As COVID-19 continues to spread, it is affecting the way consumers behave.  The “stay-at-home order”, which was first put into place in California on March 19th spanned over 42 states by late April, according to The New York Times.  Consequently, non-essential businesses have been forced to shut their doors, and essential businesses are functioning at max-capacity. All this change is impacting consumers’ access to food.  

Grocery stores are struggling to keep up with the demand, stocking shelves around the clock and marking the floors with tape to keep shoppers appropriately socially distant from one another. While some consumers leveraged grocery delivery previously using services like Instacart, Walmart and Amazon Fresh, COVID-19 has accelerated that trend. 

Restaurants are unable to provide a sit down dining experience, shutting their doors to walk-in dining and quickly moving to accommodate sidewalk pickup and delivery models to keep their business afloat until they are able to open their doors again.  Furthermore, they are using social media channels, like Instagram, to spread the word of these changes and partnering with on-demand delivery services like GrubHub, DoorDash and UberEats to continue to serve their customers.  In late March, Uber reported a significant increase in the number of restaurants looking to offer delivery in the US and Canada, with self sign ups increasing 10x.

For food and CPG companies that make and deliver the foods we consume from grocery stores and restaurants, things have changed too. Some companies, like Campbell’s, have adjusted production on certain items to produce more of those that are in higher demand. Other companies, like organic pasta company Sfoglini, are utilizing alternative operation methods “to keep up with grocers’ requesting 20% to 25% higher volume”.  By shifting operation strategies, like increased production hours, they are able to hit max production capacity.

Below we take a look at how food brands are pivoting their marketing strategies and activating influencers on social media during COVID-19.


Influencer Marketing Strategy #1

Activate Influencers to Support Local Businesses and Restaurants

Influencers and citizens alike are spreading awareness of the effects of COVID-19 on the local restaurants in their area by posting on social media. As soon as business began shifting to delivery and takeout only,  influencers began taking it upon themselves to share pictures of their food deliveries and take-out orders on platforms like Instagram and Facebook to show their support, encouraging their audiences to do the same.   Now, businesses are taking steps to support this act of community, by collaborating with influencers to spread the awareness further.  

Brand Example: DoorDash, #OpenForDelivery 

DoorDash, an on-demand food delivery business, took this initiative to the next level by activating a diverse group of macro-influencers across the United States. Within the campaign brief,  influencers were instructed to spread awareness for restaurants that are remaining open during these times by using the hashtag #OpenForDelivery on their post to highlight the option for delivery through DoorDash. They were encouraged to use their creative freedom to create and share something that would generate high engagement across audiences. Influencers were also provided key insights to help them craft impactful captions around the lasting effects of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry, the businesses themselves, industry workers and what loyal patrons can do to help.

How to make it work for your brand:

  • Develop a cause based campaign to help bring crucial knowledge to consumers – not sure where to start? What is your business already doing to support communities around you? Lean into these causes and activate a creative influencer campaign to shed light on the importance of your initiatives.
  • When sending influencers creative briefs, include key messaging to help influencers effectively share information.  These may be optional, but should ensure all factually relevant information is at the influencers fingertips.
  • Utilize the ‘Donate’ button to further support your campaigns cause. Instagram, Facebook and YouTube all provide the opportunity to do this.


Influencer Marketing Strategy #2

Activating Influencers to Share a Community Activity Sponsored by your Brand

Nothing is bringing people closer together during a time when people must remain six feet apart, than social media.  A Mavrck survey issued in late March, revealed that 35% of influencers have seen an increase in engagement since people have been confined to their homes. These trends are inclusive of food; among the top trends are Fluffy (Dolgona) Coffee, and baking your own bread.  Pinterest has seen a surge in searches for flexible recipes, and at the top of the list were searches for ‘yeastless bread’ (+4400%) and ‘crockpot bread’ (+3191%)

Brand Example: Wakefern, #ShopRite5IngredientChallenge

Trends like the pushup challenge, the first pic challenge and “see a pup, send a pup”, have been exploding on Instagram Stories over the last several weeks. Wakefern, the owner of grocery store chain ShopRite, started a five ingredient recipe challenge for Instagram Stories. Knowing that households are changing the way they shop and cook, they asked their influencers to help shift moments of anxiety to a delicious opportunity by using common household ingredients to create a meal.  The challenge included five story frames: an introduction to the challenge, the ingredients list with five friends tagged to participate, the making of the dish, and a final reveal, with the final frame sharing a blank challenge template so viewers can participate too.

How to make it work for your brand:

  • Develop a new challenge that can be easily mimicked. By keeping the challenge requirements simple the trend can be shared across audiences in a screen shot and a few clicks. Minimal steps to execution is key, even if you are asking audiences to cook, prepare and share!  For example, creating with less, is more in the times of COVID-19.
  • Create a template for your challenge to clearly outline what steps are needed to participate. Templates are a visual key that makes what is needed intuitive, and keeps the execution fun and organized. Templates also offer the opportunity for brand recognition by allowing you to add your brand’s logo.
  • Utilize tagging a friend as part of the challenge. As influencers begin to boost the challenge, it is directly shared to the DM’s of the group of individuals in an influencers audience who are most likely to participate. This is what begins the waves of participation across audiences, to ensure the challenge is spread as far as possible. 


Influencer Marketing Strategy #3

Activating Influencers to Spread Inspiration in the Kitchen

With everyone home and cooking more than ever before paired with limited opportunities to get groceries, it can be tough to figure out what to eat next. This becomes especially true when recipes have broad ingredient lists, or you feel like you’ve run out of options.  Pinterest content strategist and marketing writer Felicia Baskin noted in her most recent Trending Searches Report, that recently “there’s also a much bigger emphasis on ideas that can happen fast, with whatever’s already on hand.”

Brand Example: Premio Foods, #MyPremio Cooking for Community

Premio Foods couldn’t sit back and let people suffer through mediocre meals. As such, they partnered with influencers to make meals that inspired their communities.  Influencers were asked to use Hot Italian Sausage, or Sweet Italian Sausage, to create tasty meal inspiration for their communities.  The campaign concept was to use Premio Sausage as the base of a recipe, but gave influencers the freedom to create whatever recipe they wanted, with whatever ingredients were available in their kitchens. Recipes were posted on Instagram feeds, with behind-the-scenes snapshots available on Instagram Stories for 24 hours.

How to make it work for your brand:

  • Develop a simple campaign brief that gives influencers freedom to get creative with the ingredients that they have on hand.
  • Create a mood board to inspire your influencer partners, and provide visual inspiration for content creation.  Ideally you will be able to utilize the IGC created in this campaign as assets on your website, company blog, or in paid media when the time is right.
  • Utilize the Branded Content Tagging tool to promote your favorite recipes, and increase the audience reach in areas where your product is readily available.


For more ideas on how to cultivate community with influencers, book a demo with our team of award-winning, expert strategists.