What's the recipe for a successful meal kit company?
Start with a shell of product marketing, add in a slew of influencers, and sprinkle in a generous amount of advertising. At least that’s what makes up HelloFresh’s marketing strategy — and it led them to a meteoric rise as the preferred meal kit delivery service among U.S. consumers.
After Covid-19 closed down restaurants in 2020, we changed the way we dine at home, and most meal kits struggled. But HelloFresh added 1 million new customers in the first quarter alone. This was in sharp contrast to 2015 when Blue Apron controlled 70% of the market, and HelloFresh tied as a runner-up alongside the now-defunct Plated.
So, what made HelloFresh so successful at a time when every other meal kit struggled? They understand exactly who their customers are, and they know how to appeal to them. Not only does HelloFresh invest in partnerships with influencers and celebrities, but they also experiment with new advertising structures and even pivot their product to suit changing consumer needs.
HelloFresh Uses the Power of People to Fuel Brand Awareness
At one point, it felt like everyone was talking about HelloFresh — and that’s because they were being paid to. Whether through influencer payouts, celebrity contracts, or traditional referral marketing, HelloFresh expertly crafts strong incentives that make everyone want to hype their brand.
HelloFresh’s product is a natural fit for influencer marketing. It’s visually appealing and designed to be shipped. Plus, the finished meals are tasty. Win-win.
The company’s audience is 80% women, primarily between the ages of 30 and 50. With that in mind, HelloFresh’s influencer marketing campaigns are designed to target busy moms and young professionals who care about health and nutrition.
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The company employs a variety of lifestyle, motherhood, and cooking influencers who share their experiences cooking at-home meals across blogs and social media. They also pay podcasters to talk about their experiences cooking with the kits.
In every case, the influencer asks their followers to sign up for the service using a unique coupon code. By using the code, potential subscribers can receive a discount on their first month of meal options. This tactic not only drives sign-ups but also makes it easy to track customer acquisition.
They can see which influencers were the most effective at generating sign-ups and can then tap them for more campaigns while jettisoning the less effective spokespeople.
HelloFresh digs deep into their pockets to pay celebrities such as Antoni Porowski, Mandy Moore, and even contestants from The Bachelor. These personalities create social media content and mention HelloFresh in interviews.
The company also partnered with Mindy Kaling for a series of short videos called Meals with Mindy, designed to convince at-home chefs they can easily make quick meals that are high-quality.
The best part of this series is how accessible and fun it makes cooking feel. It’s stress-free — no need to know the difference between ravioli and tortellini. Mindy herself is a self-proclaimed “B- minus cook” but still manages to make an incredible meal, thanks to HelloFresh’s top-rate ingredients and step-by-step instructions. It also, sneakily, teaches viewers how to order their own meal kits.
Organic Social Media Moments
HelloFresh also tapped into their audience's social media habits. Millennials love taking pictures of their food.
The branded hashtag #HelloFreshPics has generated over 200,000 Instagram posts and is also popular on Twitter and Pinterest.
The investment in influencer marketing helped HelloFresh build momentum for more organic social media marketing efforts. While some of the pictures are from influencers, most are just from happy customers.
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HelloFresh Launches Multi-Channel Advertising Campaigns
While influencer marketing is a large part of HelloFresh’s digital marketing efforts, the other major component is their advertising strategy — which can be summed up as “be everywhere.” From subway advertisements and mailers to a variety of experimental tactics, the company strives to stay in consumers’ minds by flooding them with branded reminders in unexpected places.
The company spends millions yearly on traditional advertising methods, including television spots, online display ads, magazine ads, and direct mailings. They pepper their logo across city buses and billboards.
In addition, HelloFresh is always trying experimental marketing methods. They are piloting in-app offers on Spotify, where would-be customers can go on the HelloFresh website while browsing podcasts. In 2020, the company also dipped their toes into the creative content waters, tapping Annie Murphy from Schitt’s Creek to star in a mock soap opera called Hungry Hearts.
In an experimental move, the company also played around with customized video ad placements on streaming services. They partnered with Hulu to air meta HelloFresh ads throughout new episodes of the show How I Met Your Father.
Viewers watched as friends swapped theories about who the father really was while unpacking a HelloFresh box full of branded ingredients for the meal they were about to cook.
HelloFresh Expands Their Product Offerings
HelloFresh is no stranger to giving American consumers a product they didn’t know they needed. Launching in 2011, just slightly before BlueApron and the now-defunct, Plated, HelloFresh was pushing meal kits in America when the service wasn’t even on most consumers’ radars yet.
And as their needs changed in 2021, thanks in part to Covid-19-related lockdowns and consumer-limiting trips to grocery stores, the company launched HelloFresh grocery delivery services.
Now, in addition to having ingredients for a full meal sent to your home, customers can shop online for grocery essentials like fresh produce, snacks, desserts, and sides — and add on to their existing meal kit subscriptions. This was no random decision: Uwe Voss, CEO of HelloFresh U.S., said, “We are excited to offer customers an expanded selection... that will fit their needs beyond dinnertime, especially at a time when Americans are embracing online grocery services more than ever.”
Because HelloFresh is global, they tested their e-commerce grocery delivery service in a smaller market. Doing so gave them a chance to find out what customers needed out of a grocery delivery service and refine their offerings before launching with their largest audience pocket, U.S. consumers.
For example, this offering was originally called “HelloFresh Market,” but they dropped the name for the clearer “Grocery Delivery Services” based on consumer feedback.
HelloFresh Turns to Referral Marketing to Build Brand Trust
On top of their already robust marketing strategy, HelloFresh has also turned their customers’ friends and family into product ambassadors with their referral program.
Essentially, their program works to turn customers into influencers by encouraging them to invite others to sign up. If they’re successful, both the inviter and the invitee get a monetary discount. Long-term members can even send a free week of meals to a friend who hasn’t tried HelloFresh yet.
Referral marketing is a powerful promotional tool: the endorsement of a trusted person offers far more social proof than any celebrity or influencer ever could.
Extole’s growth marketing platform is designed to make it easy to get your referral program off the ground with customizable templates, automated campaign management, and integrations with tools you already use.
Schedule a demo to get started.