The pandemic stalled many plans in 2020, but not Hormel’s strategic initiative to make its brand Columbus Craft Meats directly available to consumers for online purchase. Columbus Craft Meats is a charcuterie company based in San Francisco that’s been curing salami, prosciutto, and other specialty meats for over 100 years. Charcuterie being all the rage (and the food gifting category being robust), the Columbus/Hormel team decided to pilot DTC efforts for their new Charcuterie Collections in the corporate gifting market.

We immediately recognized that generating demand in this established category with entrenched competition (think Harry & David) was going to be a challenge, particularly in a pandemic environment when people were turning to the web more than ever for their holiday shopping, building awareness, and driving trial, all had to be accomplished in time for the 2020 holiday season – oh yeah, the pandemic hit so we all had to move our huddle to Zoom!

Getting aligned on going direct to the consumer

As a 100+ year-old brand with a solid retail business, going direct to the consumer required a shift in mindset as well as building new capabilities. The target audience was the same profile, but how to reach and engage them was an entirely different path, and we were testing in the business-to-business marketplace, which increased complexity.

Audience profiling and targeting

Our audience profile had already been defined by the Columbus team (think adventurous foodies), and we were targeting them in their business environments in multiple industries. We were looking to reach those adventurous foodies who were in the position to send clients gifts during the holiday period, and didn’t want to send them the same old fruit basket!

Building a tech stack

The Columbus team chose Shopify to go to market. The Shopify platform was robust enough to handle the current needs of selling the initial product line with the flexibility to support future needs to nurture prospects, encouraging cross-sell, and engaging passive accounts. This is just the beginning of building a tech stack to meet their growing eCommerce needs.

Campaign and promotion

Seasonality, customer mindset, competitive landscape, channel potential, even 3rd party data such as weather, drove how we would prioritize promotion across channels from email to influencer. We needed a plan to leverage digital to efficiently test messaging directly with specific consumer targets vs broader retail programs.

“Everyone in retail is going DTC, grocery is making that leap now (Covid gave us a push) but we are aligned on the benefit and the potential. Envisionit has been a strong and able partner to support us in assessing the landscape and implementing our go-to-market strategy.”

-Holly LaVallie, VP of Marketing Hormel Deli Solutions

Out of initial strategic planning, Columbus began working on fulfillment and eCommerce while we began efforts to define audience and investment requirements for the initial campaign. Through research into the food gifting and corporate gifting environment as well as an analysis of the competitive set, our team developed an opportunity assessment to define exactly how much investment would be required for a meaningful pilot during the Q4 holiday season both for B2B and B2C. Once defined we began the development of the Columbus B2B gifting DtoC program. These efforts spanned a number of initiatives included:

Creative and messaging

We took the staleness of the corporate food gifting category head-on and threw a few punches at the competition to introduce our new product line. Our New Cure for Boring Gifts campaign paid off in a strong CTR, encouraging consumers to ditch the gift basket!

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Getting the right mix of ads was key to a strong performance. We leveraged video-forward ads to showcase the experience of the Charcuterie Collections, and used carousel ads to showcase the range of product offerings. To reach those last-minute holiday shoppers, we play up the urgency in our remarketing ads, particularly as the holidays got closer.

Media strategy and planning

As the organization had not done a program of this nature previously, we set out to define how we would influence customer journey throughout the funnel. This included understanding the holiday buying and gifting cycle and factoring in the dynamics of the holiday season so the flighting and concentration would maximize our momentum from start to finish. We also needed to be laser-focused on the partner selection where we knew we could leverage data sources to optimize audience modeling as more traffic was acquired. We identified strategic opportunities to begin testing search, without over committing due to the highly competitive environment during the holiday gifting season.

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Attribution and tracking

With a new eCommerce website, we worked with our client to understand which KPIs would be most important for our success. Accordingly, we put tracking parameters in place and tested them in detail. While impact assessment is limited by the platform attribution model, we strove to understand this better so we could also ensure our ability to attribute performance effectively. This included defining performance benchmarks all while the Covid environment continued to shift consumer behavior.

Organic and social consultation

We also provided additional resources to support the organization’s partners as they developed the new website and expanded social channel support for the new launch.

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Our campaign outperformed our performance metrics by a factor of three! With strong visibility of the campaign and a respectable CTR we knew we were reaching and engaging audiences. We created a cascading model of impact and it was clear that this was leading to conversion, yet the team had to work to win conversions critical to making the effort a scalable business model. We learned that many variables factored into this. As we turn our attention to Holiday season 2021, investments in CRO and organic will be our first focus.

For us, coming together for an entire year over Zoom, bringing this effort to life for our clients (now friends) at Columbus and Hormel, felt like one of those “we are in this together, now!” kind of projects. We were undeterred by Covid and look forward to being able to build our own charcuterie boards with our friends and clients in person this year!

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