Posts in branded content

New rules: what to say in brand communication

March 25th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, brand messaging, branded content, Consumer insight, Emotional relevance, Navigation, storytelling 0 comments on “New rules: what to say in brand communication”

Time to stop talking about wiping down surfaces

A veritable flood of email communication is heading outward by the minute from brands and retailers, serving mostly as a reminder of hygiene activity and safety practices. While doing so is certainly admirable, it abrogates the one maxim of effective communication that, now more than ever, must be observed to build consumer trust and relationship.

First, for clarity, we recommend the hygiene regimen focused emailing should cease. It serves only to remind people of the coronavirus threat. It is also placing the company at the center of the message rather than the consumer. Hygiene has its place, but not as a lead message.

Effective storytelling begins with observing these important criteria:

  • How is my brand communication being helpful and useful to the consumer in the new conditions they find themselves?
  • How can I help improve customers’ lives at a time when homebound stresses multiply, and families are living in isolation?
  • What utility are you providing that earns permission for engagement and hence is seen as value-added rather than corporate interruption?

Successful communication places the consumer at the center of messaging

The consumer MUST be the hero of your messaging. Their needs, concerns, conditions and challenges are paramount at a time when anything else may be greeted as irrelevant or spam. Granted it’s important to provide information on safety practices and supply chain integrity. That said, you should lead content strategy with consumer-relevant stories over internal mandates.

What’s going on right now that informs messaging strategy:

  1. People are homebound and contending with the growing stresses related to confinement, absence of lifestyle options and restricted social activity.
  2. Children are out of school and disrupted from their learning routine and quality interaction with friends. Boredom is a real thing.
  3. The home is the center of the universe and meal preparation activity becomes a never-ending call to action.
  4. Online communication and contact are at a premium and is a threshold for engagement while screen time explodes.
  5. Economic uncertainty bubbles underneath as people grow wary of the quarantine consequences for business and jobs.

What to convey in your outreach messaging:

  • Be empathetic. Put the brand in league with consumer concerns during this time of crisis. A human, conversational voice is essential. Edit out corporate speak or self-promotion.
  • Offers and generous incentives are important as a thank you and to help ease the stresses on family finances. This may sound like self-promotion but it isn’t. It’s just a well-timed reward.
  • At no other time in the history of modern cultural change has health and wellness become more important. Now is the time to weigh in on stories aimed at helping people take better care of themselves, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This is your higher purpose right now.
  • The kitchen is now the center of the home universe. This is the time to become helpful on menus ideas, preparation hacks, e-commerce ordering tips, interactive cooking experiences with the kids, recipes, pantry stocking advice, food freshness guidance, home baking (the most challenging of culinary skills), and ways to take the drudgery out of home meal prep. Pivot to online cooking classes with your corporate chef.
  • Time needs filling with activities that have more going for it than consuming massive quantities of Netflix programming. Here are some ideas, advice, guidance on activities and pursuits that take advantage of the extra down time:

Music

Art projects

Reading and learning; podcast listening is on a tear

Exercise, yoga and online experiences to promote same

Meditation, mental health and wellness

Home repair and refurbishment

Pet behavioral training

Interactive activities with pets

Spring housecleaning tips

Organization and decluttering the home

Games, puzzles, and other hands-on moments of home-based entertainment

Spring gardening

Online workshops for any of these

You may be asking what’s this got to do with my business, and the answer is, it’s about them and how marketing becomes useful to people in extraordinary conditions.

Unselfishness is put to the test

Ample evidence exists that earning trust and belief is best served when the consumer believes you are genuinely concerned about them and improving their lives. At its core this requires a move towards a less selfish form of marketing that puts their intrinsic needs first.

Given the incredible circumstances in which we find ourselves, this axiom is more important than ever. Reciprocity is the guiding principle that should help direct your strategic thinking. When the brand becomes an enabler, guide and coach, you are seeding the opportunity for a welcomed and appreciated relationship.

This will require a reorientation from traditional command and control forms of marketing. However, the more enlightened approach will put your brand in position to engage at a time when there are fewer distractions. People are looking for the voices that provide useful guidance in these uncertain times.

If you need help in navigating the right message and content, we’re here to assist.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to the Emerging Trends Report.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Bloomberg: the $500 Million Marketing Misfire

March 9th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, branded content, CMO, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Emotional relevance, Higher Purpose, Insight, social media marketing, storytelling 0 comments on “Bloomberg: the $500 Million Marketing Misfire”

A compelling lesson for CPG and retail marketers

Regardless of what you think of Mike Bloomberg’s politics, his relatively short-lived candidacy for President was fueled by a pervasive, high tonnage ad campaign that ultimately flamed out.

While there were varying executions in rotation, the primary television and radio effort was a chronicle of his achievements. This approach was fundamentally flawed from the start, as it ignored the new conventions of authentic messaging engagement in the era of consumer control. It stands as a very expensive example of what not to do and a lesson to CPG and retail marketers everywhere that the new rules of consumer engagement must be acknowledged, even by well-funded political ad campaigns.

It also serves to remind us that the path to market is substantially different now, and big TV budgets are no guarantee of success. We’re doing business in a changed world where other channels (like social media) and more genuine forms of outreach matter more. The glossy cinematic ads can’t make up for an absence of genuine emotional human connection, trust and belief.

Who is the hero? Don’t Be like Mike

The prevailing message in Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign was a bulleted list –

  • Mike built a global business empire from the ground up
  • Mike took charge of the 9-11 response in New York
  • Mike made affordable housing happen on his watch
  • Mike took on the NRA
  • Mike funded college education for those in need
  • Mike stood up to the coal lobby

The list goes on. Not unlike many other campaigns we see on a regular basis, the hero of this story is Mike Bloomberg. You can see the discussions going on with his media handlers building a list of their candidate’s ‘features and benefits’ ready to fire the cannon volley about his wins and achievements. We find the same thing going on with food, beverage and lifestyle brands, building a focus around all the reasons why the product and brand are superior to the other guys.

Embedding disconnect in the message platform

The $500 million misfire started with upside-down messaging. The hero of any politician or brand story isn’t the politician or brand. It is the voter, the consumer. Every single day human beings wake up believing they are the heroes of their life journey.

It is their lives, passions, problems, struggles, concerns, needs, wants and aspirations that matter most. That’s why we build the story around the consumer as hero with the candidate or brand operating as the expert and sage guide to help them win and solve their problems.

When the hero is Mike Bloomberg, the message is now competing with voters for the hero role. It fails to engage as people move on to find the expert guide who will forge a better future for them and their families.

In the brand marketing world, so much effort goes into making the highest quality products and services that the marketing plan is laser focused on trumpeting the superior product features. Seems only logical to do so, right?

  • When the brand is the hero and not the consumer, a fundamental flaw exists that will interfere with engagement, and no amount of media spending is going to overcome that fracture.

Messaging matters to outcomes

If the messaging is wrong, nothing works – and the major media spend simply serves to push the broken agenda in more directions. Marketing investments indeed can be wasted. This is why Emergent devotes a significant amount of work upfront with clients mapping the right message platform, with the consumer as hero of the storytelling. Then and only then, will the application of media tools and channels deliver on the desired objectives.

If the consumer isn’t listening it doesn’t matter that the message shows up early and often. Technology today allows people to avoid anything they don’t see as relevant to them. People resonate to people. We want the heroes of our favorite stories to overcome the odds. Heroes are almost always flawed characters who need help to succeed. This is where the brand enters the picture as the Yoda to Luke Skywalker. You remember that Luke doubted himself all the way to the climatic end when he finally believed in the Force and his Jedi training.

Media in the new age

The goals of media planning today are about genuine, credible, believable and trusted forms of outreach. Thus, why great care must be taken when using influencers because this can work at cross purposes if post authenticity appears to be compromised by payment. Earned media is a vital channel due to the reportorial, non-paid status it holds. Social communities are destinations for people to share personal experiences, a digital form of word-of-mouth. This is why social proof is so important to earning trust.

If the goal is to help improve the lives of your users and if you are working to embed a higher purpose and deeper meaning for your brand that transcends the basics of product selling, you have a shot at creating a ‘movement’ and securing legions of fans who want your marketing rather than tuning it out.

We can help you create a more transcendent relationship with consumers and messaging they will connect with. Don’t be like Mike…

Want to discuss your challenges informally? Let’s talk.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Understanding the unique requirements of pet brand marketing

February 2nd, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, brand strategy, branded content, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Pet care, Pet food, Pet food marketing, Pet nutrition, Transparency 0 comments on “Understanding the unique requirements of pet brand marketing”

Avoid marketing misfires and create opportunities

The pet care business is dynamic, growing and vibrant, while also highly competitive with more new entrants arriving every year. Pet care is also unique in its aligned requirement for better, more strategic and consumer-centric marketing solutions.

What other food category is there where the most popular product form, kibble, is identical in appearance brand to brand. This alone requires significant leaps of faith from buyers to believe the assertions made about the quality of food ingredients inside the nugget.

It is a highly-emotional category where pet parents strive to provide the best diet they can afford for their furry family members as an active expression of their love. Yet the predominant pet food storytelling mechanism is analytical – not emotional – and based largely on protein wars “specsmanship” around percentages of real meat in the food.

Sameness on the hunt for uniqueness

One trip through the aisles and the similarity in messaging trumpets from the shelf. Meat to carb ratios, nutrition superiority, ancestral diet, grain-free, wholesome grains – offering snapshots of beautiful whole chicken, salmon filets, steaks, fresh vegetables and fruits. Human grade food images, often reminiscent of stock food photography, suggest pets are enjoying the same dinner-table fare people consume.

The similarity in brand messaging and imagery creates a blur of confusion for pet parents, who must turn to recommendations from others to get through the gauntlet of like-sounding food claims and complicated label terminology.

Messaging mayhem

At a Pet Food Forum convention, Emergent presented on marketing best practices. We created a chart showing random primary claims made at the shelf by 10 different pet brands on the left and a list of brand names on the right. We challenged the audience to match the message to the brand. In truth, they were all inter-changeable.

But more important, in every case a fundamental miscalculation was at work that embedded a disconnect in the communication.

With few exceptions, typical pet food storytelling casts the brand as the hero of the story rather than the pet parent and pet. Everyday people wake up believing they are the hero of their life story. When encountering messages that cast the brand as competing hero they continue on, still looking for an expert guide to help them solve the problems they face.

When the brand is presented as expert coach to the pet parent, dynamic changes and communication lines open up.

More often than not, pet brands focus on themselves. Understandable, given the enormous efforts to create a top quality, highly nutritious food, but inadvertently inoculating the marketing with a message that doesn’t allow the pet parent to see themselves and their profound pet relationship in the story.

The solution here is to put the pet parent at the center of strategic planning and work backwards from there. Insight to their lifestyle wants, aspirations, needs and the connection to their pet provides the grist for marketing and messaging that works.

Leap of faith?

If ever there were a product category where trust creation is paramount, pet food is it. There is significant marketing mileage to be had for brands that embrace and understand that today, people no longer accept at face value the assertions and claims made by pet brands.

People don’t trust companies – instead they trust other people.

This helps explain why year to year social media continues its upward trajectory as a key element in the marketing mix. Especially when it is respected as an independent forum for pet parents to share anecdotal stories of transformation and change for their pets.

  • All too often social channels are viewed simply as another broadcast vehicle for self-promotion. The goal in pet brand marketing is to earn trust. This is where strategy lives, embracing the opportunities offered when the brand decides to be completely transparent, opening the door to the entire product creation process for people to see and experience.

When belief is an objective, then the voices and messages employed take on new and deeper meaning. Pet parent ambassadors and outside third-party experts like Veterinary physicians and breeders can be instrumental in helping ascend the credibility mountain. Videos with the journey to the farm and kitchens that are constructed around a documentary format (unscripted interviews) rather than ad-like, help elevate the story believably.

An often-overlooked aligned opportunity are the high standards pet brands create for food safety and ingredient quality. We often find these sacrosanct rules exist, but remain largely hidden away and not brought to life (in the context as consumer as hero) as another reason to believe.

Efficiency through integration

For the most part the pet food industry is populated with small and medium sized premium players amongst a smattering of big, legacy brands. Most cannot win the marketing battle on the basis of tonnage in paid media spending. Every dollar invested needs to work like 10, and this condition amplifies the importance of an integrated approach. Even big media budgets no longer guarantee victory (ad-like outreach is increasingly ignored).

The power and effectiveness of awareness building around the important “why” of heavy user re-purchasing, works optimally when all relevant channels are operating in concert from packaging and shelf promotion, to editorial media, to branded social channel posts and how user-generated content is curated and served. This reinforces why the messaging is mission critical.

When the messaging isn’t right, nothing works to greatest impact.

All too often we find complexity in pet brand messaging that runs squarely into a roadblock on the receiving end. Too many distinct brand messages competing for attention forces people to sort through too many claims. Humans will never tax their brains to find relevance, so they simply tune out and walk away. Clarity and simplicity are stronger.

The pet business also consists of thousands of independent retailers, alongside big box and grocery. Trade relationships are critical in this environment manifesting in share of retailer perceptions and resulting linear feet. Trade facing media presents an affordable opportunity to be a dominant voice and another venue where paid and earned can be integrated to maximum effect, especially around key periods such as Global and SuperZoo trade shows.

Earned media opportunities

Earned media is a unicorn non-paid channel, in that editorial sensibility is required to successfully leverage it. Ironically, when the brand casts itself as expert guide (focusing on the issues and concerns of pet care and strives to embrace transparent operation) earned media opportunities multiply. Why? Because it’s more relevant to the audience than self-promotional brand rhetoric.

Trying to leverage ad-like promotion and self-serving events, in a media channel based around what’s newsworthy, is a recipe for non-performance. That said, there’s never been a period in the pet business when news can be served more often, than at a time when virtually every media property out there has turned to lifestyle advice and guidance to enhance their own audience relevance. Just remember the story has to look, walk and talk like news.

What’s next

The winners and losers in pet brand marketing will be driven by those who optimize their messaging for pet parent resonance, making them the hero of the brand story, while working to align company behaviors and operations with the consumer’s demand to do business with brands that embrace similar values and truths.

  • The most valued brands will prevail because they recognize ‘trusted by’ pet parents must be earned daily, and that actions speak just as loudly as words.

Previously we’ve mentioned a complimentary messaging audit as a no-risk way to have a conversation, one that provides added value. We offer it again here. If you would like a fresh perspective on your current messaging approach, let us know.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

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.

The Bond is the Basis for Better Marketing Outcomes

January 30th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, brand strategy, branded content, CMO, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Emotional relevance, Healthy lifestyle, Healthy Living, Higher Purpose, storytelling 0 comments on “The Bond is the Basis for Better Marketing Outcomes”

Missing the forest for the trees in effective communication

People crave real intimacy and authentic experiences from the brands that matter to them, but in many instances aren’t getting it.

Why not? Because marketers fail to understand the power of the bond.

Businesses are wrapped up in their technology and recipe secret sauce, extraordinary ingredient sourcing and other bits of product development magic. They become preoccupied with putting the marketing spotlight primarily on these achievements. Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, consumers unfortunately are not (and have never been) analytical creatures operating as fact-based decision-making machines. Yet many businesses still insist on presenting the evidence of choice superiority.

Doesn’t it make sense to create marketing communication that resonates, that inspires, that engages rather than broadcasting the wrong message consumers will look to avoid?

The most dramatic example of the human condition, and thus, offering a roadmap of how to re-position marketing for maximum effectiveness is…

The bond – the deep emotional connectivity people have with each other, their friends and family and their pets. When we separate out what really matters in life, the centrifuge of priorities reveals that relationships bubble to the top. But what are relationships really a living example of?

  • Trust
  • Emotional connection
  • Empathy
  • Unselfishness
  • Commitment
  • Inspiration
  • Shared purpose or experience
  • Motivation for investment in relationships

Imagine for a moment a brand being able to embrace these characteristics and operate with human qualities. How would this transform business behavior, marketing outreach, messaging and the planning that occurs around these key strategic endeavors?

Pet food is an iconic example of often analytical selling strategies leading the marketing chin at retail and in media. On any given day we find extraordinary products, made with great care and attention to nutritional quality, that present arguments based on protein levels or production capabilities designed to help maintain nutritional density.

All worthy endeavors to a one. But each fail to fully grasp the incredible bond that is driving the purchase of high-quality pet diets.

In this example, the hero of the marketing story is the pet parent and their pet. The underlying premise is the lifestyle and relationship that serves as the basis for purchase decisions. When the story telling acknowledges the emotional connectivity, the desire to express love in the form of a healthier diet, we find a treasure trove of opportunity to genuinely connect.

In human food and beverage or lifestyle categories the same principles are at work. People care about their health and wellness. They have discovered that what they ingest and how they live have a direct connection to their quality of life. Imagine for a moment engaging them on their journey as an expert guide and enabler of what they want to achieve.

Right there is the grist for a more effective and powerful form of communication that touches the heart as much as the head. This sense of higher purpose in the marketing relationship leads with ‘other centeredness’ that empathizes with the struggles and challenges people have in their daily lives.

When consumers can ‘see’ themselves in the marketing, that’s when the magic actually begins. It sounds counterintuitive to how marketing has coalesced solely around product features and benefits for a generation – because it is.

The world is different now as consumers are in control and masters of leaving the stage when marketing is self-promotional, unemotional and intentionally makes the brand the hero of the story.

Path to marketing victory

Brands are often sitting on a mountain of storytelling fuel in the personal stories of challenge and change experienced by their users. Bringing these great stories to life offers honest and trusted proof of performance, emotion, belief and transformation. It takes great skill to assemble powerful stories but just like a compelling movie script, the premise of the story is bound up in people and their unrelenting desire for improvement and overcoming roadblocks on life’s journey.

The key ingredients in activating the relationship bonds as a litmus test for marketing message strength:

  • Recognize the importance and characteristics of bonds in your own personal experience, how they operate and why they matter. This will help inform the thinking.
  • Decide the business exists to improve lives and actively participate in helping consumers solve the challenges they face.
  • Articulate the problem or challenge the brand can solve in context of the consumers journey, desires and needs.
  • Demonstrate the solution through the anecdotal stories of real people and how their lives have improved or changed.
  • Employ emotion in how these stories are told. Language matters. Words matter, so be judicious in how the message is constructed.
  • Most of all be vigilant about staying away from the traps of self-promotion. Analytical arguments that fail to recognize the consumer will also fail to engage them, when they can’t find themselves in the storytelling.

This is truly is a game of inches, and so we acknowledge here the uncertainty that CEOs and CMOs may experience in designing strategies that will function correctly. No one wants to risk a misfire.

What we all want, however, are legions of enthusiastic fans that keep coming back for repeat purchases. This is attainable when the rules of engagement are followed, and the marketing is optimized to match the characteristic needs of heart-led human beings in the digital age.

We can help you work through these challenges and open a new era of consistent engagement by creating marketing the consumer wants and embraces.

Tell us about the challenge that keeps you up at night.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

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.

When you confuse, you lose!

January 23rd, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, branded content, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Human behavior, Insight, storytelling 0 comments on “When you confuse, you lose!”

Brand messaging clarity drives effectiveness

What’s the one thing we know about humans that must be factored into the creation of effective brand messaging? People refuse to tax their brains. You lose the audience with complicated messaging which involves too many elements to digest or is too indirect.

One of the most iconic fast food ad campaigns of all time was Wendy’s, ”Where’s the Beef?” The series mocked rival chains on the size of their burgers while setting up Wendy’s as the more generous option. The message was simple, memorable and unmistakable. It was a classic move that helped advance the Wendy’s brand in a highly competitive quick service restaurant race for share of mind and stomach.

Importantly, the Wendy’s messaging was simple and direct. It didn’t strain the viewer’s brain to understand the point. Clarity was delivered in such a simple, entertaining and memorable way that the ‘Where’s the Beef?’ query went the 1980’s-version of viral and became synonymous in our lexicon for anything disappointing or lacking substance.

More often than not, brand communication suffers from complexity. Errantly, marketers believe the persuasive argument is made more convincing with point after point. So, in an effort to prove superiority, a veritable stream of benefits gets ladled into the messaging platform.

In truth, the added verbiage becomes noise for that very reason. The audience is now required to drill down and sift through multiple pieces of information. Instead of engaging, consumers shut down and run for the exit.

Simple, clear, focused

We encounter this condition all too frequently. In the era of emerging food brands with elevated ingredients and better for you recipes the laundry list of copy points is an assault on the consumer’s attention span. In many cases we find the packaging from these nascent players is a firestorm of claims, founder stories and certifications. In effect, the consumer is challenged to study all of this to determine the point that’s relevant to them. Truth is, consumers are making decisions at the shelf in a second or two and may miss the “third bullet” that might resonate with them.

Meanwhile, on the business side, retailers are closely watching velocity performance for new brands to see if repeat purchase is on the upswing. Ironically the path to managing velocity begins with insight into what heavy users (frequent re-purchasers) believe they’re getting from the product – the ’why‘ of their continued buying behavior.

  • This is a key message that should be the focus on packaging and any form of outbound communications or social strategy.

When we understand the ‘why,’ messaging can be simplified and focused, and thus an opening is provided to clean up the packaging and hone the marketing message.

Why does this matter so much to outcomes? Assuming the product already delivers on its eating experience promise, when the message is clear we achieve consumer engagement and memorability, the two decisive components of managing velocity performance.

This approach is respectful of what we know about the human predisposition to avoid taxing the brain. For example, if we determine that the best customers for a meat-based protein snack like a reformulated higher quality jerky are looking for a clean energy boost, then we know where to take the message.

What about clever?

Creative writers like to bring some artistry to the communication with the goal of being entertaining or as it’s often claimed, not boring. Again, if clever makes the message too indirect or vague, the audience will not engage. If clever and clarity can co-exist then it will work, but the acid test is always simple trumps complicated.

Words matter

I’ve been writing copy for a long time so I can tell you this is harder than it looks. A website can be pretty and visually stunning, but if the words used aren’t direct about the product promise and the ‘why,’ it won’t matter.

We agonize over word choices here at Emergent for this very reason. This is why insight research is such an important component in building the messaging platform. The more we know about the consumer’s ‘why’ –  the better the messaging will be.

Alignment is a potential pothole

Today’s skeptical consumer is less trusting and less likely to accept a brand’s assertions and promises at face value. This means that actions and behaviors by the company must align with the messaging promises being made. You have to walk like you talk. Deploying trusted voices of outside experts and real people to confirm what you convey is key to making this stick.

When the messaging is relevant and the point we wish to make is simple and clear, the consumer listens because they have found themselves in the story.

Where to go from here

Messaging should be examined through the consumer’s eyes rather than reflexively pulling from a self-promotion playbook.

We can help you optimize your messaging strategy for effectiveness and impact.

Here’s our three-step approach to messaging:

  1. Evaluate current messaging in the context of category competition
  2. Investigate the heavy user audience ’why‘ for purchase, and the critical problem you solve
  3. Apply this understanding to our messaging model that makes the consumer the hero of the story and the brand the guide

Rather than continue to experiment or wonder if the investments you’re making will secure customer engagement, let’s discuss your business priorities and messaging needs.

Said simply,Let’s talk!

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

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.

 

 

 

 

The Impact of Higher Quality Experiences on the Future of Food

September 24th, 2019 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, brand strategy, branded content, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Culinary inspiration, Culinary lifestyle, Emerging brands, Emotional relevance, food experiences, food retail strategy, Food service, Healthy lifestyle, shopper behavior 0 comments on “The Impact of Higher Quality Experiences on the Future of Food”

Once you’ve tasted an heirloom tomato you can’t go back…

For most of my adult life I have experienced a love/not love relationship with fresh tomato. The routine, ubiquitous beefsteak variety a frequent guest star that decorates the roof of a hamburger with some color. The pink flesh offers a hard, mealy somewhat bland flavor. In a salad the standard tomato as hero can be even more pronounced in its meh-ness. We hear it travels well through distribution channels and offers some shelf life. Yay.

Along comes the heirloom tomato with its erratic colors, crags, lumps and fissures to completely upend everything you think you understand about a tomato, punching your taste buds with luxurious flavor, acidity and tenderness that elevates anything it swims with. More expensive to be sure and worth every penny. Once you know this you can’t retreat to the beefsteak.

  • So it is with the continued culinary-ization of America: as higher quality food experiences forever elevate the palate and expectation of nearly everyone who eats, the baseline standard of what people want is changing with it.

Thus why strategic planning needs to address this development because as the old but very real saying goes, “times are changing and if you don’t change with them, you’re in trouble.”

What happens when the consumer is at the center of strategic planning?

If it is vital for the collective futures of food retail and food CPG companies to put the consumer at the epicenter of planning and work backwards from there, then we’re going to pay attention to cultural and behavioral shifts. The goal to sync strategies and capitalize on those insights. It is definitely not business as usual these days because the pace of change has accelerated so significantly in the last five years.

Seven observations on the changes now upon us.

The quality bar keeps rising. The impact of chefs-as-media-heroes, cooking shows, elevated corner bar food, transformation of legacy food categories with reimagined higher quality versions, and the advancement of culinary experiences at restaurants – all blend together in a perfect recipe for moving taste and quality expectations upward.

  1. Once you’ve experienced the added value of a pan reduction sauce to transform a flavor- challenged piece of chicken, you want the sauce every time.
  2. Home delivered meal kits operate as boxed culinary academies, teaching consumers about roasting techniques for vegetables, layering flavors and saucing.
  3. Higher quality ingredients and preparations now reflect the new intersection of indulgent taste and healthier. Healthy now redefined not as calorie math but the use of better quality fresh, real food ingredients, less processed and with a clean label as evidence of same.
  4. Weekends are now calendared opportunities for scratch home-cooking exploration, experiments and food adventure. Which grocery stores observe this phenomenon and move to inspire ideas, ingredient solutions, menus and culinary guidance? …More meatloaf?
  5. Maybe we’re still selling boxes, cans and bags off shelves at velocity and so there’s no time to match merchandising to the elevation of food experiences in America? Can you afford not to when disintermediating options are emerging all over the food business landscape?
  6. Restaurants are trial generators for new global flavors, cuisine exploration and realization of unique cooking techniques. Outsourced meals aren’t just about convenience on a busy night, it’s also part of the food culture milieu that’s stoking the fire of culinary excitement.
  7. Where’s the Chef de Cuisine now? He or she is a home chef operating in the kitchen looking to create, innovate and experiment with standard menus and dishes now getting an elevated makeover with layered flavors, sauces and artisanal quality ingredients.

The headline: could it be that the American home kitchen is not that far behind the restaurant kitchen, save a few thousand BTUs from the stove burner, as a place to produce distinctive flavor experiences? The answer to this query is yes. How are retailers and CPG innovators working to recognize and service this consumer? Small niche you say!? Not so fast…

In a recent report from the Hartman Group we find evidence in Compass data:

  • 39% of restaurant sourced eating occasions are efforts to lean in on the culinary skill and experience going on in the professional kitchen. Remember the quality of restaurant food keeps going up, and while doing so challenges some chain foodservice operators who are trapped in cost structures and business models that make it difficult to profitably move up.
  • 29% of at home eating occasions use cooking sauces, flavor aids, Deli prepared items, alongside higher quality produce, meat and seafood intended to replicate the restaurant experience at home.

Food culture changes are an undeniable juggernaut impacting where the ball is moving and challenging everyone to determine if they’re keeping pace with it or languishing behind.

Emergent’s guidance:

  1. Consumers want the unique, higher quality flavor experiences they find at restaurants, repurposed for them in food retail available products. Hence the emerging brand phenomena now roiling legacy CPG market shares. Consumers yearn for the surprise and delight of more innovative packaged and prepared foods.
  2. On the other side, food retail is ideally situated to sponsor artisanal exploration in cheese, baked goods, alternate proteins and cooking ingredients. Yet many find it difficult to get beyond the traditional infrastructure to position themselves in the culinary chair alongside shoppers who want more relevance and food experience in their shopping trip…and their shopping cart.

While so much preoccupation now exists with installing e-commerce platforms and digitizing the management and flow of inventory, we should not lose sight of what the consumer longs for and how we can enhance food relevance and adventure for them.

Your products and store could be a culinary Field of Dreams!

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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.

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