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ConAgra’s engaging party campaign lets moms wear the Chef Boyardee hat

Client: Chef Boyardee
Vendor: House Party
Combine event marketing and social recommendations to build brand advocacy for Chef Boyardee among digitally active moms

Real-time events, social media marketing, and word of mouth (WOM)—there isn’t a more potent marketing mix than that, says Kerry Lyons, SVP of marketing at House Party, the company behind ConAgra Foods brand Chef Boyardee‘s eight-week “Be the Chef” campaign.

House Party leverages social media, WOM, experiential marketing, and its own proprietary digital platform to drive authentic consumer-to-consumer recommendations, by selecting brand advocates from its overall community of 800,000 opt-in social influencers to spread the word online and host simultaneous nationwide in-house parties intended to generate positive buzz and ROI for the brand.

The resulting events are “authentic, memorable in-person experiences that [are] free from other marketing clutter,” Lyons says. “That combination of a real-life event, an in-person experience, and WOM—both online and off— is about as good [and] powerful as it gets for today’s marketers.”

According to Nielsen, consumers trust WOM recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising, which is why “a House Party partnership made perfect sense,” says Amy Morgan, manager of PR and social media at ConAgra Foods.

STRATEGY: The first order of business was selecting the “right” advocates to serve as Be the Chef party hosts, in this case moms, Lyons says. But not just any moms. House Party culled its database for 10,000 moms that snugly fit Chef Boyardee’s demographic, as well as psychographic criteria: socially engaged mothers of children aged two through 12 who are interested in easy-to-prepare meal options and spending mealtime with their families.

In the lead-up to party day, Chef Boyardee also partnered with several mom bloggers to host their own parties, and encouraged other advocates to keep the conversation active at “party central,” a customized Be the Chef microsite hosted by House Party where partygoers and party-throwers could download recipes and party favors, send invitations, vote in polls, upload blog posts and videos, and generally share their excitement about the brand and the upcoming parties.

House Party worked with Ketchum to create party packs to send to the party hosts filled with Chef Boyardee products, including coupons, five recipe cards for dishes that use Chef Boyardee as an ingredient, branded notepads, and white Chef Boyardee hats. The packs were designed to include items that have “staying power to keep the Chef top-of-mind long after the party was over,” Lyons says.

“One of the most amazing things about this campaign is that before the party even happened, people went out and bought the products, tried the recipes, and uploaded pictures of themselves, which they shared through their social networks,” Lyons says.

More than 126,000 hosts and guests gathered in homes around the country on party day to try the five new recipes with friends and family.

“Moms are looking for wholesome food to serve their family without spending hours in the kitchen,” Morgan says. “The introduction of Chef Boyardee as an ingredient in recipes shows moms a new way…to create a meal the whole family will enjoy.”

RESULTS: Be the Chef garnered more than 48 million brand impressions, in addition to demonstrating a 14% sales lift in test versus control markets as measured by a Nielsen-matched market study.

Chef Boyardee also launched a second phase of Be the Chef that included two sweepstakes and a Twitter party with celebrity chef George Duran.

In addition, the brand learned more about its core consumer base. “We were delighted to discover that many moms prepared the Chef recipes with their kids,” Morgan says. “We’re extending that key finding to help shape our program this year, with The Little Chefs Project, which is centered on cooking with kids and creating family fun in the kitchen.”

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