My initial reaction was - wow, what a smart way to get a lot of Facebook friends! But I think what Heinz is doing is much deeper. A long time ago, I once took a job where the previous fellow named Erik was leaving to become a product manager at a packaged food company. When I asked him what his focus was going to be, he said "K.C. Masterpiece, but particularly the potato chips co-branded with it". It was surprising to me that anyone's job could focus on something like co-branding a few products, but over the years since then I've repeatedly come across studies in the marketing field which have shown that co-branding can have a very positive effect on product sales. If chosen correctly, a combination of two products can gain the benefit of positive association from both brands in the prospect's mind, and reinforce both brands' position in the mind.
There are numerous examples of this type of co-branding we run across daily:[caption id="attachment_8017" align="aligncenter" width="578" caption="Examples of Co-Branded Products"] [/caption]
Heinz is not only building their community on Facebook, they are placing the Facebook logo on their packaging in supermarket aisles to encourage young people to select their ketchup, right at the point of the purchase decision, based on positive association with Facebook's brand. Think about it - there are really only two brands that nearly every young person interacts with today - iPod and Facebook.
Co-branded products more typically come in the form of "powered by" - "Intel Inside", "Made with Hershey Chocolate", and so on. In this case, it looks like Heinz is telling the consumer that their community of ketchup lovers is powered by Facebook - it's a bit of a stretch, but it does the job of getting that logo front and center. It will be interesting to see the inevitable writeup in Advertising Age after there's time for Heinz to gauge results of this campaign - I think it's brilliant and has a lot of potential to drive results for them.
And yes, I'm so vain I'm anticipating a friend request from Carly Simon after she reads this posting any minute now.