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Dan Kashman describes the resurgence of traditional marketing channels in the digital era

November 15, 2018

Dan Kashman, CMO at Plated discusses tapping into consumer senses, the value of “Instagrammable” content, and the resurgence of traditional marketing channels. Evaluating the effectiveness of auction-based digital marketing, Dan shares why he believes catalogue and direct mail marketing is better targeting consumers in today’s crowded markets.  

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Q&A

Jeff: What have you been up to at Plated?

Dan: I have been the CMO at plated just over a year now, I joined in November 2017 to oversee all of our brand communications, performance marketing, PR, CRM and loyalty efforts, which are really about keeping our customers happy and staying with us for their lifetime. As you can imagine its a highly competitive space. Last year we were purchased by Albertsons, which is a privately held food, health and wellness company that owns 2,300 retail locations around the country including Safeway, Pavilions, Acme and Shaws.

One of the other areas that I oversee is our rollout into retail. Starting at the beginning of 2018, we launched an in-store meal-kit that is now currently available in over 400 stores across the country. Another interesting aspect of the business is that we continue to act as a hybrid technology and food company that meets the needs of consumers through all the channels which they communicate, look for information and shop.

Jeff: What does your precise customer look like?

Dan: Without giving too much of our secret sauce away, I would say that it tends to be female, she generally has a very discerning palate, she’s well travelled, she is often an educated and working parent. She has a desire to provide a healthy meal and to spend time with her family while cooking for them. We are providing a wider breadth of recipes, typically 20 per week, which means more choice and more internationally inspired cuisines, and so I think we do appeal to a more specific audience than other meal-kit services.

Jeff: Are your customers active in sharing their experiences with Plated?

Dan: We definitely benefit from being in a space where food is inherently shareable. I believe that a big part of the value that not only Plated, but other meal kit services provide, is that people are able to create restaurant quality meals even if they’re not a chef. Many people who use these services are able to, for the first time, easily cook more complex dishes. There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride that comes along with that, and I think that is a strong catalyst that makes customers want to share their meals.

Jeff: Were you into food before you joined Plated?

Dan: For the past 47 years, my family has run a restaurant. My father’s Father was in the food business for 50 years before that, so there’s a long line of people in my family that have always been into food. I personally did not cook much throughout my life, but now I definitely cook more. Finding the time to connect with family over dinner is a magical moment. Since we started using Plated, we cook more, and I’ve gotten my kids involved with cooking these meals as well. It's extremely educational learning about different flavors, different cultural cuisines and cooking techniques, which are all lifelong skills to have.

Jeff: How do you ensure that your ads succeed in tapping into consumer senses?

Dan: It starts with a focus on consumer insights, knowing who your audience is and what their motivations are. We spend a tremendous amount of time understanding the customer and really trying to synchronize our efforts to the way that they live. It's through continuous testing that we’re able to know what works and what doesn’t. One of the most exciting things about what’s happening in marketing today is the fact that consumers are seamlessly traversing lots of channels, and you as a marketer have a ton of different ways to potentially reach them, but it's also really noisy and complex.

Attributing your marketing dollars to the success of a specific audience remains a highly complex challenge. For me that’s what keeps it super interesting and I think there's a tremendous amount of continuous learning that happens. A big way that I structure my team and organization is to lead marketing via a learning system in addition to an acquisition and a retention drive.

Jeff: Are you guys doing anything in the world of personalized advertising?

Dan: We’ve seen a shift from marketing being about plans and calendars to marketing being about systems and technology. You still need amazing content, you still need great storytelling, you still need to really understand who your customer is; those things are universal truths in business and marketing, but this shift from marketing plans to marketing systems is really important.

So much of the foundation of what we do and how I think about communicating with customers today relies on technology. We cannot create thousands of versions of ads, messages and offers for different audiences without the use of technology, data, analytics and feedback that powers those systems. There’s content which is about engaging people, media which is about the distribution channels, and experiences where the transaction is happening, but the foundational layer powering all that is technology and data input. Its human insight and powerful technology that allows you to do the personalization. When it works, its expressed in being personalized.

Jeff: There has been a heavy dependency on Instagram in recent times. Do you see any changes in the industry?

Dan: I do think that people will continue to see more marketing happening in the traditional channels within the direct consumer space. Direct mail is an area that I know is getting a lot of attention from a number of marketers. It's an emerging channel for digitally native companies that are looking to diversify their investment allocation away from primarily Google and Facebook. Because direct mail is not an auction based medium, people are able to reach customers for the same price. I can reach very high value customers that might cost me a lot more to reach in other channels.

The tangible nature of the direct mail medium has a great effect. It's something that we’ve been testing into, and I’ve noticed a lot of other companies in the space doing the same. Companies that started as small, e-commerce businesses with primarily a newsletter are now sending 20 or 30 page catalogs. I think that’s an area that we’ll continue to see growth in.

Jeff: What is your favorite Plated meal and what is your favorite meal of all time?

Dan: My favorite plated meal would have to be butternut squash empanadas. Favourite meal of all time, I like a good Peter Luger's steak.

Please note, the above has been paraphrased for editorial purposes