We are witnessing the emergence of a new digitally informed consumer, a more thoughtful and intentional human who puts real reflection into their purchase decisions.
- They contemplate perceived impacts on health, the environment and social responsibility.
- And the influence of their actions, decisions on family, the community and the world around them.
- They look for value added attributes (purposeful mission) from brands and weigh if there’s alignment with their own principles and beliefs.
- Their purchase decisions are largely symbolic; visible evidence of what they want the world to perceive of them and their lifestyle choices.
- They want to make considered and more informed choices of the products they buy.
This experienced, media savvy cohort is rapidly becoming a diploma-carrying Master of Media Consumption – able to filter and discern useful content from masked selling. The availability of deep troves of information to anyone anywhere has resulted in agile, media-shrewd screen searchers who quickly curate what’s important to them – simultaneously discarding anything deemed as brand hype or veiled persuasion. Consumers are either found or lost based on the relevance of your communication to them.
For food and lifestyle marketers, the dilemma is crystal clear: it’s no longer enough to push the product-centric message out there. Even using social platforms and pay-per-click tactics to identify and confront consumers with a brand message based on their digital behaviors.
Whatever stack of SaaS tools might be bolted together in an effort to aggregate eyeballs and access media channels, the same challenge exists: the conscious and conscientious consumer’s frequent use of the ‘skip’ button. The consumer is in complete control.
Our study of this consumer has revealed an interesting need that brands can fulfill. Consumers have a recurring, ongoing requirement for guidance, encouragement and insight. This is what the best brands do – they counsel, advise and recommend.
- Brands in this mode can create communities of like-minded people for the purpose of sharing stories and ideas.
- Education can be offered on subjects of intrinsic interest to customers, helping enhance their ability to improve and more fully engage their passions.
- Experiences and events can be created that bring their interests to life.
Where does this leave the marketer? We think in a perfect position to assume the role of coach and valued advisor. The question begging an answer: how can brands offer useful guidance on the consumer’s journey?
Yes, this is a job for content marketing!
“Content marketing is the only marketing left,” said Seth Godin. His assessment is a telling reflection of the relentless migration from selling to helping, from persuading to listening and serving.
- It should be noted, this consumer who works routinely to get behind the corporate velvet rope and understand the details of ingredients, sourcing, integrity and company purpose, is attracted to brands that are a reflecting pool of their lifestyle preferences.
This should be qualified: content is not long-form product advertising or some facsimile of it. It is grounded in relevance and respect for the consumer’s concerns. Content marketing is a form of infotainment and reporting that engages based on the audience’s interests, more so than pushing product features.
There are clear challenges and barriers to doing it right because marketing and content priorities can occasionally fight with each other. How, you ask?
Emergent as Brand Mixologist
What happens when you attempt to put informing and educating in the same glass as pushing transactions? Minneapolis firm Clarity Cloverdale Fury recently described this scenario as an incendiary clash of agendas.
It’s a delicate balance: the blend and mix of communication in service of the company’s efforts to grow business while also acting in support of the consumer’s best interests and needs. Proportions matter. Tone and words are important. Subject is critical. Relevance is a litmus test for meaning.
Emergent employs a message map and insight-based personas system to help blend the brand into consumer relevant conversation. We have learned from experience this provides the right mix, teeing up the opportunity for mentorship while putting the brand in league with consumer lifestyle needs. We are strategic engagement and content marketing mixologists.
The challenging questions food, beverage and lifestyle brand marketers should answer: How can a brand communications platform be developed around a role of mentor and guide? What kind of content can be created that puts the brand in the position of educating and advising consumers on their relevant lifestyle interests that intersect with the business category?
Done right, and you can step beyond the ‘skip’ button and into the role of trusted ally.
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Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. 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 Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.