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5 delicious marketing insights from Ghirardelli’s digital brand manager Chris Pemberton

Most marketers would love to be in Chris Pemberton’s position. After all, convincing people to eat chocolate seems like it should be the easiest (and happiest) marketing job in the world. But as the digital brand manager for the iconic San Francisco-based Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, Pemberton is tasked with finding new ways to keep a 162-year-old brand fresh and relevant in the digital age.

Pemberton is responsible for overseeing Ghirardelli’s social media and content marketing strategies. He’s also spearheading a redesign campaign that will make the company’s website wholly optimized for mobile and tablet.

As a speaker at the recently held ClickZ Live conference in San Francisco, Pemberton revealed some fascinating insights into the marketing strategies used by Ghirardelli across its digital channels. 

Here are five of the best:

Content marketing is about fulfilling a need

Much of Ghirardelli’s content marketing revolves around the mouth watering recipes for its chocolate. The recipes are posted regularly on its website and social media channels, becoming especially popular on Pinterest. Pemberton says the company employs a baking team that regularly comes up with the recipes, along with a cadre of content writers from both the brand and its agency. 

Although there’s plenty of energy spent in coming up with new content ideas, Pemberton says the best ones come from identifying a customer’s need and fulfilling it. Around certain dates, his analytics team started seeing a spike in search terms such as “Easter gift basket design ideas” and “Mother’s Day gift ideas.” “That’s a perfect place for Ghirardelli to be present, and something where we fit in quite naturally,” says Pemberton. In response, the marketing team created several articles with beautifully shot images of gift basket ideas (of course they contained Ghirardelli chocolate.) “Those did really well because of the way we presented them, and we got them to show up in a ton of search results,” says Pemberton.

Listening creates opportunities you would never have imagined

By tracking historical search data, the marketing team found that general chocolate-related searches dipped in the summer. This was understandable, Pemberton says, due to the hot weather making colder treats more attractive than chocolate, which tends to be consumed more in the fall and winter. However, there was one way in which chocolate was being consumed in a quintessentially summery way, and that was s’mores. Instead of looking out for conversations just around chocolate, the social team saw an opportunity in the iconic camping snack, made with two Graham crackers, a marshmallow and a square of chocolate toasted over a campfire.

The brand started to position Ghirardelli mini squares as the ultimate requirement for summertime s’mores, which in turn led to a highly successful cross-channel campaign. Ghirardelli also leveraged the creativity of its fans, by asking them to submit photos of their best s’mores creations, giving it treasure trove of content for its social media channels.

Sometimes, the simplest content is the best

Pemberton says he likes to mix up the kinds of content that go up on Ghirardelli’s social media channels. Most of the content consists of mouth-watering images of chocolate and chocolate-related food. But the ones that get the most shares are often simple quotes such as “A day without chocolate is not a day at all” or witticisms like this one, which got almost 600 shares on Facebook:


Hire the arts instead of the science

When it comes to hiring people for his marketing team, Pemberton says he’s looking for people with the ability to learn quick, and not necessarily those who come pre-loaded with technical skills. Pemberton recalls the time when he once got hired on the spot for a job when he revealed to the interviewer that he had taught himself how to speak Russian in six months.

 “The technical skills can always be taught on the job,” says Pemberton. “Instead, I look for people with a liberal arts background who can perform critical thinking, piece together disparate bits of information and tell a story based on data.”

Marketers still need the IT department

A lot of marketing technology vendors these days promote themselves as simple plug-and-play applications that can be installed and operated solely by marketers, without the help of the IT department. While it’s good to have platforms that are easy to deploy, Pemberton says it’s still important to leverage the IT department’s expertise. He says he works closely with the CIOs team to evaluate vendors and set up software portfolios efficiently. “It’s about bringing them in where it makes sense,” says Pemberton. “If it’s a case of setting up a single point solution that marketing can handle, we probably don’t need them, but if it’s infrastructure or architecture related, let’s get them involved.”

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