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Food Collabs Designed to Get Your Attention

What’s in this article:

  • How several food brands have been setting up collaborations that don’t necessarily make sense in terms of taste but do in terms of gaining attention and brand recognition

National Macaroni & Cheese Day (believe it or not, it’s a thing) was July 14. For the occasion, Van Leeuwen started selling the limited edition Kraft Macaroni & Cheese ice cream for $12 pints.

But if you weren’t ready to place your order right away, you’ve lost your chance. The flavor that garnered a lot of publicity sold out within just a couple of days.

The exclusiveness was part of the appeal, of course, and Kraft used that in urging people to enter a contest to win a pint as a prize with this tweet just one day after it became available for sale:

The ice cream maker also plays on the scarcity to engage customers to subscribe to its mailing list. It invites interested customers to sign up for notifications of other unexpected flavors that they won’t want to miss out on using the potent effect of FOMO:

“We’re working on making more of the mash-up you never knew you needed but somehow sold out in a few hours. Sign-up to be the first to know when it’s available for purchase.”

It defies logic that something “you never knew you needed” suddenly becomes something you feel you must have. But it fits perfectly with human psychology and the impact of hype that makes people feel their lives will be incomplete if they don’t experience this once-in-a-lifetime taste experience.

That’s why food brands have been setting up these kinds of collaborations that don’t necessarily make much sense in terms of taste but do gain attention and brand recognition. Fast Company took a look at that phenomenon in Why marketers love mashups, from mac ‘n’ cheese ice cream to baked bean smoothies.

Other brands following suit

It’s not just Kraft that sought the hype generated by an odd-sounding ice cream flavor. Other brands have gotten into the act. They include Airheads Candy’s chicken sandwich, and it looks even worse than it sounds.

Last October, Innocent Drinks collaborated with Heinz for a breakfast smoothie called Beanz Machine.

Heinz drew a surprisingly large number of positive responses on its Facebook post about the drop. But it looks like it really was just meant to get attention and social media engagement rather than produce a product people will buy repeatedly.

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“These are ‘drops’ in a world where you can only do so much with a chicken sandwich or mac & cheese,” Forrester retail analyst Sucharita Kodali told Fast Company. “They are intended to be limited-edition releases that have PR value and sell out quickly.”

Fast Company likened this approach to the $79 billion sneaker industry that drives massive sales through “limited edition shoe drops that drive fan enthusiasm.” It’s a way to effectively use FOMO to get both established customers and those who hear of the brand through the hype to pick up a pair.

Rather than reinforce loyalty by producing something that customers will be buying again and again, the idea is just to generate excitement for something that is designed to do just that and then disappear. For now, it works.

Accordingly, Kodali told Fast Company: “Of course there will be more like this — you’re asking questions about it — that itself is a testament to the success,” she says.

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