General Mills teams up with Zyper to deepen ties to its biggest brand fans
General Mills is trying out a new way to deepen ties with some of its food brands’ biggest fans, announcing a deal to create superfan communities with Zyper, starting with Betty Crocker and Fiber One in some international markets.
The pact is being announced as numerous major marketers hit pause on Facebook advertising, as well as its Instagram platform, in a #StopHateforProfit boycott aimed at pushing the social media giant to change its hate speech policies. General Mills hasn’t said whether it will participate. The deal with Zyper also comes as General Mills is seeing success, particularly in the U.S., as people cook more of their meals at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
The deal, General Mills and Zyper say, came about months before either issue was in the spotlight. Arjoon Bose, Europe & Australasia head of brand experience and culture at General Mills, recalls meeting Amber Atherton, founder and CEO of Zyper, at a Forbes event in November 2019.
Now, Betty Crocker and Fiber One—well, Fibre One, as it’s known in many markets outside the U.S.—are going to use Zyper’s software to seek out the top 1 percent of their brands’ fans in Australia, the U.K. and the Middle East. Those fans will be invited to join clubs in which they’ll hear about upcoming product innovations and get rewards including personalized swag, vouchers for products and access to events. Zyper’s online chat-based communities operate “like a branded Slack,” Atherton says. Members are not paid, like influencers or bloggers often are for their posts, but instead are seen as fans who opt to participate for their love of the brands.
For Betty Crocker, it’s a way to keep people interested as it has gotten a boost with the pandemic-induced rise in at-home baking. Fiber One, meanwhile, has fans who seek out the products for weight loss and maintenance, or “weight wellness,” as Bose describes it.
“For both brands, this is going to be one of our most important pillars,” says Bose. “We feel it is central to our strategy.”
General Mills wants to forge deeper connections with its shoppers than working with influencers or celebrities would provide, says Bose. Those fans can help shape how the brands show up in ways that focus groups and other established methods might not suggest, even co-creating products, Bose says. “We want to evangelize real people and real fans and we’ve never really done that,” says Bose.
Zyper says it uses computer vision, natural language processing, predictive analytics and other methods to hone in on the top 1 percent of a brand’s fans. Then, the brand invites those fans to join the community through its social media channels.
“Brands are not currently engaging their top fans,” says Atherton. She says a method such as Zyper can help brands repair the trust “that has been eroded by influencers.”
Atherton also says these kinds of communities can be “stickier” than mainstream social media, pointing out that Facebook isn’t a private way that brands connect, and Instagram is a passive relationship. “It’s not conversational,” says Atherton.
The groups generally start out small, with around 50 to 100 members, with interactions about three times a week, on average. Zyper says it already works with companies including Farfetch, LVMH and L'Oréal.
The deal comes as General Mills aims to keep its momentum going. On Wednesday, it posted a 21-percent jump in fiscal fourth-quarter sales, buoyed by people stocking up on food to eat during the pandemic, as well as an extra week in the period versus a year earlier. The volume of products sold soared 44 points in the North American retail division, and increased 11 points in Europe and Australia, General Mills said. Sales of Betty Crocker dessert mixes rose in both regions. Fiber One wasn’t mentioned by the company in a recorded call.