Butterball Goes Web 2.0 With Turkey Texts, Blogs

Nervous Cooks Can Get Advice, Reminders About Their Birds Sent to Cellphones

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Thanksgiving staples are going high tech this year, as marketers look for new ways to ingratiate themselves to a new generation of consumers. Shoppers can now get turkey advice on their mobile phones in the grocery store and get a free pizza through Facebook on Thanksgiving Eve.
Butterball's hotline, with a staff of more than 50, coddles more than 100,000 consumers each year.
Butterball's hotline, with a staff of more than 50, coddles more than 100,000 consumers each year.

Butterball's "Turkey Talk-Line," the beloved backup plan for millions of first-time turkey chefs, is going Web 2.0 by way of blogging and "turkey texts."

"We know that consumers are looking for information on the go and on demand," said Bill Klump, senior VP-marketing, Butterball. "This includes the new audiences we want to reach, such as first-time cooks." So far, he said, responses to the enhancements have exceeded expectations.

Great marketing tool
The hotline, which was one of the first national, toll-free consumer help lines, started in 1981 when a staff of six was overwhelmed by 11,000 callers. Now a staff of more than 50, the team coddles more than 100,000 consumers each year. Of course, it has served as an unparalleled marketing tool for the company, even playing a starring role in a Thanksgiving episode of NBC's "The West Wing," in which Martin Sheen, as President Josiah Bartlet, called the hotline for advice.

The updates are designed to advise a "new generation of cooks" whenever or wherever they need help, be it in the grocery store or at the stove. Consumers can sign up for text messages that give thawing reminders and temperature guidelines, read blogs written by "seasoned home economists," participate in live chats or watch how-to videos at Butterball.com.

"When the Turkey Talk-Line started 28 years ago, the phone was the best way to give people the important turkey-cooking information they needed," Mr. Klump said. "This year, Butterball continues to evolve and reach new cooks with initiatives like turkey text messages, a new mobile website and web chats, so that we can provide Butterball's expert holiday advice the way modern cooks want it, anytime and anywhere."

Butterball turkeys will also star in a Thanksgiving episode of Bravo's reality series "Top Chef". Contestants will be charged with creating their own unique take on the iconic meal.

But it isn't just about the main event. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest pizza-delivery nights of the year. While the Super Bowl is still the top pizza-delivery night, Halloween and the night before Thanksgiving round out the top three for Papa John's.

Facebook fans of pizza
To that end, the chain is offering a free pizza for every online pizza purchase to anyone registered as a Papa John's fan on Facebook by Thanksgiving Eve. The promotion, announced Monday, boosted the chain's fan base from 10,000 to over 152,000 within the first two days. Pizza Hut, the chain's much-larger rival, has nearly 385,000 fans. Domino's, however, has 141,000 fans.

"I've already lost the office pool," Jim Ensign, Papa John's VP-marketing and communications, admitting he predicted about 100,000 registrations in the first day. There were more than 120,000. But Mr. Ensign said the Facebook giveaway doesn't signal the beginning of a social-networking war with its rival. Pizza Hut, after all, recently introduced a Facebook ordering platform.

"We have to rely on our fans," he said. "We have to rely on word of mouth much more than Pizza Hut and Domino's does just from an ad-spend level."
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