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Awards case study: How the Food Porn Awards whipped up increased awareness and engagement for STM Photography

Discover how a new awards ceremony celebrating professionally-shot images of the North West's finest food generated more than 350 leads and eight new clients for photography firm STMP

Summary

STM Photography (STMP) creates imagery for some of the country’s leading names in food. In 2015 it recognised a significant new business opportunity following exponential growth in the North West’s bar and restaurant sector. Over recent years there has been demise in the perceived value of professional food photography due to an increase in consumers posting food and drink pictures online. STMP challenged Refresh PR, in partnership with them, to create a campaign to address this and generate new business.

Utilising insights gathered during a planning phase, desk research and several creative sessions, the ‘Food Porn Awards’ (FPAs) were created. An awards scheme to find the finest looking food from eateries across the region, the FPAs asked businesses to enter images of their establishment's dishes, which were then judged and shortlisted by an expert panel. Following a cook-off, the final winner was announced at the Northern Restaurant and Bar Exhibition.

In just six months, Refresh achieved tangible business results for STM in line with the campaign objectives of raising brand awareness, creating leads and increasing key influencer engagement, including:

  • 250 entries
  • Eight new clients to-date
  • 350+ quality business leads
  • Nine business/key influencer meetings
  • Media coverage: 47 pieces
  • Website visitors: 4,632 unique visitors.

About

STM Photography, part of specialist creative agency Shoot The Moon, has over 20 years’ experience delivering campaigns for organisations across the food and drink sector. STMP creates imagery for some of the country’s leading names in food. 

Strategy 

In developing its new business drive for 2015-16, STMP identified the opportunity to target North West England, which has seen exponential growth in new café/restaurant/bar openings and redevelopments over recent years. STMP wanted a strategic and creative plan to set it apart from its competitors.

Unfortunately, the increase in consumers posting food and drink pictures on social media has led to a demise in the perceived value of professional photography. In response and to generate new business, STMP recognised a need to demonstrate the value professional food and drink photography can add when carried out properly. 

Campaign objectives:

  • Increase awareness and position STMP as a leading food and drink photography studio in the North West.
  • Generate quality business leads.
  • Raise awareness of STMP among key influencers.
  • Create a campaign with longevity, matching STMP’s brand personality (creative and fun).
  • Educate the audience on the importance of professional food and drink photography.
  • Celebrate the region’s great-looking food.
  • Create reciprocal exposure for all involved. 

Target audience

ONS statistics revealed that from 2013-2015 the North West witnessed an 11.9% increase in restaurants, presenting a significant business opportunity for STMP.

Further desk and field research uncovered a number of challenges associated with communicating with the audience, including their view of the value of professional food and drink photography. This is partly down to the increasing trend for customers to photograph food via their smartphones and share these images via social media. 

Other considerations included:

  • The sector’s businesses face stiff competition – they could be more willing to support a campaign that supports self-promotion.
  • Involvement must fit around working hours and busy periods.
  • Chefs view their trade as an art. To gain respect and attention, the audience must resonate with activity and reach their own opinions – therefore activity needed to avoid being promotional.
  • The audience prefers mutually beneficial campaigns.

Media, channels and techniques used

A creative and integrated campaign, resonating with the target audience via a mix of channels, was crucial to address the communications challenges and meet the campaign objectives. In response, the Food Porn Awards (FPAs) were created: a multi-layered communications strategy comprising media relations, social media, video, photography, events and influencer engagement.

Mechanics

  • Innovative awards scheme targeting North West café/bars/restaurants to find the finest looking food from eateries across the region.
  • Businesses asked to enter images of a dish from their establishment via an online entry form.
  • Entry process quick and free – all other industry awards charge. FPAs were created simply to celebrate success and great-looking food.
  • Dishes entered into one of four categories: fine dining, casual dining, alternative eats and boutique pubs.
  • Entries judged and shortlisted by expert panel, secured by Refresh:
    • Manchester Evening News journalist
    • Manchester Metropolitan University lecturer
    • Development chef from leading food brand
    • Food and drink magazine publisher
    • Marketing agency creative director.
  • 16 finalists attended a cook-off event organised by Refresh at Manchester Metropolitan University (two hours each over two days) recreating their dishes to be photographed by STMP (site visits conducted for those that couldn’t attend). Gave STMP valuable face-to-face time with entrants.
  • Judges selected four finalists and one winner from anonymised photos taken during the cook-off.
  • Refresh secured sponsors, e.g. Hobbs (provided canvas prints of creations from cook-off free-of-charge).
  • Refresh established a relationship with the Northern Restaurant and Bar (NRB) Exhibition- the north’s top food and drink show. This gained prime exhibitor space, social media support and inclusion in the show’s live schedule. The winner was announced at the show’s peak visitor time for maximum awareness.

Rationale

  • Fun, quirky use of language in the Awards’ name to engage audience.
  • Capitalises on increasing use of #foodporn via social media channels.
  • Gives STMP access to influencers and new customers through entrants, and an opportunity to demonstrate the value of professional photography.
  • Mutually beneficial for all involved – free PR and increased brand awareness through media coverage in return for involvement.
  • By carrying out the official photography, promotes STMP among the target audience.
  • Chance to run year-on-year, providing longevity.

Execution and channels

Refresh activity:

Offline

  • Developed an integrated comms campaign.
  • Engaged and managed third party agencies and event plan.
  • Entry support: for all.
  • Media relations: calling for entries, announcing shortlist, promoting the cook-off and unveiling the winner.
  • Hit-squad: Food Porn Enforcement notices dropped at cafes/restaurants/bars in North West England to highlight awards.
  • Face-to-face: engaged influencers at NRB.
  • Cook-off organisation.

Online

  • PR: coverage with links back to the website was delivered alongside the offline media activity.
  • Survey: post-event to gain valuable feedback.

Marketing agency activity:

  • Creation of FPA website.
  • Daily, targeted social media activity.
  • Creation of fun, engaging videos.
  • Finalists received an award to display, website badges and additional FPA collateral.
  • Regular eshots to a database, which grew in size as the awards gathered momentum.

Timescales 

2015:

  • July-September: Planning
  • October: Launch
  • December: Shortlisting. 

2016:

  • January: Cook-off
  • February: Final judging
  • March: NRB and winner’s announcement
  • March-present: Following-up on leads, reporting and measurement.

Results

Results were measured in line with objectives, including:

Brand awareness

  • Entries: 250
  • Attendees at winner’s announcement: 150+
  • Media coverage: 47 pieces (target 20). All mentioned partners and/or winners
  • Website visitors: 4632 unique visitors (5812 sessions in total)
  • Facebook (Nov-Apr): 4826 interactions, 1748 quality fans, 638,254 Facebook impressions, 431,121 users reached
  • Twitter (Nov-Apr): 719 mentions, 954 followers, 529,800 impressions. 

Lead generation:

  • New clients/projects: Eight to date
  • Quality business leads: 350+
  • New business/key influencer meetings: Nine to date.

Key influencer engagement: 

  • Photoshoots with 16 finalists at the cook-off.
  • Celebrity chef Simon Rimmer attended NRB stand.
  • Unmeasurable face-to-face interaction with NRB attendees.
  • £20,000 income in sponsors’ donations.

Future plans:

  • 2017’s awards in planning – expanding geographic reach and introducing a public element.   

Phil Marshall, director at Shoot The Moon, said: "The FPAs was a creative way of engaging prospective clients in the North West: we’ve built a brand with real longevity. Combined with the influx of new business leads we’ve received following the awards, this proved a seamless campaign that achieved exactly what we needed it to."

B2B Marketing Awards

This case study was submitted as part of the judging process for the B2B Marketing Awards 2016. It was shortlisted for Best public relations campaign‘Food Porn Awards’ for STM Photography by Refresh PR.

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