Part 2: New Food Culture Requires New Brand Communications

October 21st, 2015 Posted by brand marketing, change, Insight, shopper behavior, Uncategorized 0 comments on “Part 2: New Food Culture Requires New Brand Communications”

As the food landscape changes, the equally disruptive media-machine upheaval reaches into and upends conventional CPG brand communications strategies – Where’s Don Draper when you really need him?

At one point in time you could write and produce images mingled with words in an artful combination for print or broadcast media – with some assurance that if the right creative alchemy were employed, skyrocketing sales were soon to follow. Almost as if another glass of scotch would inspire the turn of phrase that has people lining up outside the door?

The word Persuade was used routinely to explain the phenomenon.

Don is gone. Forever.

Now we have:

  • A better educated, informed, skeptical and discerning consumer.
  • Anything that can be known will be known about companies, their products, the ingredients, how they’re made, how employees are treated, how animals are cared for, what kinds of chemicals are involved and what’s engineered vs. not.
  • An ability to avoid or block disruptive communication on virtually any platform.
  • A fractured media environment coalescing around a sea of vertical worlds where engaged audiences exist to consume content relevant to their unique interests.
  • Historically significant sea change enabling brands to operate like publishers – but the “inform me don’t sell me” paradigm is abused so frequently that brand-created content is often shunned.
  • The consumer is in charge of all aspects of any brand relationship.
  • An entirely new marketing model is now required to take what’s real, fresh, less processed or cast in the same glow, and win the opportunity for engagement for permission to a relationship.

At Emergent, we’ve been studying this phenomenon for some time, charting the progress of new media channels, observing media consumption behaviors, watching the retail environment evolve and the media world disintegrate – so much so that newspapers alone lost $27 billion in ad revenue between 2006 and 2012.

So, how you go to market must change along with the food menu. What the primary message looks like needs to be recast. We’re operating in an environment where relevance and value to the consumer transcends any previously accepted path of promoting self-reverential recaps of product features and benefits.

Add in the new requirements of elevated food expectations, culinary expertise and higher quality responsibly sourced ingredients. What do we have?

The strongest argument ever for marrying the consumer’s love of food and the socialization of its preparation and experience – with brands now cast as enablers of the healthy-loves-culinary lifestyle.

We’ve landed square in the bulls’-eye of a new golden era of change and improvement in how food/beverages are presented and sold. Gone is the hype and now we work to help, to inform, to educate and add value to people’s lives. It’s a more difficult line to walk to be sure between the self-interests of commerce and the need for reciprocity in the relationship with consumers.

But we see this as a healthy improvement all the way around. We’re pumped.

Think experience, relevance, guidance, inspiration, creativity, insights and ideas. Romance and connect with the lifestyle experience, not the feature. Bolster with third-party credibility and provide opportunities for meaningful social engagement.


Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent Healthy Living. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for  higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

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