that the audience was dedicated and genuinely interested in the Global Char Grill Showcase stage activity.
- Media exposure reached an audience of approximately 2.94 million (Appendix A). Exposure included the Sunrise television program, 3AW radio, The Age newspaper and online communications.
- The Best Chargrill BBQ Recipe Competition attracted more than 200 entries, and a 632% increase in subscribers to the Heat Beads® subscriber database to April 2009. Genuine interest was evidenced by the excellent quality of recipes submitted.
- Website traffic logs reflected the impact of fresh and relevant content on Search Engine Optimisation and user engagement.
- The Bar-Be School is now selling the Heat Beads® Entertainer BBQ and running exclusive Charcoal BBQ classes.
- Sales of Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes increased by more than 19% during three month campaign, up to and including the event (Appendix B).
- Reinforce the Heat Beads® brand as leader in the solid barbecue fuel category
The Heat Beads® brand enhanced its positioning as market leader through an effective and professionally run event which aligned itself with the gourmet food experience and the expertise of professional chefs.
- Educate users that Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes burn hotter for longer
Online survey respondents listed ‘reliable even heat’ as more important when using solid barbecue fuel (Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes) in 2009 as compared to 2008.90% achieved, as education is an ongoing process.
- Educate 30% of potential attendees on benefits of chargrilling
100% achieved, as although the campaign budget did not allow for external research to be conducted pre and post event to gauge consumer’s knowledge of the benefits of chargrilling, head counts conducted during the event indicated that 5,000 attendees were present during the interactive and educational demonstrations. In addition free food tastings and a recipe book distributed on the day contributed to education.
- Attract an audience of approximately 15,000 keen barbecue enthusiasts to the event
100% achieved, as initial attendance expectation was 5,000 and more than 26,000 attended on the day – despite torrential rain – and stayed to engage with the demonstrations.
- Demonstrate the versatility of cooking techniques and dishes that can be cooked over Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes/live coals
Versatility of cuisine that can be chargrilled was communicated through the theme of the event: ‘The Global Char Grill Showcase’ and the five professional chefs demonstrating very different recipes and cooking styles from around the world using Heat Beads® BBQ Briquettes.