2020 was tough - but the Texas spirit is tougher, and there's nothing more Texan than H-E-B, a much beloved grocery store and brand focused on making the lives of Texans better since 1905. As the holiday season of 2020 grew near, H-E-B was determined to be the light at the end of the tunnel - helping, inspiring and empowering Texans to "Holiday Even Brighter".
From tighter budgets, lighter guest lists, first-time feast-making, and together time apart, H-E-B's campaign centered around sparking joy deep in the heart of every Texan big or small, near or far. Holiday Even Brighter was a multi-platform, fully integrated marketing campaign with two key strategic paths, both equally critical to the success of the magical campaign promise - functional and inspirational - and virtual cooking classes were part of making the magic happen.
H-E-B's in-store cooking/sampling department, called Cooking Connection, was shut down in 2020 due to COVID-19 safety precautions. The Cooking Connection department is a beloved resource and customers have long ranked the Cooking Connection employee as the most trusted employee in the store, with a pharmacist coming in second. Since this resource no longer existed, customers weren't able to ask their culinary questions during the busiest season of the year. The insight that customers would soon need a place to ask questions in a COVID world led to one key component of the inspirational strategic track - the creation and launch of free virtual cooking classes with H-E-B chefs via zoom livestream.
The classes were held weekly and covered a variety of Holiday topics from Pie tips and tricks to stuffing and brining a Thanksgiving Turkey. Held via zoom, these classes opened a door for first-time hosts and well-seasoned home cooks looking to learn something new from H-E-B's culinary experts as they could interact, ask questions and get them answered in live time on air from the chefs.
"In the US, some 37.5m people live alone (28% of households) and the Thanksgiving period offers an early indication of whether consumers will be coming together for the Holidays. US motor club AAA is predicting at least a 10% decline in the number of people travelling over the Thanksgiving period, with air travel down by almost half and only 2.4m people travelling over the long weekend. Travel by other modes of transport, including buses, trains and cruises, is expected to decline 76%." - WGSN
With these statistics in mind, H-E-B knew this year would have a flux of first time cooks as well as customers turning to online resources for tips to prepare traditional meals all while seeking a sense of community at a time when in person gatherings wouldn’t be possible. The difficulties of the past year, as well as more time at home meant added pressure to make the time around the table extra special.
H-E-B worked with Google to identify key holiday recipes and online queries spiking on the search engine and on platforms like YouTube to ensure the content for each virtual cooking class was relevant to the customer need.
Based on these trends and holiday classics, the H-E-B team of Culinary Chefs created eight, one-hour cooking classes designed to inspire and demystify holiday dishes. Customers could sign up for the classes online and mark their calendars for a future date with the H-E-B Culinary team. These step-by-step classes were accessible to customers via zoom and were then posted on YouTube for customers to reference later. The classes were structured for customers to cook along with the chefs, or learn the techniques for later use.
When customers signed up for the class they wanted to attend, they found recipes, ingredient lists and shoppable online collections available on heb.com for curbside pickup or home delivery of the ingredients - taking the stress out of shopping.
Throughout the Holiday Even Brighter Virtual Cooking Class series, 2,252 customers reserved a spot in the cooking classes, with 35% of customers attending and 94% of those in attendance saying they would use the recipes and techniques taught in the class. The attendees who joined gave H-E-B's chefs, on average, a Net Promoter Score of 82, above the 2020 NPS benchmark for Education & Training of 72 (Relentley 2020).
Customers who attended the classes by and large also had a higher opinion of H-E-B after attending, with 69% of attendees ranking the brand higher post-class than they did prior (AnyRoad internal data, 2021).
The holiday classes launched as a point of need for customers as part of the Holiday Even Brighter campaign, however their success has created a new platform and way for customers to engage with H-E-B, learn about new products, and try new techniques/recipes in the kitchen and that remains a new and unique offering from H-E-B moving forward.
The classes have since expanded to include wine tastings and a roster of celebrity chefs, giving customers access and inspiration in the kitchen for years to come.
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