Context: In an age when Instagram dictates food culture worldwide (and nowhere more so than in Japan, where the phrase “Insta-bae” [Insta-visual] was voted word-of-the-year in 2017), foodies have been migrating away from other social platforms and onto Instagram rapidly. Our challenge was to turbocharge SPAM Japan’s presence on Instagram and find a creative and effective way to leverage our community of fans to tap into their own social networks.

The Insight: Our insight was a simple one – for all that food culture has been co-opted by the lofty language of restaurant critics and high-production, Chef’s Table-esque visuality, the fact of the matter is that social media calls for a far more simple solution. Flicking through our iPhone’s keyboard one day, we realized that there must have been hundreds, if not thousands, of potential recipes using the in-built food emojis alone. And for a brand that stands for versatility as one of its two key product benefits, and in a market where 10% of all communication on the main chat app, LINE, consists of emoji stickers, we immediately knew this was fertile creative territory.

The Idea: Our idea was founded in data-driven creativity, and executed with a quirky flourish befitting of the SPAM brand: We gathered hundreds of insights into foodies’ favorite recipes by soliciting emoji-based reactions, then used data science to identify the most popular combinations of ingredients, before finally turning the whole thing into the world’s first emoji-powered food truck.

We ran a month-long social media content push in the build-up to the campaign activation, in which we surveyed our fans by asking them to pick their favorite ingredients and submit their favorite SPAM recipes using emojis alone.

From the hundreds of Instagram comments that we received, we pulled all of the emoji-based data out of the platform and analyzed it with sophisticated data science techniques. Using unsupervised machine learning, we identified the most popular combinations of ingredients that clustered together organically.

Then, having identified the top ingredients, we designed an eye-catching and unforgettable vehicle through which to deliver the message of convenience and versatility to a mass audience – an actual food truck. Playing off the summer festival (‘natsumatsuri’) season in Japan, in which food trucks are a staple of the festivities, we designed the world’s first emoji-powered food truck, where consumers just had to Direct Message their desired combination to the official SPAM Japan Instagram account, and then they would receive their very own customized, personalized SPAM Rice Bowl.