As food overtakes cats as the most watched content online, chefs are waking up to the power of video for driving brand engagement. Crystal Chesters investigates.
There is no doubt the creation and consumption of online video is increasing, with growth in watch time on YouTube up at least 50% year over year for the past three years, and with Facebook and Instagram enhancing video features and streamlining their strategies to get on board with the trend.
Food and recipe content is a particularly popular subject for video, and this grew by 59% on YouTube from 2014 – 2015 as stated in a report by Millward Brown Digital, Firefly and Google.
According to Martin Kubler, CEO sps: affinity & Iconsulthotels, chefs are perfectly placed to capitalise on the trend, which may explain why more and more are using YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Periscope to capture the attention of fans and followers through video.
Kubler explains: “Video is fun for chefs, a lot of them are like actors; they are usually the people in the hospitality industry that have the most pronounced personalities, and this lends itself to video. Secondly, they can showcase what they do, which is something that drives footfall into restaurants.”
For Adam Schop, executive chef of Miss Lily’s, a New York-founded Caribbean concept launching in Dubai’s Sheraton Grand this month, video is a more powerful marketing tool than imagery, with the brand’s Instagram videos gaining on average 10 times the number of likes as images. “I believe that video has a better chance of drawing the attention of the user. There is music and movement and that provides an enhanced sensory awareness of our brand,” Schop comments.
Video can also bring a chef’s creations to life in a way that images cannot, explains Dalia Dogmoch, a Dubai-based culinary personality who featured on Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube channel. “What I like about video is that it’s more natural,” she comments. “Pictures are a bit more set and videos aren’t, so this is why Snapchat is so popular because you want to see things as they are. I have a lot of pictures and they are great marketing tools as well, but there is something about video that brings things to life and makes it more real,” she says.
Instagram algorithms have also recently been updated so that posts, similar to Facebook, are no longer seen in order but by popularity and engagement. According to Kubler, video posts attract higher engagement meaning these are likely to be seen more than images. “The more likes you get the higher the chance that you will be seen, so if you’re putting up a video post, it is likely to be seen by more people,” he explains.
Tiina Kontra, a Dubai-based social media and communications consultant agrees that for chefs, posting videos increases their chance of exposure. “People are more likely to share an interesting video than an article or image,” she explains. “Videos add the wow factor to your social media as most small businesses still aren’t taking advantage of video marketing. A video is also an easier and quicker way to communicate your message, and for example, recipe instructions.”
Jamie Oliver, one of the world’s best known TV chefs, accelerated his online video activity four years ago when his team noticed a drop off in TV audiences, which was surprising given that his popularity on Twitter and his book sales were increasing. However, fans of Jamie had begun consuming his shows in different ways, and this was through on-demand, catch-up and on YouTube. When YouTube launched Originals, a 100-million-dollar programme funded by Google to drive more original content, Jamie Oliver was allocated some of the budget.
“With Facebook Live, the content is pushed into the feeds of followers because Facebook is heavily promoting Live at the moment. We’ve seen huge audiences coming from Facebook Live so it’s very useful for us and very powerful. We are experimenting with it much more now”
– Richard Herd, head of Food Tube, The Jamie Oliver Group
“Jamie wanted to talk to a new, emerging audience that were still interested in food but weren’t watching the TV shows or buying the books,” explains Richard Herd, head of Food Tube, The Jamie Oliver Group.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube, a dedicated YouTube channel for food, was launched on 21 January 2013 and YouTube set a target for it to reach 100,000 subscribers in its first year. This goal was achieved on the launch night and today Food Tube has almost 2.5 million subscribers. Reaching a different demographic is a major benefit the Jamie Oliver team has witnessed following the launch of Food Tube. While the books and TV audience is generally 65% females between the ages of 25 and 45, the Food Tube channel attracts roughly 65% male viewers, aged 20 – 40.
“We think that YouTube is more of a place for males to go and get a quick fix of something. They’re not going to buy the whole cookbook, but they might just want to know how to make a steak for their wife, so we have to tailor the content to be short, punchy and something that keeps the attention span. There’s no need for the nice set-up that we have on our TV shows or the big preamble before the action,” says Herd.
Jamie has also managed to tap into the next generation of consumers, aged 13 – 17, by partnering up with popular vloggers such as Alfie Deyes. “We don’t tap that market much because Jamie is slightly older… it’s about finding what interests them and trying to work with them. We collaborate with vloggers so we can reach and engage with that audience so that they can make better choices in the future when they become consumers,” says Herd.
Providing a platform for other chefs is another big part of Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube strategy, and the team worked with Dubai’s Dalia Dogmoch last September to create videos showcasing her Middle Eastern recipes. While a number of her blog followers had asked for videos, Dogmoch claims she had held off on launching her channel simply because she was overthinking it, however meeting with Jamie’s team inspired her to get started.
“It shouldn’t be too prim and proper. It’s real and it’s about people getting a peak into your kitchen rather than a set that’s designed for a cooking show. The feedback I’m getting is that my videos are natural and a bit different from what else is out there in the region” – Dalia Dogmoch, managing director, Dalia’s Kitchen, Dubai
She comments: “It was a quick but lovely experience; these guys are leaders in what they do. I had been wanting to do my YouTube channel for a while and usually they feature people that already have channels so it was a good way of diving into it and seeing how they do it. People used to read blogs endlessly but now everything has become so visual.”
Dogmoch had considered working with production companies before but they always wanted something scripted, and she preferred to do things Jamie Oliver-style. “It shouldn’t be too prim and proper. It’s real and it’s about people getting a peak into your kitchen rather than a set that’s designed for a cooking show. The feedback I’m getting is that my videos are natural and a bit different from what else is out there in the region,” she says.
Live videos take this authenticity to the next level and earlier this year, Facebook expanded the ability to share live videos on mobile. Since it is difficult to be discovered on YouTube with live content, Facebook Live has become a particularly powerful tool for Jamie Oliver’s team.
“With Facebook Live the content is pushed into the feeds of followers because Facebook is heavily promoting Live at the moment. We’ve seen huge audiences coming from Facebook Live so it’s very useful for us and very powerful. We are experimenting with it much more now,” comments Herd.
Instagram has also become a more useful tool for video, with the extension of the 15-second clip to a full minute, which Herd explains, is a more suitable time-frame for showcasing recipes. “A 15 second recipe is really difficult to do. Now that Instagram gives you a minute it’s much easier,” says Herd.
Jamie Oliver’s team creates a production plan so that content for Instagram, Facebook and any other relevant channels is taken into account during the shooting of YouTube content.
However, for chefs with a smaller budget, short Instagram videos are often the simplest option. Nicole Mrad, founder of Cupncakes Dubai, who says that the use of video on Instagram has helped to increase the company’s return on investment, comments: “We use videos to offer a quick technique, recipe, or cooking tip and we use very basic equipment ̶ just a phone. This is the easiest way to upload the movie to social media instantly and to edit it on various applications.”
And while for many chefs, the go-to content for video is a cooking demonstration, Kubler of Iconsulthotels believes that this may not be the best thing for driving customers to a restaurant. “The audience doesn’t necessarily want to go to a restaurant after seeing a cooking demo,” he explains. “I think what’s better is behind-the-scenes, quick, relatively raw videos showing a chef preparing for the evening or carving a watermelon, for example. This gives people an idea of what the restaurant is like, what type of place it is, and it also helps them to see the finished product.”
Rather than posting recipe demonstrations, Schop says Miss Lily’s uses video to showcase the ambience of the venue. The venue’s Instagram feed contains videos featuring staff members, guests, or even menu items swaying to a Caribbean-inspired rhythm, which engages viewers with something quirky and unusual.
“I believe that video has a better chance of drawing the attention of the user. There is music and movement and that provides an enhanced sensory awareness of our brand” – Adam Schop, executive chef, Miss Lily’s
“Miss Lily’s conveys warm and gracious hospitality inspired by the Caribbean. What better way to showcase this than by having our team and guests showing off their enthusiasm by expressing themselves in a creative and playful manner? Have fun with it and stay true to your concept. People will appreciate that so don’t be afraid to show some personality,” says Schop.
Herd agrees that to make videos stand apart from the crowd, personality is key. “You don’t just want to be another chef,” he says. “If you’re a good talker and a good communicator that’s going to help. You might be the best Michelin-starred chef but if you can’t talk to someone or engage with someone then nobody will want to watch your video.”
The most important thing to keep in mind, according to the experts, is to be natural. Dogmoch comments: “Just go for it, don’t worry about it too much and don’t overthink it. It took a while for me because I was overthinking it, so don’t. The more natural the better.”
Herd adds that the amount of time and effort that can be invested will often dictate the type of content posted, however a variety of ideas can work. “It’s about structuring things in different ways; you can do vlog posts, live demos, everything is valuable but it depends how much time you can give to it, and how interested you are in spreading your message or your brand,” he says.
“360 and virtual reality will be out of reach for the majority of chefs. We’re probably a couple of years off but when it becomes cheaper and more powerful, and we can do it on a mobile phone, then we’ll be talking” – Martin Kubler, CEO, sps: affinity & Iconsulthotels
The next step in the evolution of video is 360 video and virtual reality, and Facebook is currently investing in efforts to explore immersive new VR experiences that will help people connect and share. However, most chefs are yet to establish the value of 360 and virtual reality for a kitchen environment, and at the moment the equipment is still relatively expensive and clunky. Herd comments: “Virtual reality will be a valuable aid to help people learn to cook in time and there is already a lot of development happening. It will be valuable for immersing yourself in a kitchen, but at the moment they are just really nice, interesting things, and we are trying to work out the reason for using them.”
Kubler is similarly confident that within a few years, when the technology has been perfected, 360 and VR will be useful marketing tools for chefs, however he agrees the industry isn’t ready for them yet. “360 and virtual reality will be out of reach for the majority of chefs. We’re probably a couple of years off but when it becomes cheaper and more powerful, and we can do it on a mobile phone, then we’ll be talking,” he says.