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The Importance of Search in Food Advertising

Online search is one of the primary means of connecting a user with a given subject and associating a product or service with a given search term has been shown to be an extremely effective means of growing brands. It has been shown that multisensory advertisements for food products wherein the copy adds context result in better perceptions of taste. For this reason, it makes sense that food brands would look to inject value and information wherever possible, and here we look at how search is used in food advertising to make this possible as well as summarising how TV content can influence second screen searches for food products.

Examples Of Unorthodox Use Of Search In Food Advertising

McDonald’s recently released an unbranded advert (although it can be argued that it is branded in terms of aesthetics) in which it compelled viewers to search for ‘that place where Coke tastes so good’. A Google search for the phrase brings up several articles which reference the claim that Coca-Cola tastes better from McDonald’s restaurants in comparison with others. Burger King ran a similar if slightly more controversial advert in which its presenter began a statement with the voice command ‘Okay Google’. This phrase turned on Google Home devices which thereafter performed a search for the query ‘what is the Whopper Burger?’ Google quickly reacted by stopping its devices from carrying out this search when prompted, but the ad nevertheless generated a reasonable amount of publicity for its efforts.

So what is the benefit of releasing such adverts? Aside from the dreary explanation of ‘innovation’ and ‘storytelling’, such adverts have been created because they drive viewers into performing adjunct actions upon watching the ad. Extensive psychological research has shown that having individuals perform or witness an action intrinsically linked to a particular behaviour helps to facilitate the memory-forming process. In this regard, having consumers perform an action such as searching for further information on an advert is extremely useful as it will have a greater effect on the memory of the given brand or service.

For this reason, linking advertisements with a secondary action (i.e. searching for additional information) is a good way of establishing stronger connections in the mind of the consumer. But even without specific adverts designed to influence search behaviour, the food industry is still having a large say on what users search for when viewing food-related programmes on television.

How TV Content Affects Search Behaviour

The impact of TV content is reflected in buying patterns, and this was exemplified last year when Tesco reported an 80% surge in the sale of samphire. The increase was attributed to its habitual use of the ingredient as a key component in many recipes on cooking shows such as ‘Saturday Kitchen’ and ‘Sunday Brunch’, and other supermarkets such as Waitrose also reported an uptick in sales of samphire.

We have previously discussed how second screen search behaviour is heavily influenced by TV content and this is no different when it comes to food. During an airing of ‘Sunday Brunch’ on Channel 4, the presenters undertook to make a French Martini along with one of the guests, with the dialogue:

“The first one is French Martini, this is great served to guests at home.”

The reference to the drink resulted in a corresponding spike in Google searches for French Martinis:

The Importance of Search in Food Advertising | mporium

The various recipes made during the course of a cooking show regularly result in spikes in searches for the relevant dishes. In an episode of ‘Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast’, the cooking dyad of Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty made a chicken pot pie, venison with red wine and a fresh black pudding. The recipes featured on the show resulted in the following spikes in search queries relating to each of the recipes during the programme’s broadcast. The spikes for the recipes featured in ‘Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast’ show that second screen search behaviour is heavily influenced by TV content.

A similar pattern was observed during the broadcast of an episode of ‘Rick Stein’s Long Weekends’ during which the celebrity chef made egg pasta for tortellini and tagliatelle as well as cooking rabbit stuffed with Parma ham. The mentions of all of these ingredients resulted in spikes in searches during the programme. This highlights that, with particular reference to rarer ingredients, cooking shows have a direct influence on second screen search behaviour. It could be argued that viewers are searching for some ingredients due to their rara avis nature; however, the interest of the viewer is still piqued by the TV content and this represents an excellent opportunity to market to invested consumers.


Large brands within the food industry have started to recognise the potential of search in terms of driving consumer behaviour and engagement. Organic search provides the ideal mechanism for solidifying this connection and it will be interesting to see if other food brands join McDonald’s and Burger King in tapping into this field. However, search remains most powerful in terms of food advertising when it is used as a tool for second screen searches and influenced by TV content.

How do you think search will influence food advertising in the coming years? How could other industries potentially utilise this means of advertising? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @mporiumgroup, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog for more fantastic insights into the marketing industry.

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