Posts in Content Marketing

Tipping the Scale on Emerging Brand Growth

July 12th, 2018 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, brand strategy, CMO, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Emerging brands, food retail strategy, Food Trend, Navigation, Transformation 0 comments on “Tipping the Scale on Emerging Brand Growth”

Writing the new rules of successful marketing

Recently Emergent became an active Mentor partner with the Food Marketing Institute’s Emerge platform. FMI, under the leadership of Julie Pryor and Margaret Core, has created Emerge to help nurture the increasingly important population of up and coming food and beverage brands. These growing businesses are gaining attention of the food buying public and occupy an ever more significant proportion of in-store real estate at food retail.

This new world of emerging brands is evidence of a dramatic shift in consumer preferences for food choices with a creation story founded in higher quality, more artisanal and sustainable attributes. These businesses are often married to a higher purpose that transcends commerce; a purpose aimed at improving the food supply, sustainable farming, battling hunger or some other altruistic commitment that imbues the business with greater meaning.

For our part, we enter the FMI Emerge relationship as Mentors – a resource that new and emerging brands most likely would not have access to until later in their development. The goal is to help scale these businesses more rapidly while avoiding some of the mistakes that can occur early in the fundamentals around marketing, packaging, distribution and channel decisions or innovation.

Reengineering of the food and beverage business

The emerging brand growth engine has attracted the interest of private equity investment and large cap CPG looking to participate in this unique, culturally relevant space. Additionally, retailers interested in leveraging this wave must adopt a new set of best practices to help support these new brands that don’t come to the table with deep-pocket promotion and brand-building budgets.

As the pendulum swings towards marketplace reward for the more entrepreneurial food brand business – where everything about their origins and path follows the beat of a different drummer than legacy CPG food brands – NEW marketing rules must also be considered and executed with commitment to maintain the specialness of these businesses.

What remains true for all participants is an interest in scale. But not scale at any cost. Great care must be exercised in building these brands to make successful expansion a reality in a shorter time span. Wrong moves can violate the very principles that sit underneath why these emerging products got traction in the first place.

Application of old-school marketing technique and thinking can interrupt and disrupt the very important reasons why consumers prefer these up and comers. It’s critical that entrepreneurs maintain the artisanal characteristics of their products which is the very reason consumers are attracted to them in their ongoing treasure hunt for new and more interesting, real food experiences.

What’s changed?

To uncover the right formula for growth, it only makes sense to understand the context that makes these businesses relevant and important to the future of the food and beverage business.

Perhaps fundamental here, is the influence of food culture cues on consumer behavior. At one time taste, price and convenience held sway in defining what consumers want. While taste remains an arbiter of anything that ultimately succeeds, other issues command consumer attention and help pull the purchase lever.

Consumers now look for cultural symbols and lifestyle relevance in the food and beverages they buy for the very reason they believe that higher quality choices help them secure a higher quality life.

Here in sum are some few of the evolutionary changes taking place which these new brands are tapping into:

  • People see food differently: higher quality, real and fresh food = higher quality and healthier lifestyle
  • Cultural markers are advancing around health and wellness, clean eating and cleaner labels, shorter ingredient lists, local sourcing, visibility to supply chain, more unique flavor profiles, even fresh versions of previously processed food ideas
  • The pace of innovation and development of new food ideas has made a quantum leap– from concept to beloved at speed — witness Ripple pea milk and Beyond Meat
  • Radical Innovation = new category creation – this is no longer a story built around line extensions of a legacy brand. Wholesale new categories and reinventions of existing ones are becoming the norm
  • Embracing small-is-good – big used to be reliable, trusted and consistent. Now craftsmanship, ingredient integrity and more culinary-inspired solutions hold sway. Smaller often translates as better quality
  • Mission mentality – what used to be understood as philanthropy has changed to represent a core belief imbedded at the onset of product development that then stretches beyond the product. It is most often anchored in a mission aimed at improving the world around us. Food brands with a true soul, if you will

Mentoring new brands

Perhaps most evident in early stages of emerging brand development are resource constraints that make optimal investments in marketing more difficult.

Yet, it also remains true that superior product experience is most vital to initial sales outcomes. The product itself is the marketing in this respect, and relies heavily on the creation story, higher quality components and more unique formulations to gain ground. Nevertheless, scale is a desired outcome for all involved and thus brand marketing will inevitably become a catalyst.

Challenges for new brands trying to scale:

  • Lack of internal seasoned marketing talent
  • Early mistakes and missteps in packaging, pricing, distribution (channel choice)
  • Inability to fully leverage differentiation in crowded product categories
  • Little to no investments in consumer insight that informs, adds relevance to the story and dials in the messaging
  • Loose, patchwork sales infrastructure
  • Supply chain inefficiencies that layer on cost and depress the ability to invest in consumer-facing communication

These conditions make intermediaries like FMI Emerge so important in growth and development. Larger CPGs and equity investors alike would also benefit from making contributions and resource investments in emerging brands that extend beyond sales and distribution infrastructure.

Emergent: The Bridge to Scale

Our agency, Emergent, is focused on these developing brand opportunities because we believe this is the future of the food and beverage industry, and so we have an obligation to support and address the need for scale on a more rapid trajectory.

To do this we help food, beverage and lifestyle brands successfully navigate the sea change from interruption style, talk-at marketing and communications to a more healthy lifestyle relevant and participatory model.

Here are some examples of appropriate guidance we make to emerging brands and CPGs working to help accelerate the pace of growth:

  • Insight research on core user lifestyle, message testing, innovation assessments
  • Wringing out inefficiencies in cost structures (supply chain) to help fund marketing
  • Improved package design and communication; telegraphing from the shelf
  • More strategic, consumer/lifestyle-relevant earned, owned and social communications assets and programs
  • Developing novel trial-generating programs and product demonstrations

In the end, our offer is a team of experienced marketing, communications and operations talent focused on the unique needs of emerging brands. We eat, live and think Emergent. Our goal with FMI Emerge is to help provide this guidance while the industry continues to transform.

Are you ready?

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.

 

WILL SOCIAL CHANNEL SHIFTS DRIVE BRANDS TO GO DIRECT?

February 23rd, 2018 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, CMO, Content Marketing, Digital marketing, digital tools, food retail strategy, Food service, Social community, Social media, social media marketing 0 comments on “WILL SOCIAL CHANNEL SHIFTS DRIVE BRANDS TO GO DIRECT?”

Brands look to better manage their own destiny

As we’ve stated many times here at Emergent, the brand that gets closest to the customer wins. Yet a form of strategic separation now descending on the food marketing universe has made it more challenging for brands to manage how that consumer closeness is achieved. These same conditions help contribute to the collapse of traditional media marketing models (about scale and control) often deployed by legacy brands to build and maintain consumer relationships.

As a result, we believe what’s ahead for CPG food may well include a large helping of direct-to-consumer outreach efforts. E-commerce growth has already redefined the business landscape, giving consumers a comfort level with buying products from home.

Retail isn’t going away, online or off, but we think a measurable percentage of the business overall may indeed move to direct-to-consumer platforms.

Meantime escalating brand participation in the “walled garden” of rented audiences in major social channels, such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, has also conveyed relationship control to these platform intermediaries. On any given day, the decisions made by these social media giants can be a good thing or bad as their policy changes impact what brands can and cannot do on their platforms.

  • Brands, now forced to reckon with the shift of business to e-commerce, are finding the complexity of cross channel marketing and online engagement has already worked to snuff out the last embers of mass media’s flame. Disappearing with mass media’s grip is the brand’s ability to efficiently leapfrog various forms of retail or other digital gatekeepers to capture consumer brand equity and preference.

Algorithm alarm bell – now what?

Food and beverage companies working to implement their brand-building strategies in social channels find themselves challenged once again, as the behemoth community aggregators like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube adjust algorithms and feed policies making it harder to organically scale audience attention and reach.

In January, the tide turned (the second time since 2016) as Facebook announced yet another round of changes that favor posts from friends and family while diminishing organic post distribution from brands and publishers. Larger, mega-influencers – who must use Pages rather than personal Facebook accounts – will face a similar audience squeeze.

More regulated content policies put greater pressure on brands in social channels to up their shareable post quality game. We believe though, these restrictive conditions will add more value to building direct consumer relationships. This means, thoughtfully reconsidering how best to connect with consumers and deploy tools that sit outside the control of social channel policy moves, through owned channels like Blogs and email (e-newsletter).

Consequently, we believe the model for food and beverage brand building may change in the next three to five years. Pepsico currently projects their annual e-commerce sales to be north of a $1 billion across direct, retailer-owned and pure play (Amazon) e-commerce channels.

Of note, many of the new and emerging brands now grabbing the marketing spotlight in food, got their start in the direct-to-consumer space, where they built a loyal fan following before venturing into retail channel distribution.

  • A classic example: in the personal care category, online brand Harry’s disrupted the legacy razor blade industry by answering consumer frustration over runaway price increases. They successfully constructed a direct-to-consumer subscription model that helped Harry’s deliver a more affordable, high-quality alternative. The new Harry’s brand story, alongside rival Dollar Shave Club, helped end Gillette’s dominance.

As consumer contentment with buying online continues to expand in adjacent businesses, Harry’s recently secured added equity investment to fund another bellwether expansion. This time into other personal care, household and baby products categories that may naturally fit into a subscription model.

Bottom line: selling directly allows the brand unfiltered and unfettered access to consumers. As such it enables a direct flow of conversation without the unexpected shifts that are occurring in third party social channels due to conflicting business interests and priorities.

Behavior changes occurring behind the curtain

We see the shift to e-commerce as an outcome of evolutionary progress – meaning anything that adds measurably to consumer convenience and satisfaction is going to get its day in the sun.

During the last decade consumers spent 12 percent less time shopping, according to Jared Koerten, senior food analyst with Euromonitor International. “Consumers are spending less time shopping (while) looking for efficiencies and ways to save time,” he said. The result is fewer conventional shopping trips while online ordering continues to accelerate.

E-commerce and the digital communications environment will continue to be a major focus of brand marketing strategies. Consumers see the value in reallocating their spare time from shopping trip to other passions and pursuits. Be that as it may, other changes are occurring in the digital universe that impact how closer consumer relationships are incubated.

Emergent’s guidance on optimizing social channel strategy:

  1. Social algorithm changes enhance the valuable role of smaller (nano) influencers and the content they create, while amplifying the need to ensure that influencer relationships are truly founded on aligned interests and subject matter relevance.
  2. Social channel policy changes that depress organic distribution and engagement will necessitate yet again, more pay-to-play activity to boost posts.
  3. There will be diversification of outreach strategies to include more investment in direct paths of communication through Blogs and email.
  4. Rise of User Generated Content as a key component of social media marketing strategy. This tactic helps sidestep the policy changes and hits the right notes on authenticity and value to brand community participants.
  5. In case you’re wondering what form of content ranks highest in shares on social channels: Infographics.

Social channel policy changes and the dynamics of e-commerce may favor a new look for brand marketing that leans in on going direct. With it comes great responsibility in how these interactions are managed – so it doesn’t appear to be just a transactional proposition.

Help over hype – always.

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.

 

 

 

Relevance Drives the Recipe for Social Media Results

February 13th, 2018 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, brand strategy, branded content, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Public Relations, Social community, Social media, storytelling 0 comments on “Relevance Drives the Recipe for Social Media Results”

Social media has emerged as one of the most important channels of communication for brands and retailers – in no small measure due to high levels of consumer participation on these platforms and in these communities. Fueling consumer traction is an opportunity for two-way communication; a dialogue rather than monologue. It is a more human and interactive environment – and thus adds value to the consumer’s life and experience by providing unique ways to engage.

  • Of note, social media participation accounts for at least one of every three minutes people spend on the Internet, according to Global Web Index.

We already know that consumers prefer to get information, guidance and ideas from voices they deem trustworthy. Social channels help fill this need as a trusted source, especially when the proportion of content generated by consumers themselves (trusted) is correctly balanced with posts created by brands (not as trusted).

The question we often get from clients starts with how to extract optimal effectiveness from social channel program investments.

Here’s the Emergent recipe for improved social channel results: 

1. Competing successfully for social attention through relevance and utility

Rule number one: social is not a conventional media platform for pushing out self-promotional sales messaging. The great divide between social channels contributing measurably to growth vs. not, begins with the relevance of content and value to the consumer’s lifestyle passions and interests. Social discourse is not advertising.

  • While this may seem intuitively obvious, we observe any number of brands using social as a traditional media play, dominated by product promotion and transactional messages.

The first step towards social media engagement success begins with mining insight into the lives and aspirations of the audiences brands wish to serve. Ideally consumer insight research is part of the overall marketing plan and can be deployed to gain a better understanding of what a brand’s core users care about. Better to truly know them rather than base the messaging map on hunches and assumptions.

From this baseline insight, we build personas – detailed descriptions of consumer segments that make up the population of users either existing or desired. The personas then inform content strategy and help design a community experience founded on relevance, and added meaning to consumer interests and lifestyle.

This approach helps guide community managers to optimize the entire social encounter around core consumers, and in doing so, feeds engagement levels and social’s holy grail – content sharing. When content delivers intrinsic value to the audience, often in an entertaining way, it gets shared and thus multiplies reach.

2. High quality content wins, every time

According to user generated content platform company Stackla, 86 percent of consumers say authenticity matters in deciding what brands they like and prefer. Additionally, 60 percent of consumers believe content from a friend or family member will influence their purchase decisions. Comparatively only 23 percent say they are influenced by content from a celebrity.

User generated content (UGC) is another key component – again founded on the fundamental construct of trusted source. UGC should be embedded as an important component of social strategy, bringing in the voices of real people and their stories as a powerful foundation of validation and proof.

  • Consumers believe each other’s experiences with a brand first and foremost; more so than self-promotional content from a brand asserting the benefits and performance of its products and services.

Balanced content strategy enhances engagement. As such, to enhance overall content effectiveness, social channel management should address an apportioned mix of:

  • User generated
  • Brand created
  • Curated third-party content

Within this content eco-system is a formula we follow to plan content on a calendar basis. We recommend that roughly 80 percent of the content track message, topic and tone that are inspirational, educational, useful or fun. The remaining 20 percent of the calendar can be devoted to brand promotions and offers.

Of note, we know that quality content is far more important than quantity in social channels. It simply takes more thought, time and effort to create material that truly benefits other people and adds value to them than inconsequential frequency-fillers. Even when aggregating user generated material it’s important to curate the posts that are interesting and informative from anything that’s not offering a coaching or relevant entertaining moment.

3. Content creation guidance

HubSpot reports that visual content is 40 times more likely to be shared on social media than other forms. This data tracks with evidence that Blog posts using photos garner much higher readership than those without. This helps explain the out-sized popularity of Instagram – especially for food and healthy lifestyle brands.

In general:

  • Show readers the lifestyle they aspire to live. If its outdoor adventure they crave, then you know where to go. If they’re kitchen commanders, help build their culinary adventure.
  • Reveal the emotion under your product story. The devotion of craftsman to craftsmanship is an emotional journey people want to take. Talk about your commitments, standards and beliefs.
  • Inject some art into product photography. Make your photos more interesting by thinking creatively about the setting and how to imbue the image with greater meaning or emotion.

4. Influencers and influencing

At the start of this post we described the anchor from which all audience blessings flow: trust. Trusted voices are the key component to securing belief among consumers. Today’s consumers are understandably skeptical, and their ‘trust threshold’ is that much higher.

Brands are no longer free to simply assert claims of superiority or better experience. Other respected sources need to corroborate what you hope to convey. Influencers are a part of this strategy.

Bloggers and third-party subject matter experts add another dimension to content plans, bringing borrowed equity and credibility to the table. So it makes sense to build and nurture a universe of relevant influencers in your category. These voices can help verify what you want people to believe, while expanding the reach of your message through their networks.

The 50 or so Bloggers who are currently part of our Emergent Media Network operate in this role as added credible voices and authorities. Our obligation in this symbiotic relationship is to bring useful, relevant, well-researched and credible story ideas to the table. Quality in equals quality out.

Social strategy is, by definition, an integration of content marketing, community building, nurturing and the aggregation of user-generated stories. When built around insight about the audience and their needs, with content they care about, an opportunity exists to earn permission for a deeper relationship – based on mutual respect and trust.

Social is, well, social.

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.

2018: Time for Real-vertising in the Go-to-Market Plan

January 10th, 2018 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, brand strategy, CMO, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Culinary inspiration, Food Trend, Healthy Living 0 comments on “2018: Time for Real-vertising in the Go-to-Market Plan”

The Four Conditions and Traps Impacting Food, Beverage and Lifestyle Brands

Last year was, if anything, another period of transformation for the food, beverage and lifestyle business as new and emerging brands took the spotlight for innovation and growth. In 2018 the impact of these conditions will require a shift in thinking and planning, as brands, both new and legacy, navigate in a business environment controlled and managed entirely by consumers.

At Emergent we are obligated to stay at the forefront of these cultural changes; providing guidance and strategic leadership to our clients and business community on how best to traverse the unprecedented pace of evolution in consumer preferences and behaviors.

  • In this article we will unpack four conditions impacting the future of food, beverage and lifestyle brands in the year ahead.
  • And flag four traps that, if left unattended, could dilute desired marketing outcomes.
  1. Product narrative IS the marketing

The single most important insight we can provide on marketing and communication is the requirement of story behind the product. Consumers want to know everything – to peer behind the curtain and go back stage to see how things work. That means we’ve entered the era of real-vertising: honest, open communication around ingredients, sourcing, sustainability, quality standards, craftsmanship markers, and product creation providing the litmus test of what should be at the center of brand and business communication strategies.

How does this play out in the plan?

  • All messaging and content must work in aligned fashion with social channel integration and community building.
  • Consumers believe the opinions of other people – especially those of friends and family members – as they are more relevant to them and operate in their best interests, ahead of a brand’s own published material.
  • Thus, aggregation and repurposing of User Generated Content (UGC) will be critical in the brand communication eco-system.
  • Video is by far and away the most preferred and shared type of content. No surprise as it is one of the most engaging and entertaining forms of communication in the toolkit.
  • The role of influencers and earned media continues to grow because of the trusted source factor that defines what works vs. what doesn’t.
  • Digital channels allow for amplification (some of it paid distribution) and repurposing of earned and influencer content, so earned media becomes a more measurable asset in the arsenal.
  1. Higher quality is the new healthy

We’ve been saying this for some time as a forecast of further evolution in food culture. It’s now a verified reality borne out in the marketplace. Examples keep piling up of higher quality fresh products and more innovative versions of legacy brands, displacing the latter while the former gains more shelf space. The premium, artisanal treasure hunt marches on!

What’s driving this? Consumers are demanding higher quality food experiences. Cleaner labels, real food ingredients, fresh products, less-processed options secure greater share position for the very reason people believe they are healthier and thus will contribute to their well-being and happiness.

  • Indulgent and healthy are no longer polar opposites, and often coalesce together as accepted experiences in a healthy lifestyle. That said, there is a trailing requirement for real food over anything that appears to be overly processed.

For legacy businesses this condition recommends a wholesale rethinking of product platforms, formulations and supply chain in an effort to upgrade and bring greater premiumization to the innovation table.

Related to the previous point about importance of product narrative, if there isn’t a compelling story to tell about ingredients, sources and quality, then there’s risk now to brand relevance. Saying, “but we’ve always done it this way,” or “it’s difficult to change our supply chain commitments” is simply going to put the business in conflict with consumer preference. New upstart, high quality businesses are advancing across a broad swath of categories from staples like mac and cheese to the meat case.

  1. Meal kit is the instrument of food adventure

We predict the meal kit business will continue to consolidate and evolve – and that it’s likely food retail will get invested in the business. The fundamental premise of a food kit is consistent with consumer preferences. Consumers are looking for fresher, higher quality meal experiences featuring ingredients with a backstory, and menus that deliver low risk experimentation with new flavors and cuisines.

We also forecast continued improvements to food kit business models making them less onerous on expensive subscriptions, providing greater ordering flexibility and ease of preparation for those who want less challenging menus.

It is food-adventure-in-a-box that gives consumers an attractive meal option and step-by-step instructions on how to execute. That said, as food retailers move into this space with fully prepared, semi prepared or scratch cook alternatives, the advantage of being able to decide a menu at a moment’s notice, we believe, will be extremely attractive to a significant segment of the consuming public.

Simply said, many households don’t plan ahead for dinner and are making preference decisions at 5 pm. It’s a form of impulse meal buying that, if available at an attractive price, will help food retail gain additional shopper traction.

Could this presage more mergers of food retail with food kit operators? Perhaps, so.

  1. Snacking is the universal meal occasion

Call it what you will – mini-meal, fuel up or reward – snacking is a predominant behavior across all day parts and is influential in the foodservice channel as well. Snacking starts early and goes late as consumers both young and old graze their way through the day.

Some of this behavior is functional and related to recognition that the human body will periodically experience lagging energy levels requiring replenishment. People now recognize the connection between food and performance, thus a compelling reason to look for hand-held options that deliver energy-enhancing protein in meat, veg and dairy forms.

  • Snacking crisscrosses indulgent and good-for-you needs with portions that seem manageable in a healthy living view. (I’m snacking on almonds as I write this).

With added pressure for performance in work, school and outside pursuits, functional snacking is likely to be a major opportunity in the year ahead for innovation. We expect retailers will devote more in-store real estate to brands in this space.

Avoiding traps that take wind out of the sales…

Trap #1 – the inauthentic mission

There’s no question that consumers look for brands with similar beliefs and values. Operating with a mission that transcends commerce itself is now a marker of a brand’s cultural relevance.

In many instances new and emerging brands are built alongside a mission designed to benefit others and contribute to making the world a better place. Authenticity couldn’t be more important.

Consumers are able to sniff out posers in relatively short order. Mission is not philanthropy. It is not something that’s bolted on to the marketing plan as a campaign theme because it’s popular now.

A real, human-relevant, and unselfish purpose is a purpose – and in the long run devotion to it will indeed maximize financial performance. Absence of real beliefs here is a trap.

Trap #2 – marketing over meaning

Want to build a closer connection with core customers? Then imbue the brand with greater meaning based on relevance to their lifestyle passions and interests. Consumers can’t be viewed as walking wallets nor should the marketing plan stray towards looking at the customer relationship as purely transactional.

The brand’s voice gets added value when its connected to the consumer’s interests, be that their love and relationship with a pet, passion for outdoor lifestyle adventures, or desire for creativity in the kitchen.

When the conversation with consumers begins with what’s relevant to them, then marketing no longer looks like traditional marketing. Instead it becomes valued and useful. Conversely overt selling is a trap and path to disconnection.

Trap #3 – trust is at the center, or not

Lack of consumer trust is perhaps the most significant destroyer of businesses over time. Instead, brands built on earning trust gain competitive advantage in the marketplace.

If trust creation is not a core component (active not passive) of the marketing plan it’s time to step back and reassess. Brand relationships today are taking on the give and take characteristics of human relationships. No lying or deception allowed.

To earn trust means putting the consumer’s welfare and wellbeing at the forefront of strategy. Not doing so it a trap.

Trap #4 – do you really know me?

It’s easy to think that as long as the business is devoted to making a quality product and standing behind it, then all is well. Yes, high quality is required. However, there’s more complexity now in building sustainable relationships with consumers.

This goes beyond knowing what flavors they prefer or their patterns of shopping behavior. It’s vital to understand the whole human, their desires, wants, needs, interests and concerns.

Today there are more tools than ever before that permit a closer look at customer lifestyle interests. Making the investment here to get close and gain greater understanding of wants and needs beyond product use, is the link to more engaging brand communication.

Too many emerging brands sidestep this important insight research requirement because the demand for building basic go-to-market infrastructure gets first priority. Yet the very thing that sits at the core of long-term success is neglected: consumer insight and relevance.

Brands are built on the back of mattering. Basing communications on hunches and assumptions about what’s meaningful and valued puts the marketing plan into a blind spot. Avoid the irrelevance trap by mining insight.

The year ahead will be a tug of war between competing channels and sources of higher quality, unique and differentiated food and lifestyle experiences. The winners in this battle for share of spend will fall to those who put the consumer first – and by virtue of doing so reap the benefits of deeper connection.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Idea Delivers Fresh Engagement and New Meaning

November 29th, 2017 Posted by brand strategy, branded content, Content Marketing, digital tools, Insight 0 comments on “Wild Idea Delivers Fresh Engagement and New Meaning”

A Turkey that shows its marketing intelligence…

Awhile back we took note that actor Matthew McConaughey had signed on with the Wild Turkey brand as marketing and creative director. Seemed at first like a bit of a stunt, however if their latest venture is any example, this pairing has inspired some relevant thinking served with effective outcomes.

So often in the adult beverage and spirits category we see the same tale told about distilleries and barreling, liquid aging and founder legacy. You can almost write the pitch from brand to brand and interchange the names; it’s an old saw of sameness laced with differing graphic elements.

  • But marketing has evolved in the face of seismic changes in how consumers behave and how their relationships with brands are built. Authenticity counts as we heralded in our last post. So, how does this play out in the real world with Kentucky bourbon? McConaughey and his colleagues at Wild Turkey mine the zeitgeist of deeper connections and meaning with an inspired idea to bring fresh turkeys at Thanksgiving to nearly every household in their headquarters town of Lawrenceburg, KY.

Two hundred and fifty employees fanned out to bring 4,500 Butterball®-donated turkeys to homes while a video crew captures the adventure in real time with McConaughey ringing doorbells. Local families opened their front doors in astonishment as the Hollywood moment unfolded in front of them.

First, the video is surprising and engaging. McConaughey himself is humanized in his role as the deliveryman of holiday cheer and thanksgiving. The reaction of people experiencing the moment was emotional, and we get to participate with them in their amazement at the generosity and celebrity touch.

The video itself is simple and captures the experience as it occurs. There’s no overt brand messaging in the traditional sense. But there’s more going on here than meets the marketing eye. It’s engagement and mattering when so much of what passes for marketing misses this objective.

We witness straightforward, honest, entertaining and emotional communication with real human value at its core. Just brilliant. This will do more for the brand than a 100 of the bottle beauty shot ads with a glowing amber pour. It’s inspired thinking that honors how marketing has changed in the era of relevance to consumers and their lives.

Additionally, Wild Turkey also donated 50,000 Thanksgiving meals to Share our Strength and another 580 turkeys to the town’s food bank. The entire project served as a launch pad for their “Friendsgiving to End Hunger” campaign aimed at securing additional matched donations to the charity partner. Here’s the sign-up landing page.

Watch the adventure here:

Perhaps we could call this approach real-vertising. It’s unexpected, honest, authentic and told in real-people terms. The Turkey distribution is a worthy cause and backed by extensions that help others in true need. Great thinking. A higher purpose served.

As someone who has never been much of a bourbon drinker, I feel compelled to go out and purchase a bottle. And that’s saying a lot for someone who considers himself more of a creative critic and creator than marketing target.

Hats off, Wild Turkey!

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 Power and Influence of User Generated Content

November 27th, 2017 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, brand strategy, change, CMO, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Food Trend, Social community, Social media, User Generated Content 0 comments on “The Power and Influence of User Generated Content”

UGC has greater influence on purchase behavior than brand-built

Marketing food and beverage brands these days can feel a bit like playing darts with the lights off – trying to hit the mark of engagement when unsure of the path to this goal. A recent global consumer study sponsored by Stackla and conducted by Market Cube, helps illuminate the pathway to delivering the kind of content that resonates with consumers. Turns out it is stories created by their contemporaries, friends and family that matters most.

The old era of interruption-style, one-way marketing has been dethroned. We now live in a content-driven world. In an effort to reach increasingly elusive consumers, brands have become self-publishers and active participants in their own social channel communities.

  • People tend to tune out and avoid anything that looks or sounds like conventional marketing, so it is vital that new thinking be applied when designing brand building content strategies.

That said consumers have also become more savvy and sophisticated in assessing the credibility of content based, in part, on the source of that information.

What kind of content is most influential to purchase decisions?

  • Eighty-six percent of consumers believe that authenticity is important when deciding about brands they will purchase, according to the study.
  • Yet 57 percent of consumers think that less than half of the brand-produced content out there is truly authentic.

What does authentic mean to consumers?

User generated content is seen as three times more authentic when it comes from friends, family and other consumers rather than content produced by the brand itself or through the voice of a celebrity spokesperson. (We think use of celebrities can be deemed credible if great care is given to genuine and natural connections to the brand, and when organic and believable messaging tone is achieved.)

People choose to believe other people like themselves first because there’s a perceived higher threshold of honesty and integrity than company-built material. Which, in the eyes of the beholder, may be seen as serving only a transactional agenda.

Here are some highlights from the research:

  • What kind of content is most authentic? Created by consumers: 60 percent. Created by brands: 20 percent.
  • 52 percent of people say they post on social media at least once a month about products they’ve purchased.
  • 39 percent of consumers say they post about food and beverages at least two times a month.
  • 76 percent of people will post on social media (mostly Facebook) after a positive experience purchasing a food or beverage product, or dining out.
  • 70 percent of the time consumers can identify an image created by a brand rather than a consumer.
  • 20 percent of consumers have un-followed a brand on social media because they thought the content was too corporate and self-serving.
  • Authenticity matters to 90 percent of Millennials, 85 percent of Gen-Xers and 80 percent of Boomers

User generated content is a highly intrusive, credible and effective form of engagement because it respects the consumer desire for honesty and integrity above all.

The litmus test for success here comes back to a fundamental understanding of what people believe. Building trust is paramount in brand communication. The voices of users and family members work more effectively here because it flows from a desire to be helpful; it’s not self-serving. For brand-created content, the aforementioned tone and spirit should be factored into messaging to help assure it conveys a human, real and believable approach that doesn’t come across as a hard sell.

The testimonial voices of happy consumers can be one of the most powerful and persuasive of tools at your brand’s disposal. So help them tell their story. Encourage this behavior in your social channels. Feature the voices of your fans and ambassadors. It’s the equivalent of a laser-guided dart hitting the bulls-eye of engagement.

The five-point UGC checklist:

  1. Create rewards for fans that share photos, videos and experiences
  2. Offer incentives for users who share content in their own networks
  3. Develop promotions and contests to solicit content and amplify distribution
  4. Embed UGC content in your email campaigns
  5. Integrate shared authentic customer experiences at your web site

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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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