Going Mmmobile: Food Trucks Appeal to Brands With Taste

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Brand marketers have found a new way to get their messages out in an increasingly saturated marketplace: hit the road.[more]

Food trucks have enjoyed a cult-like presence of late, garnering media coverage in North America and in Europe. A Food Network show, The Great Food Truck Race, debuted in the US in August.

Brands are also going along for the ride. The New York Times notes in a trend story how “pairing a brand’s message with of all things, a food truck” is becoming increasingly popular as a way of engaging a targeted group of consumers.”

The Times picks La Cense Beef’s burger truck as one example of a food truck with brand appeal. Deployed for a number of events in New York City during the summer, the company hit the road to serve up burgers made from its exclusive grass-fed beef. Word got around and soon, the truck was being used by such advertisers as Lexus and Nike. William Kriegel, founder of La Cense Beef, told the Times, “They like the brand, they like the positioning and they like the fact that the meat is coming from the ranch.”

HSBC, a leading bank, used not one but six food trucks to promote its sponsorship of the 11th annual New Yorker Festival last month. The six independent trucks, all serving different foods, each created a dish just for the event.

A Van Leeuwen artisinal ice cream truck, for example, distributed a special fall pumpkin ice cream (similar to a recent tie-in with Coach to give out free ice-cream to promote its Poppy line). HSBC-branded napkins were available at each truck, and HSBC customers showing their bank cards at any of the trucks received special free goodies.

Heinz created its own food truck to introduce a new product, Heinz Dip & Squeeze Ketchup. Replete with custom wrapping, the truck is currently on a road trip that started in Pittsburgh (the company’s headquarters), visited New York City for Thanksgiving, and will proceed through Philadelphia and on to Dallas. The truck serves up free Ore-Ida potato products — with packets of Dip & Squeeze Ketchup, of course.

The ketchup brand’s spokeswoman Jessica Jackson acknowledged that Heinz wanted to take advantage of the food truck craze, indicating that the new ketchup packet was a “perfect fit” for a food truck. She told the Times, “Since it was really made for eating on the go, we wanted to create an environment where people could experience it on the go.”

Heinz isn’t counting on happenstance to build buzz, but using social media to support the truck’s appearances. T-shirts will be awarded to visitors who come to the truck and show with their smartphones that they’ve “checked in” via Foursquare, or who interact with Facebook or Twitter.

There’s no sign that the food truck fad will end anytime soon. Beth Lawrence, chief marketing officer for La Cense Beef, says “All the companies that are involved in this understand the power of this guerrilla-type marketing, being on the street, being very hands-on with the consumer that’s walking around.” It’s also not limited to good weather; as Lawrence notes, “Now we’re starting to get calls about Christmas parties.”

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