Del Monte Gets Social

As social networking’s popularity has exploded in recent years, sites such as MySpace and Facebook have been transformed from unfamiliar names into cultural icons—representing a potential goldmine for marketers. But behind all the hoopla about the promise of Web 2.0 technologies lies an important fact: Few major companies have learned to use social networking to achieve any substantial business gains.

Del Monte is hoping to buck that trend and capitalize on social networking as a marketing tool. The San Francisco-based conglomerate—known for canned fruits and vegetables; major retail brands such as College Inn, Contadina and StarKist; and pet products such as 9Lives, Gravy Train, Milk-Bone and Meow Mix—is looking to gain a competitive edge.

“We understand that business has entered a new era and social networking tools must augment conventional marketing methods,” says Walter Wdowiak, vice president of marketing services for Del Monte.

To that end, the company has introduced two initiatives designed to tap into the power of social networking, and it will soon introduce a third. “I Love My Dog” offers a community where canine owners can interact and share ideas, and “Moms Online Community” lets mothers exchange ideas and information. Both initiatives help Del Monte glean insights into market psychology and put its finger on the pulse of emerging trends. Del Monte, working with new-media marketing firm MarketTools, will soon add an “I Love My Cat” social network to the mix.

“Social networking tools help us get much closer to consumers,” Wdowiak explains. “We’re able to identify the most pressing issues for customers and understand topical matters that factor into buying decisions. We’re also able to explore concepts, including the development of new products. The technology allows us to pinpoint ideas in a much more thorough and accurate way.”