How Oscar Mayer is fostering community during COVID-19

The company has created a campaign to encourage “front yard cookouts,” tying in social media to bring people together amid social distancing and isolation—and to feed families in need.

Oscar Mayer comms lessons

How are you creating community and interaction for your external audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Audiences are craving the ability to gather and interact, and organizations that can capitalize on those longings will stay prominent in the cultural conversation. At least, that’s the hope for brands such as Oscar Mayer that are seeking new ways to engage fans.

The food product company has created the “Front Yard Cookout” campaign to unite people safely in real life and help to drive content online. Plus, there’s a philanthropic component.

Jess Vultaggio, head of marketing for Oscar Mayer, explains: “We’re all doing our best to practice social distancing right now. But we know some people may struggle with maintaining that practice as the weather heats up—and the call of the grill, that time-honored tradition of hosting a cookout, gets louder. Oscar Mayer recognized an opportunity to show our fans how they can still safely enjoy an outdoor cookout ‘with’ their neighbors.”

A central element of the campaign will be a financial gift to help feed Americans in need; it also ties into social media participation.

“We’re suggesting a Front Yard Cookout so neighbors can be together even when they’re apart,” maintaining a six-foot distance, says Vultaggio. “As part of this, Oscar Mayer is donating 1 million meals to Feeding America, and our goal is to get fans to join us in donating even more. Each social share on Twitter using #FrontYardCookout donates one additional meal to Feeding America.”

Social media’s moment

Brand managers know that audiences are missing social gathering and interaction. That makes the current crisis a perfect moment to engage on social media.

“We want to meet our consumers where they are and help unify neighborhoods for a good cause,” says Vultaggio. “We know everyone is practicing safe social distancing right now, but we’re all craving a return to our traditional spring and summer activities like BBQs and cookouts. This campaign captures the cookout communal spirit on a larger scale, can connect fans nationwide who join the #FrontYardCookout, and helps give back by donating meals for those in need via Feeding America.”

However, a hashtag effort shouldn’t stand alone. Vultaggio says it is important to use your other channels to drive traffic to your social media campaign.

We’re launching a 30-second TV spot beginning to air this week which will give us broader awareness for a campaign that consumers will engage with via social,” she says. “Amplification across multiple media channels provides more opportunities for people to learn about the campaign, and it allows us to give more information and inspire people to join Oscar Mayer in donating more meals to Feeding America while enjoying time with their neighbors from a safe distance.“

Vultaggio says the biggest lesson from Oscar Mayer’s campaign is to rely on your core values in times of struggle.

Oscar Mayer has always been guided by a sense of optimism, and by bringing smiles to people at all times—especially in hard times,” she says. “If there’s anything we’ve learned, it’s to remain true to your brand purpose and add value where you can.”

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