CASE STUDY: What you can learn about social media and content marketing from a 200+ year old flour company

PART 1 – THE BACKGROUND

Too often you hear from brands (large and small, but quizzically it generally comes from larger organisations) that they haven’t got much to say that’s interesting and therefore social media and content marketing would be a waste of time for them.

Hmmm, really?

You know, just when you think there are deadly boring categories out there populated with brands that at first glance probably DON’T have a lot to say, along comes King Arthur Flour to effectively take that argument and knock it out of the park.

NOTE:  VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH PJ HAMEL (KING ARTHUR FLOUR) IS BELOW, OR LISTEN HERE:

Vermont-based King Arthur is America’s oldest flour company.  KAFLogoL_001

Yes, you read correctly. FLOUR. That powdery white stuff used for cooking.

This is a business that’s nailing both social media and its online kindred spirit ‘content marketing’, and doing so better than most large Australian companies operating in higher interest categories.

Content Marketing

What is King Arthur Flour doing that’s so progressive? First of all, the brand focuses on producing interesting and relevant content.

It doesn’t flog us about the ears just talking about its flour and why it’s so great, but rather it takes a more considered and bigger picture view. Its content strategy is to educate the public on cooking with flour, celebrate the art of baking and generally build and cultivate community of people who are interested in baking (check out the company’s blog – it’s called FLOURISH, an amalgam of ‘Flour + Nourish’ – clever that!).

Furthermore – and importantly – King Arthur Flour markets its brand by telling interesting and informative stories across multiple mediums, especially video.

In keeping with its goal of educating amateur, professional and aspiring bakers, King Arthur Flour runs a baking education centre (pictured below), a schools-based ‘Life Skills Bread Baking Program’ and a series of free travelling baking demos.

 

Social Media

Let’s shift our attention to King Arthur’s social media channels, an area where it is excelling.

The brand has a thriving community on Facebook, with 217,000 people ‘liking’ the page.

Its Facebook updates are regularly ‘liked’ and commented upon. One such post – in which the brand asked its fans to show “support for American farmers in so many parts of our country battling terrible drought conditions” – attracted over 2000 likes (this update also featured a video inviting the public to “take a tour with us through the wheat fields of Kansas and meet some of the people who grow wheat that becomes King Arthur Flour”.).

Many of their updates attract between 70 and 100 comments (unlike ‘likes’, comments demonstrate a deeper level of engagement on the part of consumers).

They’re a creative bunch at King Arthur Flour too.

On the right-hand side of the Facebook page – in the ‘timeline’ – the brand cleverly takes the reader back to 1790 when the company was founded, then on to the 1800s, 1900s and so on. In other words, it uses mini-stories to tell its overall brand story, but produces it in such a way so people can discover it in their own time.

The brand is more active on Twitter than most companies (it has tweeted over 7600 times and boasts 19,500+ followers). Extending to another social network,  120,000 people have placed King Arthur in their Google+ ‘circles’ while on YouTube, the company’s 80+ educational and storytelling-based videos have had over one million views.

King Arthur Flour also publishes a glossy hardcopy and digital bi-monthly newsletter (which it sells via subscription) as well as an award-winning cookbook series.

And to cap everything off, King Arthur features on its website a forum-based community area where consumers and professional customers can ask questions, share recipes and start discussions around baking and running a bakery business.

Does all this mean King Arthur Flour doesn’t promote its products?

Not at all, but the brand is adept at earning the attention of its customers and adding value to their lives in interesting, relevant and respectful ways. This way, its ‘sales pitch’ can be deliberately low-key and still be effective because consumers have already bought into the brand and its story.

ABOVE: Profile on King Arthur Flour for Google Chrome


This is smart marketing today folks!

  • Telling authentic stories with passion and enthusiasm.
  • Educating customers by creating relevant and meaty content and distributing it across via a number of different media formats.
  • Connecting with the marketplace and building a sense of community via multiple social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

And finally, understanding that it’s not all about online communication and that face-to-face and event-based activity is the, ahem, icing on the marketing cake.

 

 

PART 2 – THE INTERVIEW

I followed up the article above by recording an interview with PJ Hamel, who is part of the King Arthur Flour’s web team and has been involved in a lot of its content creation and online community activity.

PJ has been with the Vermont-based company for over 22 years. In this interview she sheds light on the approach King Arthur Flour takes when it comes to social media and content marketing, and provides advice to companies wanting to go down a similar path.

Key Takeaways from the interview:

  • King Arthur Flour has been using social media for four years, kicking off with Facebook. However, the company has been active building its online community for over 10 years.
  • Connecting with customers and helping them connect with one another is critical because that’s what builds a community.
  • Social media is a door that people walk through to get to your content.
  • King Arthur Flour’s social media and content marketing strategy is to make “warm and human connections” with anybody interested in baking – first you become friends with people, earn their trust and then give them a reason to want the product you’re selling.
  • Big companies don’t need to be faceless, just make a smaller team of people that are willing to make friends and put their names and faces out there on the social web.
  • Mastercard is an example of a big company that is using social media well: they monitor all the time and are quick to respond to people.
  • Being large isn’t an excuse for not having good social media.
  • Smartpak sells supplies for horses and has “really got inside the horse lover’s head” – it is a good example of a brand using Facebook well (definitely worth a look, their Facebook page has over 250,000 likes).
  • Trust, trust, trust – you have to build trust with consumers!
  • Be on as many social media channels as makes sense because you never know when a channel is going to take off.
  • The basis of social media is to “treat people well and they’ll keep coming back”.
  • Pinterest drives a lot of traffic to the King Arthur Flour website – “it’s very viral”.
  • You don’t have to devote a whole team to social media, you just have to have a few people that love doing it and are willing to spend time making it happen.
  • Advice to companies thinking about social media: Figure out what your story is! There’s something about your business you feel passionate about – tell your story, share it with people! Don’t worry about writing something that’s perfect – tell it like you would to your mother or your next-door neighbour or your best friend.

Wise words!

If you’re interested in leveraging social media and content marketing strategies to build your brand, then you won’t want to miss this insightful interview with PJ Hamel.

THANK YOU FOR SHARING 🙂

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1 thought on “CASE STUDY: What you can learn about social media and content marketing from a 200+ year old flour company”

  1. One of the things that’s interesting that deserves to be spelled out is that all flour is NOT equal. Some flour is bromated or bleached. King Arthur’s is not. Some flour is local grown. King Arthur’s is not. Some flour is boutique flour (there are over 30 varieties of flour, each with its own protein content and gluten properties which has a major impact on performance). King Arthur’s is not. Then there are cake flours, pasta flours, all-purpose flours, bread flours….

    The point is that King Arthur has used content to dominate share of voice, build trust, and dominate the conversation to their advantage. Writing as an avid bread baker and cook, I have to say that King Arthur is not always the perfect flour for my application, but they are still my go-to source because they know how to hold my attention and make it very difficult for me to want to go investigate someone else’s product.

    Thank you, Trevor, for sharing this excellent post.

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