Food and beverage brands must move to new story…
Growing consumer concerns over health and wellness.
Evolving expectations around higher product quality.
Emerging calls for greater transparency and truth in labeling.
General cynicism toward marketing that sells ‘at them’.
In study after study consumers continue to show their lack of trust while demanding more honesty from brands vying for their spending — with rewards going to those brands that ‘get them’.
Some marketers have attempted to force-fit traditional claim and assertion style marketing tactics into digital platforms but with little success. To consumers, it still smells like conventional spin so they work to avoid it entirely.
Other marketers have smartly moved their strategic game plan to focus on building more respectful consumer relationships around alignment with lifestyle interests and aspirations.
- Yet new information and insight now coming to light suggests, while lifestyle connections remain important, there’s a new sheriff in town governing what breaks through the clutter to secure brand consideration and selection.
In many respects, this revelation makes absolute sense based on our deeper understanding of consumer skepticism and absence of trust combined with their desire for honesty, authenticity and expressions of a true soul coming from brands and businesses they choose to favor.
Seekers of truth and understanding
We’ve come to a place where marketers recognize consumer interests more fully, texturally, as they evaluate new and emerging food brands with a merit-based system. It’s important to note here first, the fundamental requirement for business growth in any category requires an unshakeable bedrock of clear brand differentiation.
Around the unwavering consumer call for standout uniqueness is an equally strong desire for better products that are also better-for-you, and culturally connected to relevant social issues such as sustainable farming, green environmentally-friendly operations and animal welfare.
The new secret sauce for accelerating food brand growth
In a recent Premium Marketing Strategy report by food industry trend expert The Hartman Group, a survey question was posed: what kind of narrative would likely cause you to select a new premium brand?
The answer wasn’t about better price or taste. Rather, consumers wanted to know more about how the product was made. Followed in close order by a related topic – the source of ingredients used to make the product; in sum, the product creation story.
So what does this mean?
It’s a gigantic red, neon flag waving three feet in front of every marketer. Consumers want to assess the merits of the food or beverage based on how and who created it.
Contained in the details of this product creation backstory is the necessary evidence of quality, healthfulness, and connection to culturally relevant practices and beliefs. Rather than accept assertions on face value, consumers want to peer under the hood, and in doing so, narrow the chance of being influenced by proverbial brand apple-polishing.
- It’s one thing to claim better-for-you, and it’s entirely another to reveal ingredients, processes, methods and sources that authentically demonstrate healthy and higher quality.
How to be the credible brand storyteller – Show Me!
So you sell hamburgers… where did the beef come from, who raised the cattle and how were they fed and cared for? About the bun and vegetables used, same need. What are your standards of quality and what about the relationships with your suppliers; their carbon footprints? How is the hamburger prepared, what evidence can be provided about food safety, ingredient integrity and freshness?
No matter the category, there’s a transparency story underneath about how you make things, how you source ingredients and what goes on in your kitchens.
This is the information that forms the basis of earning brand trust and evaluation of the brand’s relevance to consumer beliefs and cultural affiliations. Said another way, the product creation story isn’t a nice to do, rather it’s a must do in getting to active consideration.
Worried that this kind of information demand will be difficult due to weaknesses in your creation story? Then, you have a mandate to make improvements. It may be time to recognize that new premium food solutions are growing while many legacy brand businesses are losing share of heart and sales.
The strategic recipe
Armed with this consumer insight, the food and beverage path to marketing best practices begins with creating an inventory of competitively strong product attributes. These attributes will inform the rationale for how the product will credibly deliver on its key benefits.
- Important to note this should be cast as unique attributes that help elevate and separate the product from competing brands, and that make the product better at delivering its promised benefits.
- Competitively significant attributes are then integrated in storytelling about product creation and ingredient sourcing.
- This means elevated, premium production and sourcing criteria outweigh benefits in the hierarchy of successful brand outreach strategies. Thus, it’s important to cite value-added attributes not offered by legacy brands.
As the decline in consumer trust continues to chip away at the authority curve for brands, what moves in to fill the vacuum left when assertions and claims don’t resonate? A new era of food and beverage marketing opens based on a real-world reality-check about what’s inside the product.
Tangible, visible evidence of quality now passes assertions of quality in effectively reaching consumers with the motivating message. What the consumer is really saying: Show Me!
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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.