You're working on a popular supermarket brand of processed meat. You're in a brainstorm. It's late, the client's pushing hard for ideas. He's got pizza and beers in. The ideas have been flowing freely but they're starting to run dry. The brief is tight, you've got to come up with a way of "extending the customer's relationship with the product". You've gone through your entire inventory of stock ideas, you've talked about the innovation of Nike+, you've pushed the community angle, you've talked viral and you even pulled out the old 'Choose Your Own Adventure' concept. Still nothing is setting the room on fire. You take a bite out of the pizza and the idea hits you like a silver bullet to the brain. Deep SPAM™ Pizza.BOOYAH!! The wordplay is perfect, it hits the right demographic and the product is the main star. Then it hits you again,SPAM™ Rogan Josh. The client loves it and before you know it you're commissioning photography and updating the web site.
It's easy to see how these incredible creations come about. Take a look at this delicious Soreen Pork Malt Loaf Quaesedillas (PDF download) recipe.
These are recipes that brands think you should cook, with their product, in your kitchen. And presumably feed to your loved ones.
I understand that there are probably a handful of hardcore Kellog's All-Bran fans that can't get enough Kellogg's All-Bran Baked Fish but to me, these kind of recipes epitomise everything that's wrong about online marketing today.
They are shameless, uncreative and frankly disgusting.
Now, I can forgive Philadelphia for having recipes on their site, it's basically just cream cheese, which is pretty versatile stuff. I once saw Delia Smith make a cheesecake with it, and she earns billions making food. And I read recently a recipe by Jamie Oliver for meatballs which contained crushed-up Jacob's cream crackers. I have no idea why you would put Jacob's cream crackers in meatballs but there you go.
It makes sense I guess. If you're a food brand, you need to have a web site right? And if you've got a web site then I guess you need to have recipes on there. But there's a line. There's common decency. Somewhere.
I'm amazed by the way in which cooking has become a national obsession in recent years. And I feel that we're very slowly moving towards being a nation of food lovers. But these recipes really aren't doing us any favours.
I mean, look at this. It's a cake made with Heinz Tomato Ketchup. A fucking cake made with ketchup. What is happening here?! Really.
It's not all bad though. There are great social media sites based on a love of food - Tastespotting, Nibbledish, Food Network and Epicurious are all on-the-up, plus lots of incredible food blogs. Delicious Days and Food Stories are two of my favourites. There's a whole gastronomic social ecosystem out there. The web is a great place to fuel your passion for food. It's easy to see why, it can look great, you can make it, you can share it, you can rate each other's creations, you can hack other people's recipes, you can talk about it and best of all you can eat it. It's perfect social media goodness. So if you find yourself in one of these brainstorms, steer clear of trying to crowbar a square peg into a round hole and have a look at what people are really enjoying online.