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Feb 25, 2009 08:50 AM

Product Marketing on CHOW (split from General Chowhounding Topics board)

I think social networks form in the chowhound community. I'm fairly sure that CHOW inserts product advocates into these networks.

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  1. Still not sure what the question on viral marketing (even if they DO any) would have to do with it appearing in banner ads or in recipes. One really has nothing to do with the other.

    8 Replies
    1. re: AHan

      Since I first heard of the canned tomatoes, their mention has always came with a recommendation of their quality. I've only recently seen banner ads. I think their first marketing initiative was viral and the comprehensive marketing campaign came later.

      Chowhound includes these tomatoes in their recipes and says they are great tomatoes. At the same time, marketing representatives insert recommendations of these foodstuffs in the boards, further advocating their use in all sorts of applications. Chowhound posters, who are probably the culinary hobbyist elite in a marketing sense, then recommend the tomatoes to other chowhounders and also to people in their other social networks. For example, all my girlfriend knows about tomatoes she learned from me. Then, after consumers have heard of these products through existing social networks, they get blasted with ads reinforcing that they should buy this stuff.

      1. re: Danimal

        I didn't think CHOW actually provided recipes, or advocated any products, only posters do that. Does Muir Glen have reps acting as anonymous posters? Maybe, but I don't think that's anything more than an assumption on your part, and is actually prohibited here, no?

        1. re: Danimal

          Your theory is certainly a possibility. Given the extent to which our posts are moderated for "improprieties", I very much hope you are wrong.

          Shilling on Chowhound is prohibited. A few people I know have been kicked off Chowhound for "shilling" even though they weren't. Proferred explanations were ignored.

          If Chow management permits viral marketing on Chowhound for profit, it reduces Chowhound to the lowest type of sham. Pray this ain't so!

          I discovered Muir Glen long before I learned about Chowhound. While I didn't like all of their products, a few of them were the best of kind to my palate. I wish they would resume Canadian distribution.

          1. re: Danimal

            We take this question pretty seriously. First, Muir Glen has advertised on the site, and we're happy to have them. Advertising is what keeps this site going. There are set positions where those ads appear: in ad spots in the right column, the top of the page, and sometimes under the video player or as pre-roll ahead of a video.

            There are no different rules for advertisers/marketing reps on the boards or in recipes. A shill is a shill, and if you see something that seems shill-like, please report it. We have not allowed product placement in videos or recipes, though we are constantly asked about it.

            If we recommend a product, it's because we like it, and it has nothing to do with who is advertising.

            1. re: davina

              I'm having trouble believing your claim of objectivity. All the bison recipes and stories in early 2008? Recommended beverage pairings always linked to the merchant? Come on, most of the recipes are plugs for cookbooks.

              1. re: davina

                I doubt your objectivity. What was with the all the bison recipes and stories in early 2008? Why are recommendations for beverage pairings linked to merchants? Most of the recipes are advertisements in their entirety, as they are plugs for various cookbooks.

                1. re: Danimal

                  Do you doubt the objectivity of someone on the boards, who says that they like bison? We did a feature on bison, because it's trendy.

                  We offer links to merchants as a service to readers. No money has changed hands, though for example we just talked to about using their search results on our wine and spirits column. In exchange, they're running a little chow ad. We license recipes from cookbooks so that readers can access them for free. There is no requirement to go and buy the cookbook, but of course we will credit the cookbook and provide a link. That's good business practice.

                  It's totally fair to be skeptical, but please believe that we are not trying to pull one over on you. We will be open and transparent about any advertising on the site.

              2. re: Danimal

                I searched for Muir Glen in recipes and didn't come up with much. I'm sure I've seen chowhound recommending them!

            2. I'm not sure I understand your definitions of either
              1) social networks, or
              2) viral marketing.

              Will you expand a little on what you believe those to be? I'm interested in the ideas but don't know how they apply in context here. If there is an example or two you could link to off the top of your head (that is, I'm not asking you to go do lots of research or anything) so I can see more of what you're referencing that'd be great. This is interesting stuff.

              10 Replies
              1. re: ccbweb

                My understanding is that companies hire folks who are very actively socially in the demographic they are trying to reach, in order to create "buzz" about their product by using internet chat groups like Chowhound, or by attending high profile functions at which they talk up the product (usually with a few other shills who are planted at the same event) to start grassroots, word of mouth advertising about whatever it is they are trying to sell.

                1. re: Servorg

                  OK, but the OP asked whether they market virally, then stated she was tired of seeing all the banners and marketing. Sounds to me like she just doesn't like marketing in general and really doesn't bring the viral aspect into it, just misapplies the concept. Maybe I am mireading the question/rant?

                  1. re: AHan

                    She does seem to be mixing up the two issues. It's just that the very first opening post seemed to say that she believes that CH was knowingly allowing advertisers to also bring secret shills into the chat about the very products they are pitching in the ads here. I find that really hard to believe myself (I would find it very much out of character for this site).

                    1. re: AHan

                      It made sense to me. The issue in question was whether Chow is actively allowing corporate shills to create buzz (on Chowhound) about a product - the viral aspect - which was then advertised on and/or recommended by Chow (for fees or other value) in reviews and/or recipes.

                      My own comment adding to the OP was the possible issue of Chow engaging in behaviour (for profit) forbidden to lowly Chowhound members.

                      Chow's representative denies this and insists that all paid advertising is above board and that advertisers are subject to the same penalties for shilling on Chowhound that apply to everyone else.

                      Certainly the concept of sanctioned viral marketing is against the Chowhound ethos. Does Chow itself permit it? Frankly, I don't know. I hope not and I'm accepting their word, at least for the moment.

                      OTOH, when I first began using the internet, long before many people outside of academia and the US military knew it even existed, a mere whiff of suspected commercial activity drew extremely hostile reactions and, typically, ostracism.

                      In other words, things change. Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. I've found internet shopping, something strictly forbidden by net ethos twenty years ago, to be a real boon.

                      Might CBS permit overt viral marketing in a time of crunched advertising revenues? It'll be interesting to see how this all evolves.

                  2. re: ccbweb

                    I'll use wikipedia's definitions

                    1. A social network is a social structure made of nodes (which are generally individuals or organizations) that are tied by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as values, visions, ideas, financial exchange, friendship, sexual relationships, kinship, dislike, conflict or trade.

                    2. Viral marketing and viral advertising refer to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses.

                    Social networks form on this site, and tons of stuff is marketed through the site too. There may be active "shills", that is, people that are being paid by the manufacturer or marketing company to post on chowhound. I'm fairly certain that those types exist on this board, but thats not my primary concern. In that form of viral marketing, there is a specific person that serves as the link between advertiser and social network.

                    I think chowhound viral marketing exists as a more vague link, in which the we, the posters, play a more active rather than passive role. Products are intensely marketed in varying ways - banner ads, recipes, features, maybe some shills - to this community of hobbyist cooks. Members of this site then repeat recommendations on the boards, thereby multiplying the advertising. (Do a search of "Muir Glen" on the home cooking board) The posters then continue to unknowingly market this stuff in their existing, non-chowhound networks.

                    That is why these sites are so profitable. Does anyone remember the old "grassroots" chowhound? With the grey background, and no features but still really slow? The "founder" Jim Leff, sold this site for a lot of money, because the marketing potential was huge.

                    Chowhound will dispute that they place products in recipes (the recipes are themselves a plugs for cookbooks). Follow the link for "good quality canned tomatoes" in this recipe:

                    Does Chowhound license recipes from cookbooks so that we can see them for free? No, it is an advertisement for a cookbook. Chowhound is without a doubt paid for this. Do they do features on bison because it is trendy among cooks right now? Chowhound really spun that. Bison is trendy because Chowhound does features on it.

                    1. re: Danimal

                      I would argue that Chowhound does features on Bison because it is trendy, not the other way around.
                      Still don't see even ancedotal evidence that a blog hyping Muir Glen means that Muir Glen is doing viral marketing. They could do NO marketing and still be listed on a blog as a choice product.

                      1. re: AHan

                        Its fine if you want to be a skeptic, AHan. I'm just trying to promote some critical thinking here, and this discussion is great.

                        We are at a critical point in time right now - our social relations are being commodified, and the process will only continue. There will be a point where our communication is totally commodified. We will only speak to advertise. We are right now, to-day, halfway to that extreme. Its really the last thing - our physical environment, our labor, and - in middle class employment - our thoughts.

                        1. re: Danimal

                          Being skeptical when you say "our social relations are being commodified" (whatever that means)? Why the thought never crossed my commodimind.

                          1. re: Danimal

                            Would it make you feel any better to know that Muir Glen has been recommended by chowhound posters in the know for the ten years I've been here. It's a superior product and those many years of recs preceded advertising on this site. No viral mktng there.

                            Maybe you have another product example? This one doesn't hold water.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              And, not all CH posters have favored Muir Glen so the marketing has rec'd mixed reviews.

                              Frankly, it's always been my CH experience that CH posters are critical in a very helpful way. Discerning and well thought not easily swayed by marketing.

                    2. I don't see how this issue hurts the community. Sales & marketing, social networks, viral PR, conversational it what you will. There is strength and solidarity in the medium. Product, consumer. I don't feel used. I have choices.

                      Conversational marketing within the growing blog community is thriving. In the area of food focused blogging, journals have quickly transformed into book deals, advertising and marketing promotions, fundraising of all kinds, fan base raffles, blogger to blogger hostings, & journal hopping, viral cook offs, food photography platforms, and real-life meetups. It's smart community building. I see no end to it and no reason to doubt its place in viral media.

                      There is much to be gained by the growing interest in food discussion, thanks in part to product & product placement,marketing.