Consumers harnessed social media to win French's ketchup war, expert says
Canadian condiment lovers turned to social media in waves this week to express their frustration with Loblaws after the company said it would no longer stock French's ketchup on its shelves.
This is the latest example of how social media has given consumers a much louder voice when it comes to companies making marketing decisions, explained Peter Voyer, associate marketing professor at the University of Windsor.
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Within a day of the news breaking that Loblaws would no longer sell ketchup from French's, which sources tomatoes from Leamington, the grocery giant quickly reversed its decision.
The backlash from people who turned to sites like Facebook and Twitter was just too much.
"I think Loblaws' initial decision was based purely on a sales metric and once they heard consumers, they very rapidly rescinded that decision," Voyer said. "It's important to look at marketing metrics and look at the financials, but it's important to look at the consumer."
He is not surprised by the might Canadian consumers threw around online, considering the huge increases in social media usage in the past decade.
"We see now that 75 per cent of all adults use social media," he told CBC News. "When we look at a younger demographic of say 18 to 29, more than 90 per cent of that demographic use social media."
Katie Stokes, owner of Blab Media in Windsor, agreed, saying Loblaws' decision may have gone unnoticed without social media.
"People were exposed to this because of social media," she said. "Because social media brought that to a forefront and gave people a place to share their voice and share their opinion, the story blew up."
And companies would be wise to align their values with the consumers they're trying to reach, Voyer explained.
"Consumers fundamentally now are looking for honesty. They want companies to perform and be ethical," he said. "Consumers want honesty. They seek it and they will reward companies that are honest with them."
After the backtrack by Loblaws, French's recognizes the profound impact that social media has among consumers.
"Now more than ever it is imperative for companies to better understand what consumers value and think is important," he said. "If brands can find a way to align with these values and expectations, the message can be amplified via consumer engagement and social media."
Companies no longer have a choice when it comes to having a social media strategy for their products, explained Stokes.
"It's an essential part of a marketing strategy, regardless of what type of business or what type of product you own," she said.