A case study: Brand Storytelling in the Digital Context with Ballymaloe Foods
Ballymaloe has become one of Ireland’s most recognizable and successful food brands. The Ballymaloe brand is now a hallmark of effective brand storytelling. In the food industry, the source and ethos of the producer are important. The key to Ballymaloe’s success is a brand story that links together generations of an authentic Irish farmhouse. The brand story is a family story.
Ballymaloe Country Relish, the flagship product of Ballymaloe Foods secured one of the largest listings for an Irish company with Tesco via the Bord Bia development programme. Since 2015, the Country Relish has been stocked in 900 UK Tesco stores.
Ballymaloe products are also stocked on Amazon UK, Ocado.com and O’Neills Irish pubs and further afield in Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Australia. Certain specialty products are now available for sale on Ballymaloe’s Facebook page via shopify. The UK market alone generates millions per year in revenue from a single product.
Ballymaloe combined influencer marketing and brand storytelling with great success. The brand extension strategy has gone from farm to restaurant, a culinary school to food products and food influencers. The brand story is the sentimental tale of generations of an Irish farmhouse.
The Ballymaloe story begins with Myrtle Allen’s recipe for the Country Relish in the 1930’s. Myrle went on to open a noteworthy Michelin Star restaurant in her now iconic Cork farmhouse. Ireland’s best known TV chef Darina Allen (Myrtle’s daughter-in-law) opened Ballymaloe Cookery School with her brother Rory O’Connell on the same farm in 1982.
Throughout the 1980’s and the 1990’s Darina Allen presented a very popular cookery series ‘Simply Delicious’. In addition, Darina filmed on location from Ballymaloe Cookery School. The place made a strong emotional connection with Irish people because Darina was such a charismatic brand ambassador.
Anyone can learn how to cook. Anyone that is, who really enjoys eating. I’m particularly interested in wholesome, nutritious food, produced from the very best fresh, locally produced ingredients that you can find. –Darina Allen ‘Simply Delicious’ broadcast April 17, 1990
It seems like the Ballymaloe farmhouse became the icon and the brand of this wholesome country food ethos. Today this is shown by Bord Bia’s Origin Green for local sustainable food. The farm became a vibrant center for food innovation. International food literacy festival litfest was also hosted at Ballymaloe, bringing influencers from all over the world to attend and speak at the event.
Rachel Allen attended the Ballymaloe Cookery School as a student and went on to marry Darina’s son Ivan. She is a chef at Ballymaloe and a digital influencer with more than 110k followers on Facebook. Rachel’s video posts on Facebook have organic reach of upwards of 18k views. Rachel’s announcement that she would present on ‘My Kitchen Rules UK’ received more than 600 reactions and 50 comments as of November 13, 2017.
Furthermore, Darina Allen and her brother Rory O’Connell also feature in the Ballymaloe Cookery School social media (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter). The combined reach of social media channels is approximately 50k with high levels of engagement. Darina and Rory are both food influencers, although their reach is less than Rachel’s. They could probably grow their own channels based on current and former TV audiences.
In conclusion, Ballymaloe Foods get high levels of engagement on social media platforms. A competition for a limited edition Halloween jar of the country relish achieved 40.4k reach on Facebook with over 1k engagements yet it was an organic post. As a result brand loyalty is strong with many customers tagging friends and commenting with photos of them using the product or recipes they’ve made. Part of the value proposition of the social media channels is recipes and social activity around cooking. Hence, ‘Recipe of the Month’ competitions generate high levels of engagement.
Submitted by: David Hayden