Company: Mezzetta

If you love olives, pickled peppers, pasta sauce, or any number of other delicious food items, there’s a good chance a Mezzetta product is in your pantry. This family-owned business has been around since 1935. Based out of Napa Valley in California, the company says it is committed to bringing customers the finest fresh produce from Spain, Italy, Greece, France, and even sunny California.


Business Challenge

Despite its long history, Mezzetta had not spent much time thinking about marketing. For much of its existence, the company had been focused on manufacturing and sales. But after hiring two new marketing employees, Mezzetta was ready to bring its products to a wider audience. With such a small team, content creation proved to be one of the biggest marketing challenges. Mezzetta needed help creating enough content to get its products in front of the masses—and so it decided working with influencers may be the best bet.

Vendors of Choice: Linqia

Linqia gets its name from the most unlikely of places—the linckia starfish. These creatures cast off their limbs, which not only regenerate, but also develop into new starfish. “We liken the linckia starfish to the power of word-of-mouth in effectively spreading a brand’s message,” according to the company’s website. Linqia works in the emerging world of influencer marketing, helping connect brands with influencers. 



The Problem In-Depth

In the age of content marketing, many small marketing departments are faced with the same challenge—they just don’t have the bandwidth to create enough content to keep up with the demands of a hungry audience. This was exactly the situation that Mezzetta’s Rajiv Doshi, director of digital marketing, and Annie Hoertkorn, marketing communications manager, found themselves in.

“We have a core set of consumers, but wanted to introduce new people to the brand,” says Doshi. But as a small and relatively new department, there were challenges. “We have a team creating new content, new recipes—but as a small team, there’s only so much we can do.” This is a familiar problem with many solutions. Some departments opt to work with agencies, hire freelancers, or simply hire more people. But, in this case, Mezzetta decided to try something a little different: working with established influencers.

“As a new marketing group, we didn’t have an email list—we didn’t have a Facebook page. … We didn’t have distribution built in,” says Doshi. His team was looking for more than just content creators. It also needed distribution. It soon became clear that Doshi and the Mezzetta team “were looking for influencers to help us create new content and a cost-effective rate.”

“Bloggers and influencer marketing are just so prevalent,” says Hoertkorn. She points to New York Fashion Week, in which bloggers get front row seats right alongside traditional media outlets such as Vogue. “We wanted to tap into this new way of marketing,” she adds.

And, of course, the Mezzetta team is right. Think about where most of your favorite recipes come from. Personally, I hardly ever turn to a cookbook or magazine. I head right to Pinterest when I’m looking for a new idea for dinner, which inevitably leads me to someone’s blog. But finding the right influencer can be almost as tricky as creating enough content to keep up with demand, so Mezzetta needed help.

The Solution

There are plenty of companies and agencies that can help clients find influencers, but Mezzetta says Linqia stands out for one reason: the quality of its influencers and storytellers. That being said, there is one other factor that makes it different. Most companies charge on a pay-per-content model, but Linqia customers pay for performance. Instead of paying an influencer to create content that may never be seen, the Linqia models pays for actual clicks.

“We focus on the power middle influencer. … No celebrities or people with a huge following. We also don’t do micro-influencers,” says Maria Sipka, president and co-founder of Linqia. Instead, Linqia focuses on influencers with 10,000 to 250,000 followers (the average is 30,000) and helps companies connect with a variety of these “power middle influencers.”

In Mezzetta’s case, Linqia helped put together a “three-flight storybook,” which spanned summer, fall, and the holidays. In other words, this was a relatively long campaign that involved 238 influencers—some of whom participated in the entire campaign, while others were new to each flight. According to Sipka, “typically, our programs will have 50% of proven influencers, but the other 50% may be new.” That could mean 10 or 15 new influencers in a campaign.

For each flight, influencers are given some context. For instance, the holiday theme for Mezzetta was “Memories start with Mezzetta.” Influencers were asked to purchase a specific product. They were then free to create whatever kind of content they’d like—blog posts, video, images, etc.—around that product. Sipka says, “We don’t want it all to look the same, but give them a mood board” as guidance.

Sipka adds, “We only require them to share one blog post … or video … but they are only compensated on performance. … So it’s entirely up to them how much content they create without spamming their audience.” By paying for results, Linqia incentivizes its influencers to promote their content and make sure it’s seen by audiences.

“They get given a milestone on their traffic,” says Sipka of the influencers. “If they don’t achieve that, we pay them for what they did achieve. If they overachieve, we just increase their budget next time around.”

The Outcome

“The biggest challenge that brands face is how to create content at the speed of culture, but also at scale,” Sipka says. That was, in fact, the challenge posed in this partnership—but how did the team measure results?

Doshi says that Mezzetta’s goals for its influencer campaign were increased brand awareness and household penetration—and he’s more than happy with the results. He calls Linqia “relatively turnkey” and says it continues to deliver the results. This makes sense, because once the content is created, it continues to exist even after the influencers have stopped aggressively promoting it. And, of course, Mezzetta is free to leverage that content across its platforms.

We “set up expectations and goals,” says Doshi, and Linqia helped Mezzetta “overachieve every single time.” What exactly does that look like in terms of hard numbers?

According to Linqia, the program resulted in 7,500 pieces of original content, and returned 4.5 times the total media value of Mezzetta’s investment. Pinterest played a particularly big role in Mezzetta’s case, as influencers were able to pin recipes to Mezzetta’s page. Linqia also estimates that 13.1 million consumers were reached. Additionally, Mezzetta experienced a 50% email survey response rate from qualified leads.

Doshi confirms that Mezzetta is seeing these numbers translate to new sales. “We have seen a boost in sales, household penetration, and brand awareness,” he says. “The business is growing with our campaigns.”

But for this new marketing department, it wasn’t all about sales. Doshi says that Mezzetta built a promotions sweepstakes into all of its campaigns. This helped grow its marketing list from nonexistent to more than 50,000 consumers. Mezzetta has also seen a 33% increase in clicks to its landing pages since the program’s conclusion. 

Of course, for all partnerships of this sort, the biggest test of success is whether the two sides are willing to work together again. Doshi says the Mezzetta team continues to partner with Linqia to supplement its other social advertising efforts.