The California Dry Bean Advisory Board, or CalBeans, is an advisory board of growers advancing the production of beans via research funding and promotion of California-grown beans. They are California growers representing the interests of California growers. Over the last seven years, CalBeans has worked with AC&C Marketing to establish the board’s place as a credible voice in the market, raising digital awareness of the bean brand and developing a loyal group of followers along the way.

In 2020, we were in a place where we wanted to go above & beyond and do some deeper thinking into the future of the brand. So while we continued to serve our loyal, growing audience, we added a new focus to grow affinity and reach, creating more demand for California beans.

AC&C Marketing’s goals for CalBeans’s social media channels were (and continue to be) to promote California-grown dry beans by driving awareness and increasing consumption. We aimed to build on CalBeans’ already successful presence in the digital space with a social media campaign that would nurture relationships via informative and entertaining content, boosting the best-performing content to our primary target.

Formulating a new target audience

Having a firm grasp on audience is key, especially when growing reach and creating demand. We were eager to revisit who our audience was, if they were shifting over time, and if there were opportunities to expand or optimize content for our audience. CalBeans’ social content at the time was focused largely on plant-based recipes, and performed well for the 45+ female demographic. The audience was comprised of women looking to live healthy lifestyles for themselves and their families. They wanted food that offered nutrition, taste, and variety. When we reviewed which demographic was most likely to choose a plant-based diet and the growth of the trend across the US, we determined there was room for expansion.

For Millennials and younger generations, consuming plant-based foods is more a lifestyle than a trend and social media operates as a space for education and inspiration around meal preparation. Millennials in particular make up 22 percent of the population, creating substantial market potential for plant-based foods. Our new approach would appeal to this younger demographic, growing our base and expanding our reach.

Connecting with the plant-based community

In the planning phase, we decided the best way to reach this audience was to present beans as a cool and appetizing ingredient worth reaching for. We would target Millennial consumers with fresh and creative approaches to the bean story while leaning into CalBeans’ California heritage. Our campaign could speak to how beans personify the California spirit and even have “California cool.” They come in so many beautiful varieties, they don’t take themselves too seriously, and they are aligned with the health-conscious California lifestyle. In terms of health benefits, they are a versatile superfood, operating as a protein replacement and go-to snack food.

Research pointed to self-care, health and fitness, animal welfare/sustainability, and inclusivity content as the main drivers for our younger, plant-based target audience. Our social media channels could present beans as a flavorful vegan food and a great source of protein, showcasing plant-based eating as fun and interesting instead of simply restrictive.

This new campaign platform, named “Good Quality Beans, Good Quality Life,” launched across CalBeans’ brand-owned Instagram and Facebook channels. It incorporated a mix of branded graphics, user-generated content, nutritional information, and recipes. Instagram and Facebook Stories ads and promoted Instagram posts amplified our messaging.

In the first six months post-launch, Instagram impressions reached 1.09 million with 6,048 daily average impressions and new followers increased by 245. Facebook impressions reached 26,806 with 3,185 link clicks and engagement for the page and its posts increased by 822,000%.

Continuing to engage our users

Now, nearly two years later, CalBeans’ social strategy continues to evolve to better target the younger plant-based consumer. This evolution includes moving focus to Instagram as the primary channel for our Millenial target. Instagram carousels, contests, user-generated content, and partner collaborations have allowed us to continue driving social engagement upwards and growing our follower count. From March Madness-inspired bean brackets to our 12 Days of Beans holiday campaign just last month, we consistently find fresh ways to raise digital awareness of California beans as a fun pantry staple.

Results with Impact

In one year, the campaign Instagram engagement rate rose from 5.65% to a competitive 8.25%, nearly 8x the average branded engagement rate for Instagram. Staying open to reviewing data and changing course when numbers and behaviors indicate an opportunity has allowed the Cal Beans social media strategy to create some serious impact.

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