From NFTs to Boycotts, Food Marketing Aims for Relevance


In this quarter’s Food Marketing Creative Review, food and restaurant brands enter the metaverse with NFT offerings. Meanwhile, Tillamook hawks a giant hunk of cheese, Zaxby’s appropriates a celebrated internet meme, and Chipotle releases a long-awaited sequel to an award-winning film. And in other food marketing and advertising news, brands take a stand on the war in Ukraine. For details, read on. As always, you can view an abbreviated version of this blog in video form.

Tillamook – Chedderbration

The trend of food brands selling branded clothing and other merch, as described in an earlier blog, continues with Tillamook joining the party. And as a novel online offering, in addition to cheese-themed threads from party pants to socks, their new e-store also offers a huge 40-pound block of Tillamook Yellow Cheddar. As it happens, Tillamook Cheddar is actually aged in these blocks, known as the “Mother Loaf,” before being broken down into smaller blocks, slices, and shredded cheese. To help publicize their shoppable sensations, Tillamook throws a “Cheddarbration” in a cheesy musical spot.

Campbell’s, Taco Bell and Papa John’s – NFTs

Despite the fact that over 70% of Americans still don’t really understand what a Non-Fungible Token is, food marketers are jumping on the trend to help promote themselves. Campbell’s 100 limited edition digital art designs pay tribute to their place in pop art history and are being auctioned on drop culture leader NTWRK. Papa John’s NFT collection consists of nine virtual pizza delivery hot bag designs minted on the Tezos blockchain. And Taco Bell’s taco-themed animated GIF NFTs were authenticated and offered on NFT marketplace Rarible before quickly selling out. Though no one really considers the tokens to have serious investment potential, they are creating value for their brands in the form of newsworthy PR.

Zaxby’s – “Guy on a Buffalo Wing”

A quirky online video from the Zaxby’s chain of casual chicken restaurants pays homage to the viral “Guy on a Buffalo” music videos by Jomo and the Possum Posse. However, unlike the original version, our Zaxby’s “guy” rides a buffalo chicken wing through the wilderness instead of a mere buffalo. The video features the original band and its folksy music style, together with a cameo by the original Buffalo Guy. It’s a delightfully random concept that is far better viewed than explained.

The original meme:

Zaxby’s version:

Chipotle – “A Future Begins”

Ten years later, Chipotle has released a follow-up to its award-winning 2011 film “Back to the Start.” Entitled “A Future Begins,” the two-and-a-half minute sequel employs the same charming stop-motion animation style as the original to pay tribute to today’s farmers. Based on a true story, it relates the story of a next-generation farmer adopting sustainable growing practices and humane animal treatment. With a proposed bill pending that would create up to a million acres of new farmland and $2.5 billion in funding for aspiring farmers, Chipotle is also appealing to customers to round up order totals to push the effort.

The War in Ukraine Hits Home for U.S. Food Brands

As the war in Ukraine rages, American international food and restaurant brands are looking for ways to help and display good corporate citizenship. As a result, companies including McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Papa John’s have announced they are ceasing business in Russia. In addition, Kraft Heinz is stopping exports of its products to the country, while Kellogg’s is donating a million dollars to support and feed Ukrainian refugees.

Meanwhile, Fortune Magazine has published a “Hall of Shame” of companies that have yet to do anything. But it’s a difficult situation for QSR companies like Dunkin Donuts and Subway, whose Russian stores are all independently franchised. And many CPG brands, including General Mills, Mondelez, Nestle, and Danone, are hesitant to cut off their food supply for humanitarian reasons, especially as many Russians don’t support the war. Like it or not, brands have found themselves in a spot where they must take a position and communicate it to consumers.

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