Food Network is tweaking its recipe

Feb 4, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Food Network will be rebranding later this year under a new tagline-“Find the Foodie in You.”
That line is meant to summarize the new ambitions of the category cable network, now available in more than 70 million households, and is its latest pitch to both new viewers and potential advertisers.
Plans at the fast-growing cable network call for the rebranding to take place in May or June, said Adam Rockmore, Food’s vice president of marketing.
“Food Network grew up as a [network] where food equals cooking,” Mr. Rockmore said. “Now it is where food equals lifestyle.”
Lifestyle means attracting the viewers who might not know a wok from a waffle but who just might tune in for cuisine-themed travel shows like “Follow That Food,” “Keith Famie’s Adventures” and “A Cook’s Tour,” all of which debuted this past month.
Mr. Rockmore is a veteran marketer but is new to the television industry, having joined Food just 18 months ago. At Godiva Chocolatier, he was responsible for global brand stewardship and interactive marketing and strategy. At Hasbro’s Parker Brothers division, Mr. Rockmore was a product manager, and at General Mills he worked in new product development and marketing.
Mr. Rockmore brings the insights he honed promoting packaged goods to the network. To that end, he has been whipping up witty promotions, such as April’s upcoming Couch Potato Sweepstakes, which he has coupled with a diet of all potato-related programs. He also practices what he calls guerrilla marketing.
The sweepstakes prizes will include a trip to Idaho and a year’s supply of fries, as well as a home-entertainment system; the couch-potato promotional campaign will include the expected network radio and magazine ad buys, as well as ads on the outside of bags of potatoes sold by Wal-Mart and Albertson’s in 15 markets.
Mr. Rockmore also will be dispatching guerrilla marketing “street teams” for “life intercepts.” In the past, the small groups have turned up dressed as chefs, complete with tall toques blanches (or chefs’ hats, for the French-challenged), in places like Grand Central Station or at the Indianapolis 500 and at pro basketball and football games, where they have engaged passers-by in impromptu food quizzes, given out branded goodies or held tailgate parties. They’ve also driven up in front of trendy Manhattan nightspots in their Food-branded SUVs, using megaphones to urge the patrons to come on out.
In June and July, Food’s “Unwrapped”-a weekly food-is-pop-culture series that delves into the history behind classic American treats, from Tootsie Rolls to wax lips-gets a promotional marketing push that will include handing out branded lunchboxes filled with “retro” candy and an “Unwrapped” trivia radio contest. And in the fourth quarter, it will be Food’s “Emeril” franchise that will get the promo treatment.
“I’m used to building brands,” Mr. Rockmore said. “You build it with emotional connections. … My background has been more about the skill than the category.”
That said, there are some connections between his former life and his present one. “At Godiva, you had a brand where people just gushed when you talked to them about it,” he said. “This network is very similar.”
Godiva’s customers were either “gifters” or consumers, whether just occasional or confirmed chocoholics. “The similarity with Food Network is that you have people who are core foodies,” Mr. Rockmore said.
But the network has moved well beyond its core audience. It no longer skews heavily female, Mr. Rockmore said; instead it is “pretty evenly split.” Food sells the adults 25 to 54 demo, and it touts the urban orientation and high income level of its viewers, he said. “Households with kids make up about 40 percent of the network.”