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Unwrapping Milk Bar’s Digital Marketing Strategy

Alison Chan
October 28, 2020
Last Updated On

We’ve entered a new era of home cooking and baking. From modern-day like whipped coffee, to mom’s classic banana bread, perfecting recipes in the comfort of one’s kitchen is becoming a favorite global pastime. A recent survey suggests +54% of Americans alone are cooking more than ever, with +46% doing more baking.

And who better to chat about the evolution of the modern day foodie with than the marketing team at Milk Bar? Let Michele Bengualid (Social Media Manager) and Kimberly DeAngelo (Senior PR Manager) guide you through Milk Bar’s digital marketing strategy and how they’ve leaned into the events of 2020 to gain social momentum.

1) Tell me a little bit about Milk Bar

Kimberly: Milk Bar was started 12 years ago as a small bakery in New York City’s East Village, founded by Christina Tosi as a part of the Momofuku group. Our menu is full of really quirky, thought-provoking desserts, from Cereal Milk soft, serve that tastes exactly like the milk from the bottom of your bowl of cereal, to the Compost Cookie, which is salty, sweet and has a little bit of everything in it. The underlying factor among all of our treats is that nostalgic element. We want to give you something that's really interesting and really fun, that will also bring you back to your childhood memories.

As we gained more recognition, people from all over the country wanted to get their hands on Milk Bar treats, which led to the launch of our e-commerce site. We also recently launched into grocery and have grown into a multifaced, omnichannel company that offers products in the same spirit and style, but at different places in different price points to reach as many people as possible.

2) I know Milk Bar has started to offer packaged grocery store items that are different to what you bake in store and deliver. How is that impacting your social strategy now that you are in two different business categories (Food/CPG)?

Michele: With the whole organic social landscape, there's so many platforms to consider. We are active on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and TikTok.

With our CPG products, it's about identifying which platform has the most reach and accessibility. Instagram is our biggest following at around 700,000. From an informational standpoint, we use Instagram to showcase our newest products.

However, on platforms like TikTok, there are 100,000,000 users in the US ranging from people in big cities to small towns with access to our products in supermarkets. Leaning into the platforms where we can get the most reach and the most engagement, and then tailoring that approach is what works for us.

3) Milk Bar has such a strong brand and visual POV, how are you approaching strategy for packaged content vs. in-house baked goods? Is it in the same way or is it slightly different?

Michele: It's slightly different. We're definitely leaning more into the actual packaging with these products to differentiate them. Also leaning into color more aggressively—our core cookie and the truffle crumb cake are packaged in this gorgeous bright pink, yellow, blue, and purple. It really jumps off on the supermarket shelves but also really jumps off on our feed. As much as we can, we show the packaging and emphasize that it is a different, smaller package that is ready to grab and go.

4) How has your digital marketing strategy changed throughout the year?

Michele: I think there have been a couple of stages of quarantine. There was March through May which was the banana bread frenzy where everyone was making banana bread and posting it. We were so impressed with that. In this period, we definitely focused on a lot of at-home recipes and how to bring little moments of joy to your pantry. We leaned on things that were fun for our community to participate in.

The second half of the year has been focused on being thoughtful and kind through everything that we do, including putting our internal community and our social community first. We want to put out content that makes our audience feel good, that is helpful for them, and that acts as a resource—whether that's for the world or for their pantry. We want to make sure that when someone stumbles on our page, they feel as happy as they should when they are eating a slice of birthday cake.

In terms of our social mentions, we were seeing a lot more UGC throughout that time with people celebrating birthdays in quarantine. So we really just jumped on that opportunity and started posting a lot more to emphasize that you're never alone when you're with cake. Milk Bar can be there for you, if you need us.

Kimberly: I think Michele makes a great point about UGC—and it's really got our team through some tough times. We see these incredible screenshots of people receiving a cake from across the country from a loved one for their birthday or really funny things about how desserts get them through this time. It’s given us hope and inspiration, so we make sure to highlight it on our social channels on a weekly basis.

5) What are some creative ways you’ve engaged with your audience?

Michele: There is actually one specific moment that comes to mind. A few weeks ago, we featured one of our fans on our Instagram, whose quarantine project was to bake all 20 cakes that we've published in our cookbook. We kept seeing these gorgeous photos and knew this girl was onto something.

We had a Stories takeover with her where she walked us through the project, baked some of the cakes and it was one of our best-performing Instagram Stories of the year. It’s all about being able to jump on opportunities whether that's highlighting our fans, engaging directly with comments, answering their DMs or giving them words of encouragement when they're crushing a layer cake that we all know is so hard to make. Really just trying to take every moment to personalize the interaction with our followers.

6) What is your focus leading into this fall/planning for the holiday season?

Michele: We have our Pumpkin Dulce de Leche Cake and our Peppermint Bark Cake that will be released towards the end of the year. With the holiday season, it's again the same theme of community. If you can't be with your family, send a cake in your place. Our whole mentality for this year has really been focused on our community and how we can be a resource for them, whether that's emotional support or comfort food. So looking towards the holiday season, we're definitely focused on sharing and giving Milk Bar, which will come up a lot in our paid campaigns as well as our organic campaigns.

I also think it is super important to be able to adapt to the ever-changing social media landscape. The beauty of organic social is that you never know what you're going to get and everything is based on what's happening in the world. It is all about being able to see those opportunities adapt quickly, and then provide your followers with the content that they not only want to see but will also be valuable to them.

7) How does Dash Hudson fit into your marketing strategy?

Michele: I use Dash Hudson every single day. I'm on it as we speak. I use the Scheduler to schedule my social media posts. I am a very visual thinker so being able to see the feed preview and how upcoming posts fit into the feed is important. This is especially important as we branch out and post-campaign content, supermarket products, and introduce seasonal colours. No matter the time of year, we want our feed to still feel like Milk Bar.

Then, I use Instagram Insights to identify what posts have performed the best. Every month, I create a report for campaign content. I group each campaign into Content Segmentation Boards, look for trends into what is performing well and what isn’t and then make creative recommendations for the future.

I find Instagram Stories Insights really interesting, such as exit rates and the overall impressions. For us, the longer the Story, the better it performs which I know is usually the complete opposite. That's really exciting to see because when we post a 30-slide story, people are tuning in and they're not swiping out. So as we think ahead to holiday content and recipes, we definitely look for those 15 to 25 story cards to make sure that we maintain our strong exit rate. And then, of course, I use Dash Hudson to search for similar images in the Content Library and to see top brand mentions from the month.

8) What is your favorite Dash Hudson tool?

Michele: That’s a very hard question! I would say the ability to filter our posts by different metrics because that's where I think you find interesting insights. When you're not only focused on engagement rate, when you start looking at the saves, shares or the metrics of similar content, I think that's where you draw more meaningful insights.

Make sure you keep up with Milk Bar’s journey by following them here on Instagram @milkbarstore.

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