Posts in digital tools

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.

 

 

 

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.

How to Counter Digital Marketing Resistance

August 3rd, 2017 Posted by brand marketing, branded content, consumer behavior, Digital marketing, digital tools, Retail brand building 0 comments on “How to Counter Digital Marketing Resistance”

Five steps to engagement and mattering

Food brand communication is going through a period of disruption and change, as consumers step away from conventional media to devote more and more time to mobile screens and social channels. Digital-based outreach in both narrative and video forms is where the action is, assuming you’re intent on fishing where the fish are.

However, the vast majority of communication in food and beverage categories is essentially re-purposed advertising trying to win a nano-second of attention — in an environment where consumers run from content that appears to be a sales pitch.

Just because you’re spending and ‘getting out there’ doesn’t mean your effort is gaining traction or that your communications is delivering the desired effect and business outcomes. It is harder than ever to simply buy fame and attraction. Why?

Dawn of Digital Resistance

A new challenge is rising up to once again confirm and restate the consumer’s master control over brand engagement: digital resistance. Simply stated, the consumer manages what they’re willing to consume — and anything that starts to look like conventional selling, marketing, feature/benefit communication is getting tuned out.

The alchemy of this change is fueled by the sheer volume of marketing activity trying to secure an audience — operating in an environment where consumers direct when, how and where engagement happens. Additionally, consumers have made it abundantly clear they’re interested in content offering help more than hype. Self- reverential brand messaging and product feature/benefit selling are just not cutting it.

Yet the temptation to focus on overt selling runs deep in our business culture. We believe that if we’re not showcasing and pushing product features, we’re being derelict in our responsibilities as marketers.

Ironically this is the very behavior that shuts down the opportunity for a relationship with those consumers we wish to attract.

When communication looks less like marketing and more like coaching and guiding, traction increases.

So how do you connect without overt selling? To provide some context, here’s how marketing conditions have evolved…

We’re Now Doing Business in the Relationship Economy

In the 1970’s we reached the apex of the Industrial Economy where the focus was squarely on specialization in the marketplace, and functionality of products aimed at modernizing your life. Marketing was about tonnage of media spend and persuasion.

In the 1980’s there was a natural evolution of this condition to the Experience Economy where services rose in prominence along with brand experience in pursuit of lifestyle associations. Marketing increasingly took on the guise of cinematic entertainment.

In the mid ’90’s when the Internet truly arrived, with it came the Knowledge Economy and the empowerment of consumers to start managing the relationship with the brands they cared about. This was fueled by the arrival of access to information previously controlled solely by brands and business. Marketing morphed to be more holistic and integrate ad campaigns with promotion and PR tactics.

Today, we’re doing business in the Relationship Economy where consumers are on a mission to secure greater meaning and purpose in their lives. Consumers now fully manage the interaction with any brand they deem worthy of mattering — by “liking,” “following,” “subscribing” and “sharing” — and ultimately buying. It is a transformative business environment dominated by the influence of cultural shifts. Brands that demonstrate an empathy towards the authentic experiences and content consumers now find most compelling (like ethical behavior, honesty and transparency) will fair better in creating true engagement with the audiences they seek to court.

Five steps to meaningful brand engagement:

  1. Deep investment in consumer insight research aimed at fully understanding your core customer’s lifestyle passions, interests, concerns and desires
  2. Marketing strategy which taps into empathy around how the brand and business can truly improve the customer’s life
  3. Messaging and outreach tools founded on building relevant connections to consumers’ lifestyle interests
  4. Embedding your brand with a ‘higher purpose’ that informs your actions and behaviors helping to secure consumer trust – essential for any real relationship
  5. Communication built around content that operates in service of the customers’ interests; designed to mine emotional cues essential to gaining their attention and associating memorable storytelling moments that help endear them to your brand

It’s important to note here the advice of eminent psychologist Antonio Damasio: “We are not thinking machines that feel. We are feeling machines that think.”

Brand relationships operate in similar ways to the rules of personal friendships. As long as mutual respect is honored and the character of communication is focused on help over hype, the door to engagement will be open.

 

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 emerging and established 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.

online grocery shopping

Who Do You Trust to Squeeze Your Tomatoes?

June 27th, 2017 Posted by digital tools, food experiences, Food Trend, Healthy Living, Retail brand building, shopper behavior 0 comments on “Who Do You Trust to Squeeze Your Tomatoes?”

The ultimate test for success in the merger of premium food retail and the world’s most savvy distribution juggernaut

“And they’re off!” could well be the call to action for last week’s industry-shaking announcement that Amazon has gone deep into the bricks and mortar food retail business with its historic acquisition of the upscale Whole Foods Market chain. This sets in motion the race for grocery supremacy and, in some cases, survival in food retail’s transformative future.

Omnichannel shopping is a well reported behavioral change among consumers who may look to multiple retail outlets, as well as online formats to meet their various food shopping needs. So, the acceleration of e-commerce in concert with shifts in food retail business models is no surprise.

What makes this marriage so interesting is the merger of Amazon and its algorithm mastery, distribution, and delivery prowess, with what may arguably be the largest chain of culinary-focused, fresh, and organic food stores.

High food tech meets high food touch

Said Joe Robinson of Catapult in his MediaPost column (June 19, 2017):

“Amazon personifies convenience and it will be able to bring that benefit to the items most consumers really don’t want to shop for—those that are chores. Through a subscription plan, click and collect or home delivery, Amazon can increase the number of items available through that model. As for experience, consumers are looking for an engaging experience within the grocery format—be it a cheese tasting, wine pairing or cooking class. Amazon has now bought into more than 400 locations where it can start to bring this experience to life.”

According to the U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2017 report, released by the Food Marketing Institute and Hartman Group, 43 percent of Millennials shop online for groceries at least occasionally, leaping ahead of 28 percent just a year ago. Apparently, consumers are getting (a lot) more comfortable using online platforms to get their food.

That said, food is inherently an emotionally-driven category. And increasingly, people see food not only as a symbolic purchase of what we want the world to believe about us, but also is directly correlated to our overwhelming desire for a higher quality life. So what happens when food passion collides with food retailing technology?

Therein lies the secret to this marriage’s success and, in many respects, the future of the entire food retail industry. How should you marry food cred and expertise to ordering and delivery tech? 

Trust looms large as a barrier to growth in e-commerce beyond the inherent attractions of convenience and price. People trust their own judgment when it comes to selecting perishables, especially produce and proteins.

Case in point: I have exacting standards on the meat I will buy – and come to the butcher counter with an eye towards my own quality perceptions. Said more simply, I care and make careful choices. Why? I take great pride in the foods I prepare and the outcomes of cooking, where ingredients will often make the difference between so-so and terrific.

Belief leads to trust. And how to cultivate belief? I want to know that the people involved with my food purchase care as much about the products and cooking as I do. What evidence is there in the form of relevant content that expresses passion for fresh ingredients, higher quality and creativity in the kitchen – which is then meaningful to me, and my lifestyle?

When it comes to CPG brands and retailers, we already know Millennials are especially concerned about honesty and openness around the issues of animal welfare, sustainability, ingredient sourcing commitments and social responsibility.

Combine this with the renaissance taking place right now in the kitchen, where fresh foods go to be reworked into something creative and exciting to eat. And right there you have the ingredients for building deeper meaning and relevance in how food brands and retailers go to market.

Building food credibility is job one 

As belief is created, trust is achieved. With trust, the barriers to having others squeeze your tomatoes will come down.

In short, people need to believe that the faceless e-commerce platform indeed has a face and can be humanized around the love of food and how it’s prepared and consumed.

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.

What is the Most Powerful Marketing in the Food Business?

June 13th, 2017 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, digital tools, food experiences, Food Trend 0 comments on “What is the Most Powerful Marketing in the Food Business?”

Showing is more important than telling

Marketing expert Bernadette Jiwa recently wrote: “Harley Davidson’s most powerful marketing isn’t the details about engine size, speed or low-end torque that’s written in the brochure — it’s the stories riders tell about the feeling they get when they ride one. And often your most effective marketing may not even be done by you.”

Most efforts in food marketing will begin with telling consumers about facts and features that go into the product: its recipe, nutritionals, superior ingredients, preparation steps and taste claims. But the days of assertion marketing are at a close, as consumers move away from anything that looks like self-promotion and overt selling.

Food is experiential and cultural

Food – its preparation and enjoyment – is a social, cultural phenomenon and symbolic statement of what people would like the world to believe about them. People have connected the quality of what they put in their bodies TO the quality of their lives. Equally, they’ve discovered the benefits of flavor and experience achieved through improved cooking, preparation techniques, and the quality of the fresh ingredients they use.

The paradigm for successful food product marketing can be summed up in three equally important pillars:

  • Sharing = forging communities
  • Showing = inspiration
  • Guiding = education

In terms of effectiveness and impact, consumers’ experiences, reviews and testimonials are most compelling. It is their assessment and comments that drive belief and trust.

Community development and activation cannot be underestimated as a fundamental strategic component of the food brand marketing plan. It is mission critical to create the forums and opportunities for consumers to provide their testimonials and feedback. It is their words that fuel and validate what marketers want the world to believe.

Thus, user-generated content (UGC) is paramount. It’s important to enable and encourage consumers to share photos and videos of how they use and enjoy your brand. Make it easy to upload; create incentives to do so.

What’s the marketers’ role?

You already know we live in a content marketing world. So, the kind of content you create is key to creating the levels of engagement you expect for the funds you invest.

Guiding, coaching and teaching should be the driving force behind your content marketing plan. This is what it will look like:

  • Instructional and educational video on creative ways to use your product
  • Content that answers questions
  • Content that inspires creativity
  • Content that celebrates home cooks, food enthusiasts and their stories

This kind of marketing puts the brand in league with the consumer as a partner and facilitator of their lifestyle passions. Nothing you do will outshine the benefits of acting as tour guide to a healthy lifestyle, and showcasing the culinary ideas that make food experiences transformative and memorable.

Talking “at” consumers will not be more impactful and powerful than the sharing of their own experiences and your efforts to showcase uses and ideas relevant to their interests and culinary goals.

In sum, put the consumer at the center of your go-to-market strategies and work backwards from there!

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.

If Content Marketing Matters to Engagement, Then What’s the Right Tool?

October 26th, 2015 Posted by digital tools, Insight, Retail brand building, shopper behavior, Uncategorized 0 comments on “If Content Marketing Matters to Engagement, Then What’s the Right Tool?”

Video.

This should not be a surprise, but when it comes to engagement and shareability, two primary measures of effectiveness in content marketing outreach — video stands as a leader among tools in the tool box.

Consumers like to watch…

(more…)

Archives

Categories