Food companies go viral by hacking their own products

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Food companies go viral by hacking their own products

Celebrity chef Baek Jong-won prepares to reveal the recipe for MakCass, which combines Korean makgeoli with Cass beer. [ORIENTAL BREWERY]

Celebrity chef Baek Jong-won prepares to reveal the recipe for MakCass, which combines Korean makgeoli with Cass beer. [ORIENTAL BREWERY]

Korean consumers are always looking for simple hacks that can elevate instant food into slightly more refined dishes.

Sometimes these dishes become such a hit on social media that the original manufacturers end up producing the adapted dish. The most famous example is probably Nongshim's Jjapaguri, a dish originally made by combining two different flavors of ramen, which gained international notoriety after it appeared in the Oscar-winning movie "Parasite."

Some companies like to get involved, offering their own tips on how to combine their food or drinks with other products to make new, interesting dishes. This marketing strategy isn't necessarily new, but has gained momentum recently as companies recognize the importance of offering interesting content on their social media pages.

Oriental Brewery has recently started working with celebrity chef and food expert Baek Jong-won to teach customers the most delicious ways to drink beer through short, online beer classes. 
Cass posted a video every week on its YouTube channel last month.  

In one class, Baek introduces so-called MakCass, a term combining makgeoli (rice wine) and the company’s signature beer Cass. Baek calls it MakMak, combining makgeoli and maekju, the Korean word for beer.
MakCass is an alcoholic drink that contains a shot glass of makgeoli combined with two-thirds of a glass of Cass.
The simple recipe has gone viral, leading to people posting their own versions of the drink on social media and YouTube. The video showing the MakCass recipe received 10.4 million views since it was posted a month ago.
“Companies these days more actively value the need to provide fun to consumers,” said John Baek, an associate director at Oriental Brewery. “Offering something unorthodox is a marketing strategy especially appropriate to millennials, who are very accepting of diversity and active consumers of digital content.”
Beer brands aren't the only ones offering online advice to customers.

Orion recently posted a cheese gratin recipe on its Instagram channel. It is made with Orion’s potato sticks, string cheese and a bit of hot water microwaved for two minutes. Orion suggests consumers whip the soaky snacks repeatedly until they form a cheesy texture.
The recipe is similar to the viral hit Dalgona latte, which also required intensively stirring instant coffee powder, sugar and hot water. The Dalgona latte became popular earlier in the year after it went viral online and then hit the mainstream news. The drink has now taken off, and is offered as a seasonal summer drink at many coffee chains, including Twosome Place and Ediya Coffee.
Haitai Confectionery recently published a social media post that suggests its snacks taste better when air fried. Air frying Butter Ring snacks with cream cheese on top is one of the suggestions.
Popularizing these unique recipes is not only a way to help companies create buzz, but also to appeal to younger consumers who may not be familiar with snacks introduced decades ago.
“Providing unique recipes using snacks helps companies bring back the popularity of traditional snacks to younger generation,” said Ahn Seong-geun from Lotte Confectionery. A dessert made with two pieces of Lotte's Pada Coconut with red bean and butter sandwiched between the two cookies is one example.
Lotte introduced the recipe, inspired by a popular bread dish with red bean and butter, in 2018, but they are still widely talked about to this date, boosting the popularity of Pada Coconut, according to Ahn.  
Its sales rose 30 percent on-year in the quarter after the recipe was introduced.
“Informing people of unique recipes on social media could trigger curiosity, but the limit to social media marketing is that people can’t be forced to watch the content unlike on traditional mass media like television or newspapers,” said Prof. Lim Chae-un, who teaches marketing at Sogang University. “People have to put in effort and find the content on social media. The fact that food generally requires little involvement limits the effectiveness of social media marketing for food companies.”
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