INTERNET CONNECTIONS

Hormel Foods is making the question "What's for Dinner?" much easier to answer with an Internet-based sweepstakes that awards one lucky home cook the services of a personal chef for an entire year.The grand-prize winner will get one meal a week prepared for a family of four at an approximate retail value of $9,000. Even participants who don't win the grand prize can get meal-preparation help from

Hormel Foods is making the question "What's for Dinner?" much easier to answer with an Internet-based sweepstakes that awards one lucky home cook the services of a personal chef for an entire year.

The grand-prize winner will get one meal a week prepared for a family of four at an approximate retail value of $9,000. Even participants who don't win the grand prize can get meal-preparation help from Hormel with "Your Personal Chef with Fresh Ideas," a new Internet service that provides solutions ranging from snacks to main meals. All recipes require few ingredients, and can be prepared in 30 minutes or less.

"Personal Chef" is one of a growing number of Internet promotions that Austin, Texas-based Hormel is using to build awareness of brands like Spam, Hormel chili, Chi-Chi's salsa and Dinty Moore stew.

Hormel is relying on the Internet not only as a way to create ongoing relationships with existing customers, but also to reach consumers who otherwise may not be exposed to its brands.

"Personal Chef" accomplishes the former through a customer relationship management initiative designed to communicate with consumers via a weekly e-newsletter that provides meal tips, ideas and solutions. E-newsletter subscription forms are available at www.hormel.com/personalchef. All subscribers are automatically entered into the "Personal Chef" sweepstakes.

The e-newsletter strategically ties in with Hormel's "Today's Flavor" branding campaign, which communicates that Hormel products build flavor. Newsletters are customized to the time of year, and are aligned with freestanding insert coupons, regional events, and supermarket retail programs.

The intent of the e-newsletter is to start and continue a relevant dialogue with Hormel consumers.

"We want to do a better job building relationships with consumers," Scott Weisenbeck, senior brand manager, refrigerated food group, Hormel, told SN.

Media fragmentation has made it harder than ever to create such relationships. Brands that truly resonate with consumers are those that shoppers can relate to, Weisenbeck said.

"Personal Chef" does just this, in part, through CRM efforts aimed at making consumers feel comfortable in the kitchen and preparing meals. In helping to build this confidence, Hormel can go a long way to strengthening consumer loyalty, Weisenbeck noted.

"'Your Personal Chef' is our way of showing that we understand them and their needs," he said.

Ceci Carmichael, host of the Food Network's "Good Food Fast with Family Circle," endorsed the "Personal Chef" initiative, saying it helps meet the diverse lifestyle needs of today's consumers.

"'Your Personal Chef' is a reliable resource for consumers who are looking for practical meal solutions, new recipes, and answers to cooking and grilling questions," said Carmichael, who is also a spokeswoman for Hormel.

"Personal Chef" is one of a number of ways that Hormel is leveraging the Internet as a promotional tool. Just months ago, it became one of the first manufacturers to use CoolSavings' new "Multi-Brand Event" service, which brings offline FSI campaigns to the Internet. Chicago-based CoolSavings is an online marketing and media company.

Multi-Brands' Reach

Consumer packaged goods marketers can use the service to target and track coupon clippers based on geography, demographics, activity and redemption data. This information can be used to segment specific consumers for future campaigns. In addition, marketers can track coupon clips by individual consumer to determine which coupon combinations perform best, according to CoolSavings.

CoolSavings promotes all "Multi-Brand" programs on its Web site; the CoolSavings Marketing Network, a targeted marketing and promotions network; and a permission-based e-mail campaign to CoolSavings' registered members.

The goal of Hormel's partnership with CoolSavings was to extend the reach of its offline coupons and increase cross-category purchases among a variety of brands in the Hormel portfolio. To do so, a two-page FSI featuring eight different Hormel brands was replicated on the CoolSavings Web site.

Consumers could print out any combination of coupons for various Hormel brands to redeem at their local grocery store. They were also redirected to a sweepstakes entry at the Hormel Web site.

Such online couponing enables Hormel to reach additional consumers who may not be exposed to its offline FSIs, according to Jeff Grev, group product manager, new products, Hormel.

A CoolSavings attitude and usage study conducted with participating consumers confirmed that Hormel attracted new brand users: Nearly 30% of participating consumers were not familiar with the Hormel family of products before viewing the Hormel e-mail from CoolSavings.

Among other results:

Nearly 50% of consumers who took an action on Hormel's promotion printed three or more coupons; 30% printed four or more coupons; and 20%, five or more.

Fifty-three percent of consumers who reported redeeming a coupon also purchased at least one or more incremental Hormel products without a coupon.

"Redemption rates for our CoolSavings 'Multi-Brand Event' far exceeded those we receive through our traditional offline vehicles, and we were able to target our promotion with greater efficiency," Grev said in an official statement.

While many manufacturers are involved in multi-brand promotions, few are extending such efforts online, said Matt Moog, president and chief executive officer, CoolSavings.

Those that do, like Hormel, will be at an advantage over others.

"Multi-brand print promotions are popular because they enable CPG manufacturers to cost-efficiently pair their power brands with their line extensions in order to create cross purchasing and drive new product trial," said Moog.