Posts in Content Marketing

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.

 

 

 

 

Your top marketing priority for 2020: Retool and Refine the Message

January 16th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, change, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Emotional relevance, Insight, Social media, storytelling 0 comments on “Your top marketing priority for 2020: Retool and Refine the Message”

If the message doesn’t connect, nothing works

The most important tool impacting the success of food and beverage marketing investments is the right message. If the message lacks relevance and resonance, it won’t connect – and efforts made to engage consumers fall flat no matter which channels of outreach are used.

How so? There’s an interesting example in the difference between music and noise.

  • When I was in high school and college, I was a musician and my side hustle was playing in a band. I was the lead singer and rhythm guitar player. I. Loved. Music. At the time it was my creative outlet, and in every venue we played, there was always a set where I got on stage alone with an acoustic guitar and did some solo numbers. In those moments it was me and the audience and I was singing a story. I had something to say. I wanted them to feel my emotions and relate to the lyrics. Music is an incredible medium for that purpose. It hits the head and the heart at the same moment. It can be inspiring and all encompassing. People are engaged and take the journey with you.

Technically, there’s not a ton of difference between noise and music, both are sound wave patterns. One engages and the other repels. Self-promotional marketing messaging can be static that people choose to avoid. Relevant story telling that connects to what you want in life is captivating.

“If you talked to people the way advertising talks to people, they’d punch you in the face.”   Hugh Macleod

The goal of great marketing is first to engage and then secure belief. That happens when the message is relevant and the storytelling is respectful of what the audience desires. Only then will they really listen.

Where brand messaging goes off the rails

Companies spend countless hours and resources making a terrific product. So, it’s understandable to think the marketing should be a comprehensive showcase of the technical or formulation achievements and product features. The messaging often employs language that walks and talks like fact-based selling because, after all, presumably that’s what is going on: working to convince, persuade and close the sale.

“We believe the consumer will be enamored and enthralled with our better mousetrap and will cling to every word about how we’re 25% better than brand X alongside our painstaking attention to higher quality ingredients. Just examine the enticing list of our superior features and benefits. Afterall everyone will be persuaded by the evidence, given people are logical decision makers who carefully weigh the facts before buying.” Ahem.

Well no. People are emotional creatures who move with their hearts first. How we feel in the presence of a brand is far more important than the specs of protein percentages. But more importantly, the disconnect happens earlier when the story starts with the brand as hero and not the consumer. We’ve already lost relevance at the front door of engagement. We characterize this as a form of brand narcissism.

Best practices in effective messaging

Creating a more consumer-centric brand narrative is harder to do than it looks. Cleverness isn’t the leverage point either. Clarity and connection are paramount. We must be careful not to make people work too hard to understand. Humans resist taxing the brain and tune-out quickly if the message doesn’t make immediate sense because it is too complex or indirect.

The right path follows storytelling principles that show up regularly in great music and movies.

Here are storytelling elements Emergent considers along the path.

  1. Every great story has a hero. Here, it is the consumer and their wants, needs and concerns.
  2. The hero always has a problem to overcome. What is the brand working to solve for them?
  3. A good story always has a bit of mystery – a secret, a key – something which brings context previously unknown. For food and beverage brands, we must gain insight on the most important lifestyle consideration (and its related dietary attribute) the consumer is seeking from the product – the “why” of their repeat purchases.
  4. Every strong story has a Yoda to its Luke Skywalker, helping the consumer achieve their goals, overcome adversity and create a plan. The brand operates as the consumer’s guide and coach.
  5. What can the brand further do to support and enable our hero’s lifestyle aspirations?
  6. We also help people understand what success looks like and how the brand supports their lifestyle goals.
  7. Interwoven throughout the story is the brand’s higher purpose which centers on a mission that consumers can “join” as an aligned value they embrace. The brand’s higher purpose goes beyond the product itself. This is frequently missing from the whole narrative and yet it is a key story point in driving connection.

When we make consumers the center of the story and consider their journey and desire to be part of something that’s greater than themselves, we imbue the brand with relevance and deeper meaning.

An example:

  • Beyond Meat understood that meat lovers love meat taste and its familiar texture. They carefully designed the eating experience and message to reinforce the ‘no taste sacrifice’ of a re-imagined plant-based burger.
  • The brand’s higher purpose was embedded in the environmental advantages of resources NOT consumed in plant-based meat production. They did not attempt to present the product as a vegan ‘health food’ in the traditional syntax. Nutritionals would not have supported it anyway. The words plant-based already come embedded with a healthy halo.
  • The sizzle, the cooking, the culinary adventure of fully dressed burger images all played to a latent backyard barbecue indulgence trope that have made hamburgers the most popular sandwich on earth. Boom.

The connection is interweaving burger savory indulgence with the consumer’s desire to eat healthier and bring more plant-based foods into their diet. The food science part of it is frankly less interesting and does not reside at the heart of why people decide to buy.

Apple Computer, upon Steve Jobs return from exile, embarked on a marketing campaign for the ages that focused entirely on the consumer’s journey and their desire for creativity and achievement – instead of tech specsmanship. They didn’t dwell on the machines or software but rather on the opportunity to change the world around us for the better. To Think Different. That’s higher purpose.

When the message is right, outcomes are assured

The goal is creating marketing that people actually want rather than choose to avoid. At the heart of effectiveness is messaging that resonates because it’s about the consumer’s journey and passions.

When we have a richer understanding of our consumers and their lives, it feeds proper input into the messaging model. Understanding the main lifestyle attribute they seek from the product, allows us to focus and simplify. Anchoring to a clear message is respectful of the very limited amount of time we have to communicate successfully. At the store shelf, this is mere seconds.

Emergent’s proprietary approach to message development is founded on consumer insight and making them the hero with the brand performing as expert guide. This formula is fundamental to creating marketing that works because the audience is listening.

The outcome eliminates misfires, disconnects and promotes the start of a deeper consumer relationship based on serving mutual interests. The brand’s goal is to make a difference in the consumer’s life. When that happens, the rewards are reaped in business growth.

Emergent client engagements begin with an audit of current messaging and assessments against the backdrop of category competition. This is done alongside efforts to mine consumer insight for understanding of key lifestyle aspirations and dietary attributes heavy users want to solve (key to repurchase velocity) with the product.

The plan for success

We use a proprietary mapping tool for this purpose, to bring ideas forward that overcome the key barriers to engagement.

The right messaging then informs communications tools that connect and achieve memorability, relevance, which in turn fuels growth and acquisition of new brand fans.

May we help you create a new path to marketing message success in 2020?

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Don't undercut investments in experienced marketing guidance

The Woeful Challenges of Marketing Inexperience

May 29th, 2019 Posted by brand marketing, brand strategy, CMO, Content Marketing, Digital marketing, Emerging brands, Marketing Strategy 0 comments on “The Woeful Challenges of Marketing Inexperience”

Building an emerging brand when you don’t know what you don’t know

If ever there were a time when new emerging food and beverage ideas have a chance at stardom, the golden age has arrived. Investment capital is flocking to the culturally relevant and unique, while new food ideas and innovations are popping up right and left. While the barriers to entry are lower than ever, the stakes and requirements for sound strategy are accelerating rapidly as more emerging brands compete for share of limited consumer attention and stomach. This, by the way, was the genesis idea underneath creating Emergent, the Healthy Living Agency.

Into the abyss entrepreneurs jump, entering the fray seeking to answer what looks to be a nearly insatiable appetite for new, higher quality, healthier and novel food and drink experiences. At the front door all appears promising in a world yearning for new and better.

Meatless meat, lab grown proteins, dairy milk without the cow, probiotic and prebiotic, keto kits, ancient grain snacks, pea protein-infused everything – and now in the developing pipeline – food-as-medicine. Whew. Yet many of these aspiring enterprises will encounter critical interruptions along the path; challenges to scaling the business that will relegate some to permanent small ball status and others to the heap of failed concepts.

Marketing plays a significant and important role in mitigating the challenges that exist in moving from very early adopters to scale-able mainstream audiences and wider distribution channels. More often than not, however, we encounter the misappropriation of marketing as essentially a social buzz-making proposition. Rather, it should be a disciplined strategic asset built on a foundation of sound consumer insight.

What’s lacking in the emerging brand zeitgeist is this: experienced marketing brains and early strategic, hands-on guidance – thus why Emergent is a partner in the Food Marketing Institute emerging brands “Mentor” program. There, we counsel that marketing is not just sending out a press release, filing content routinely in social channels or retaining an influencer with a foodie follower base. It is a strategic proposition that optimizes the entire go-to-market plan for growth, effectiveness, measurable outcomes and fewer mistakes.

The eight deadly sins of marketing myopia

Here in random order are eight mistakes that can impede growth and hold the emerging brand proposition back from a leading role in the evolving food and beverage industry:

  1. A form of business grade narcissism – business in love with itself to the exclusion of what’s relevant to the consumer’s passions and interests.
  2. Absence, then, of a continuous devotion to seeking consumer insight and putting the customer at the very center of business planning. One thing to say and another to do.
  3. An undernourished mission and higher purpose that should become the driver for everything the brand stands for and its ability to acquire deeper meaning and connection with consumers.
  4. Improper positioning most frequently manifested as no real discernable positioning. This should be created through careful exploration of how best to push uniqueness and differentiation.
  5. Scattered and less relevant messaging that is the outcome of not addressing the first four sins correctly, and the vanity of assuming consumers will resonate simply because it’s there (if you build it, they will come).
  6. And messaging’s twin sister, an absence of sound strategy in trade and consumer facing communication that mirrors their lifestyle aspirations and wants. This directly impacts any opportunity for engagement.
  7. A real show-stopper: a clunky packaging presentation that dilutes impact in any crowded retail setting at a time when consumers long to know more and care about the product creation backstory.
  8. Finally, failing to fully optimize the brand’s opportunity story in the context of real-world competitive advantage and own-able equity with existing and potential investors. Experienced brand and business storytellers know how to skillfully navigate this arena.

There’s simply no margin for error

No one gets a hall pass from doing the strategic heavy-lifting to refine the brand, its meaning, how it’s presented and what is conveyed. Experienced hands are needed for this work. It can be tempting for founders to think they know marketing even when their background, training and experience does not hail from this discipline.

After all, founders understand the product from the ground up, right? Yes – but, experienced marketing players grasp the consumer, the retail environment, and know the tools to refine how the entire concept is served up, and how best to make every communications dollar work like 10.

  • Emergent’s Brand Sustainability Analysis, for example, constitutes the kind of foundational work that creates a strategic anchor for a new brand to maximize its higher purpose, differentiate the concept and imbue the story with greater consumer relevance and deeper meaning.

Yet in many cases, none of this is done as new brands hire a designer for package graphics – call it “marketing” and then call it a day. Evidence of the oh-so-powerful axiom: you don’t know what you don’t know. Some of the more fully funded emerging businesses have witnessed faster acceleration because they understood the long-term importance of engaging the right marketing minds at the start.

For others it seems less of a priority because, again, owners believe they can do it themselves. The honest answer here is no. In varying degrees of involvement from guide to outsourced execution, it is wiser and better to get the marketing experience in the door early for the very reason – you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

The strength created today will, pay dividends for years to come and when you start out on the right foot good things tend to follow. Success is in the eyes of the beholder certainly. That said home runs will always be more satisfying than base hits.

Luck by the way has nothing to do with it. This is hard work that requires enough time in the saddle for those at the marketing helm who can quickly recognize, develop and separate the big ideas from anything less than that.

  • Owners create extraordinary products with a story to tell.
  • Investors invest capital to fuel the effort.
  • Marketers should shape the brand and go-to-market plan, and tell the story.

A word to founders: it’s hard to let go and it is also tempting to assume you can do anything if you put your mind to it. Engaging experienced, professional marketing talent is not a nice to have, it is essential to the future of the business because you won’t achieve jet engine results if you fuel the brand with regular, unleaded expertise.

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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.

 

 

 

How to Build a Trust Engine

April 18th, 2019 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, brand strategy, branded content, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Higher Purpose, Social media, Transparency 0 comments on “How to Build a Trust Engine”

Investing in Trust Can Deliver Marketing Efficiencies

For the last millennia, the currency of food, beverage and retail brand marketing has been awareness generation. More money has been spent in pursuit of the holy grail of being top-of-mind than any other single objective; for the oft claimed reason that awareness ideally is supposed to drive consideration and purchase. Or said another way, it’s based on the self-reverential belief that if the consumer sees a product message enough times they will buy because, after all, the product is so alluring and necessary.

What if this point of view were wrong-headed and spending dollars devoted solely to awareness creation tactics was akin to spraying water in the desert in the hopes that crops will magically manifest themselves? There may be some benefit to being continuously present for low involvement categories but even there, awareness doesn’t automatically ladder up to brand preference any longer.

Significant cultural shifts have reframed the paradigm on how brands are built that favors mattering and deeper meaning over spraying product claim messages everywhere. The focus should be on narrow-casting to an engaged audience rather than broadcasting in an effort to capture every eyeball. Mission, relevance and lifestyle connection are more important than being ubiquitous in today’s marketing best practices.

  • This brings us to banishing one myth at the start: you don’t need to appeal to everyone to be amazingly successful. In fact, the 80/20 rule prevails in many food and beverage categories — most of the revenue and profit will be derived from a relatively small cohort of committed users.

However, despite evidence that consumers tune out most of the overt marketing noise around them, we find ourselves at Emergent in the midst of frequent conversations about metrics and measurement that mostly calculates assessments of awareness building. Call it a hold-over from the Madison Avenue era, the enthusiasm for tactics in pursuit of that goal remains a dominant conversation in some annual strategic plans and spending priorities.

What if there were a better, more cost efficient and effective way to go to market?

Today, trust is the currency of successful marketing between consumers and product or retail brands. Trust cannot be ordered up from central casting. It must be earned through how the company and brand conducts itself and how its purpose is defined and brought to life.

Here is the simple truth: building trust is more cost efficient than chasing awareness. Yet companies typically outspend efforts to convert and retain customers by a 42 to 1 margin in favor of awareness building tactics. Hard to let go apparently.

What if your best customers ran your marketing?

Well of course the first push-back would be they don’t know what the company knows about the product, brand or retail deep background on features and benefits, and further they aren’t versed in the details and strategies of positioning and marketing messaging.

A moment then to pause and reflect. Feature and benefit type selling isn’t what it used to be. In a marketing environment filled to the brim with claims, assertions and hype, people increasingly find it hard to believe any of it. Additionally, consumers work overtime to avoid overt, interruption style marketing tactics. What they do understand is their own hopes, wants, dreams and aspirations.

When marketing works to align with what’s relevant to your best users, the effort takes on a whole new meaning. The goal of your strategic plan is to earn trust and that won’t happen when talking ‘at them’.

What does a trust creation engine look like?

Here are the fundamental tenets of customer-first marketing:

  1. You have to understand and care about their interests first, before yours. This requires some investment in insight research designed to better analyze what they care about. Assumptions in this area are often off the mark.
  2. Map ways your brand can make a real difference in their lives. Be intentional here.
  3. Effectiveness is achieved when your plans and messaging align the brand and business as an enabler of their hopes, needs and answers to their concerns.
  4. Be transparent and honest in your actions, business practices and communications. No more ivory tower thinking, which is now made of glass anyway.
  5. Extend transparency to openness about product creation, standards, supply chain and other aspects of how the business operates that your best customers will want to know more about.
  6. Create outreach programs around content that is relevant and meaningful to them. By definition this requires being less self-absorbed in what is conveyed. This will require a disciplined effort to refrain from the all-too-common trope of shameless self-promotion.
  7. Look to create and optimize the experiences and interactions consumers have with your brand to ensure they’re walking away with something of value (not money) to them beyond the transaction.
  8. To inform this effort, it is vital for the company and brand to build and understand its unique higher purpose and mission that transcends commerce — and creates a runway for communication around issues of meaning and importance to people and their values.
  9. Make doubly sure the company’s actions, policies and behaviors align with the mission. When ‘mission’ appears to be bolted on as a marketing maneuver and not an expression of true belief, it will fall flat.
  10. Want to have a more meaningful relationship with your best customers? Then imbue your brand with greater, deeper meaning.

No amount of marketing magic can save a soulless business or an unremarkable product. The goal of the business is to strive daily to be special, unique, memorable, useful and valuable. The foundation on which your customer relationship is built has to be about more than the product alone. That said the product is in many ways your true north so investing in quality at every point in the customer experience is now table stakes.

Without trust there is no possibility of a real relationship and the business will eventually become a commodity bought on price. Anchoring the marketing plan to trust creation is the path now to sustainable growth. It just also happens to be a less costly journey than chasing awareness for the very reason that focusing on the consumer’s needs and journey doesn’t require massive amounts of media to become sticky.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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