Posts in Human behavior

Marketers: Why do we insist on analytical messaging that doesn’t resonate?

September 25th, 2018 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Emotional relevance, Human behavior 0 comments on “Marketers: Why do we insist on analytical messaging that doesn’t resonate?”

The sub-conscious rules consumers’ decisions and actions…

This article is about getting results from marketing investments at a time when it seems harder than ever to achieve the desired outcome. There’s a reason and a solution.

The end of time-honored approaches…

When my career started at Ogilvy & Mather-owned Cole & Weber in Seattle, I was enamored by our disciplined approach to immerse ourselves in the client’s business. Exhaustive reviews of competitive brand communications would follow, coupled with deep download discussions on the product’s unique features and benefits. We would dissect and parse this understanding to arrive at a summary of superior claims and advantage. Sound familiar?

And all of this was based on the assumption that if consumers were exposed enough times to the essential ingredients of our client’s product benefit story, in enough places, we would deliver on the almighty combination of awareness and preference.

So where are we now?

It’s fair to say every dollar invested in brand communication comes with an expectation of business-generating result: consumer engagement and action. It is vital to note that we now have a deeper understanding of psychology, consumer behavior and a better grasp of what motivates decisions. This must be factored into how brand communications strategies are assembled.

Even so, it remains common practice to focus singularly on outlining product attributes (all about me), looking to leverage an area of uniqueness that helps separate the brand from everything else it competes with. While this remains a worthy and important part of the strategic process, it should be a secondary consideration behind looking carefully at what we know about the human involved (all about them) and how they really behave in decision making – which is, most often, without consciously thinking.

Fundamentals of more powerful communication

Let’s start with this revelation: attitude change is not the goal. (gasp)

Perhaps most important is understanding that people are feeling creatures who think, not thinking creatures who feel. This is why actions and decisions mostly occur in the sub-conscious – and without the analytical rule of rational consideration of facts, features and benefits.

Instead, we now know that emotion is perhaps the most important and powerful persuasive force, along side the comfort we inherently cherish with top-of-mind familiarity (know it) and perceived popularity (endorsed by others) of a product or service.

So if most decisions and actions are created by the sub-conscious side of the brain, why do we continue to stay focused on analytical forms of messaging that assumes people make rational decisions? History perhaps – and maybe an incorrect assumption the consumer is a fact-driven decision-making machine.

What we now understand is the unrelenting dominance of emotion. Our actions are motivated by how we feel about a brand or business. Purchase decisions are informed by the emotions people have, positive or negative, when they are in the presence of a brand – your brand.

This understanding should have a profound impact on how we go to market –especially food – which is en emotional category to begin with. Better questions to address in planning:

  1. Do we have insight into the consumer’s passions and concerns around their lifestyle and how the brand sits in service of their needs?
  2. How can the brand be an enabler of their lifestyle desires?
  3. What is the emotional fabric and connectivity we can identify between the brand and the consumer’s self-interests?
  4. How can we best mine emotion since the purchase decision is going to be made by heart rather than head?

For food brands, culinary or healthy lifestyle inspiration is a great place to start because it immediately looks at food through the experience of adventure and eating enjoyment, and the dynamics of higher quality life.

  • An example: you can emphasize educational data on the healthy benefits of vegetable consumption, or you can move on the more indulgent flavor experiences of improved vegetable preparation (roasting for example). The indulgent flavor approach will win the battle every time on increasing consumption.

Why? Because we’re human beings first – ruled by our sub-conscious and inevitably tethered to the emotions that govern what we do. This is the path we must follow we get to effectiveness and outcomes that are transformational!

Worth noting that the work produced by Cole & Weber in its heyday, that won respect and awards in the creative community, and client affections, was largely about emotional forms of outreach. It continues to be heart over head…

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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.

GENERATION ZEITGEIST – brands and social politics merge

June 2nd, 2018 Posted by brand marketing, brand strategy, change, CMO, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Healthy Living, Human behavior, Insight, Marketing Strategy 0 comments on “GENERATION ZEITGEIST – brands and social politics merge”

Wallet wields power and Z-ers are ‘voting’ with it

Alert: in two short years Gen Z will be 40 percent of all U.S. consumers. They arrive in economic primetime with a distinctive and unique point of view: economic power is a tool for social change and improvement.

Dissatisfied with politics and politicians whom they feel can’t be trusted to operate decisively for the greater good, Gen Z-ers see their purchases as influential and an expression of what they want the world around them to believe about their priorities and values.

For brands this means young people expect companies to use their influence and platforms for the greater good, to imbue their brands with greater meaning, and to create pathways for participation in something that’s meaningful.

Voting with their dollars

According to a recent study by DoSomething.org:

  • 76 percent of Gen Z-ers have purchased a brand specifically to support issues the brand stands for (this of course assumes the brand indeed stands for something beyond its product expertise, business results, and to the benefit of people and society).
  • 67 percent have stopped purchasing a brand or would do so, if the company does not operate in alignment with their beliefs and values.
  • 40 percent have used purchase power intentionally to boycott bad company behaviors and policies, or to influence improvements and change.

A more values-driven generation, Z-ers believe what you buy and where you shop or eat is a cultural, and at times political, statement. So it’s no surprise the study discovered 49 percent believe it is vital for a company to have social change initiatives in their mission and planning.

Consumerism and the channel for change

Z-ers see mainstream politics as often out of touch with social and environmental issues they deem important, such as gun control and climate change; and politicians as operating in a cycle of self-interest at the expense of others’ well-being as with DACA, healthcare, justice reform, and some aspects of the current political environment on immigration.

Importantly, this can be attributed to control. Z-ers may feel public policy operates beyond their sphere of influence, but economic power tied to social change issues, is seen as entirely within their realm of accessibility to participate in something that matters.

What’s important to note here is the focus on social change and improvement; a generation of consumers who place priority on helping the world around them, and who expect brands to participate in a meaningful way in this arena with them as a prerequisite to earning and maintaining their business.

Higher Purpose?

What is your brand and company mission beyond the balance-sheet interests? And by the way, this is not just a call for philanthropy. Check writing in service of a cause is not unimportant, but this goes beyond donations to how the company’s core purpose is configured.

For food businesses this can be about addressing issues like sustainable agriculture, improving the quality and health of food generally for people, fair wages for farm workers and fair trade practices, or taking care of those less fortunate through proactive and tangible acts and programs.

  • Of course, given we live in the era of anything that can be known will be known, it is not possible to do this with window-dressing assertions and marketing that’s disconnected from real behaviors. Z-ers can quickly assess if the brand has a soul or not, or how to sort authentic motivation from business as usual.

For this very reason, Emergent has embedded Higher Purpose assessment and evaluation as a core part of our capability – to help clients determine or refine their path to social good and mission that extends beyond product and promotion.

Z-ers see this as integral to the purchases they make. What you stand for and how you behave as a brand are under the cultural microscope. Now more than ever, pocketbook politics is a thing to be factored into plans and programs. It manifests from a core belief system sitting in service of society, people, their growth and welfare, planet earth, the environment and government policy.

If anything at Emergent we see this as refreshing and an evolutionary improvement that helps advance the role business can play beyond rewarding investors. It’s okay now to espouse beliefs, to enact efforts for social change and to put this out front as a measure of what the company believes and values.

The operable point here is the overwhelming desire people have, in all age cohorts, to be a part of something greater than themselves. This principle simply gains more importance among Z-ers who operate with intention in their purchases and active alignment with brands they care about and see as consistent with their values. In saying this, all purchases become a form of symbolic signal.

What flag are you waving?

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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.

couple cooking in kitchen

The New Kitchen Recipe: Marketing Insights and Ingredients for Healthy Living Inspiration

April 20th, 2017 Posted by Food Trend, Healthy Living, Human behavior, retail brand relevance, Uncategorized 0 comments on “The New Kitchen Recipe: Marketing Insights and Ingredients for Healthy Living Inspiration”

Kitchens have fully transformed and left behind any vestiges of being the labor-focused food prep station of yore (orange cone work zone). Instead, the room has morphed to become the most dynamic and influential household space. It’s the heart of the house – where social interaction and connection, entertainment and media consumption, healthy lifestyle expression, and food adventure all coalesce.

Life unfolds here on so many levels.

A renaissance created by cultural change

When exactly did the kitchen move from cooking conclave to heartbeat of healthy living? The origins can be traced to a cultural shift sparked by the Internet age in the late 90’s and the dawn of ‘anything that can be known will be known’ – ushering in the era of consumer control. The digital revolution allows people to indulge in unprecedented access to information about fresh food, industrial food, ingredients, sources, preparations, cooking techniques, and the impact of our food choices on both ourselves and the environment.

Fanning this spark to disruptive blaze is the unstoppable premiumization of food experience in America; a massive light bulb moment that what you eat directly impacts the quality of your life. In sum, the consumer’s desire for higher quality food and beverage experiences goes along with their higher quality lives.

Let’s face it – food is just super popular. Think Food Network, celeb chefs, food bloggers, food trucks, meal kits, cooking schools, the move to fresh and local over packaged and processed, culinary vacations, gastropubs, even school food – virtually everywhere food quality has gone up. Except on your average airline.

Further examining root causes

There is an equally intense desire to invest more time in an environment we can control while the world outside roils with uncertainty. This condition has helped catalyze a resurgence in cooking skills and culinary exploration; helping fuel the deepening bond between satiating our more sophisticated sensory interests and desire for more social attachment.

2017 Peapod Infographic

Source: Peapod – From the Pod (2016)

In fact, it is the intersection of media, food experience and the social aspects of food consumption that has transformed the kitchen area to lifestyle retreat.

Stepping back – when healthy was a narrower idea

At one point in time, healthy was ascribed to calculations of addition by subtraction. A food focused trip to ingredient eradication in service of less – sodium, sugar, fat, and calories. Healthy is no longer just a food-centric science experiment. Instead, it is a way of living that mirrors the consumer’s interest in a more fulfilling life.

Know more, be more and do more. Live better, brighter and longer. Yes, we’ve connected the dots between what we consume and do and the outcomes on health and happiness. We’ve rediscovered the true path to improved and more interesting food experiences through experimentation in the kitchen.

For this reason, we increasingly prefer to have home prepared meals over dining out – for its creative inspiration, control over experience, and ability to manage ingredients to our specs. The kitchen is now an environment that bridges media and entertainment interests with family and social interaction.

An expression of healthy living

We’ve come to appreciate a more holistic integration of mind, body, and spirit. We recognize how our choices and decisions impact the direction we take, experiences we have.

The kitchen is the hub and epicenter for much of what we do each day. Here celeb Chef Rick Bayless describes the higher purpose of food in our lives:

“I want you to cook more. It’s good for you. You know exactly what you’re nourishing yourself with… It allows you to feel the natural rhythms of life in a way that microwaved frozen dinners never can. And cooking often draws people to the table, encouraging dialogue and providing a moment to appreciate the good (and truly tasty) things in life.”

Just magic!

The implications to marketers working in and around this area in the home are deep and diverse. How can brands become enablers of creativity, personal expression, learning achievement, social discourse, family life and relationship growth?

Healthy living is more than a commitment to exercise. It’s a desire to follow a path to improved happiness and satisfaction. Brands that position themselves as facilitators of healthy lifestyle and provide resources, information, and easy-to-use tools will endear themselves to this ever-growing, engaged and active consumer base.

This is rich territory for social and experiential content and brand community building – enlarging the brand voice to rise above feature and benefit selling, to become a true partner in consumers’ lives. Oddly enough, letting go of traditional sales thinking can achieve authentic engagement and real traction.

What’s more, we unlock a treasure trove of relevance to consumer’s lives and what they care about. If brands can become a genuine healthy lifestyle coach, then we can also earn permission for a relationship built on trust and reciprocity.

The creative wheels should spin on elevating kitchen strategy – designing a viable footprint in this area of the home that fuels emotional lifestyle aspirations over tech specs. Just exciting.

Everything can be summed up in this thought:
We sit in service of the whole human being, not just the stomach.

What do you think?

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.

consumer interests and passions

What’s Ahead in 2017: Food Ideology Drives Business Growth

January 17th, 2017 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, Human behavior, retail brand relevance, shopper behavior 0 comments on “What’s Ahead in 2017: Food Ideology Drives Business Growth”

Beliefs and Business Now Bedfellows

Nielsen’s recent study, “Unlocking the Millennial Mindset” underscores just how far we’ve come on the continuum from product feature and benefit selling to something akin to religion-style commitments in how brands and retailers come to market. Millennial consumers especially expect companies to behave openly and conscientiously.

  • 81 percent want to know more about how foods are produced
  • 80 percent want access to the behind-the-scenes story on how companies operate
  • 73 percent are willing to pay more for sustainable brands
  • 81 percent are willing to pay more for foods with a health benefit
  • 51 percent check package labels for evidence of social and environmental impact

Pressing on every corner of the food and beverage industry is a pervasive consumer desire for greater meaning, higher purpose and ethical business practices from the brands and retailers they prefer.

Ideology is rapidly becoming the new ‘currency of commerce’ as consumers seek to be a part of something that’s greater than themselves. As a result deeper, genuine values and beliefs match, and in some cases exceed, improved formulas as a choice and purchase driver.

Quick litmus test:

  1. Is your business driven by a profound, visible, human-relevant belief system?
  2. Is your company grounded in and built on a higher purpose?
  3. Does your food or beverage brand have a recognizable soul?

At the root of this purpose-driven phenomenon is cultural change. And nowhere can this be seen in greater relief than the food industry’s passing of the leadership baton: emerging brands with a clear mission and belief system are gaining significant share of interest and engagement over their less ideologically-informed legacy brand forbearers.

Ideology, in fact, has risen to be an essential part of the recipe for crafting an engaging brand proposition; one that will invariably insert the consumer’s interests and passions at the top of go-to-market strategy. Some of these consumer-relevant interests and passions include:

  • Changing the food system
  • Protecting the environment
  • Eliminating hunger
  • Supporting family farming
  • Rewarding sustainable agriculture processes
  • Offering super transparency
  • Improving health and wellbeing

Brands as Enablers of Being Your Best

In essence, brands that contribute to the betterment of people and society, while rethinking industrial food practices that have defined the industry for 50 years, are on the more prosperous path. To be clear, this is deeper than company mission statement stalwarts like treating employees and vendors fairly and responsibly.

Food ideology has more in common with religious principles than it does with garden-variety mission statements.

What’s going on here? The consumer has evolved. What people care about has shifted.

The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion every year publishes the results of a national poll on New Year resolutions. And for the first time in 2017, Being a Better Person rose to number one, edging out weight loss, the perennial winner in three previous polls.

Better person-ship plays a role in how consumers are making brand and retail choices. It is an expression of their profound interest in healthy lifestyle, the environment and doing good for others.

Actions consumers take in brand purchase are now symbolic representations of the values they espouse. When a brand puts beliefs and values at the center of business strategy, it is catering to this notion of improvement in a tangible, meaningful way. The devotion to ideological principles also infers and imbues the brand with markers of higher quality and integrity.

Putting beliefs and values at the center of your business isn’t about just doing good for its own sake! In the end, brands with belief at their core are in alignment as enablers – helping people be, and achieve, their best. The metrics of this approach will continue to play out in share shifts and emergence of new categories. These new categories will arise from innovations; not just in formula or ingredients, but also in brand and business behavior and credo.

The Higher Purpose Audit

So what’s the optimal approach? There’s no one-size fits all solution. Every business is unique and requires a custom-designed approach – whether it’s refinement of a current mission or the development of a new strategy from scratch.

Emergent provides this due diligence in the form of a Higher Purpose Audit designed to assess current conditions in a client’s category, an inventory of brand and business practices and behaviors that may be aligned or inconsistent with the right ideology. We translate that audit into tangible strategies and ideas that will inform brand position, marketing and communication.

The end game: harnessing the requirement of true ideology as a business builder.

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.

digital devices

The Shattering of Mass Appeal and Media

December 22nd, 2016 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, Human behavior 0 comments on “The Shattering of Mass Appeal and Media”

Moving from scale to scoped…

In my early years at Ogilvy & Mather, the common view on media strategy was, What’s most efficient (cost per impression) against the target to deliver scale? The usual answer was TV with related assets of print, radio and outdoor arrayed to ‘surround’ the consumer. The communications agenda: tell them, tell them again, and then tell them what you told them.

Historically, it’s been “go big or go home.” Companies have scaled for efficiencies in product production, scaled up in distribution, as well as looked to scale in media. How to amass as many eyeballs with maximum delivery per dollar spent.

The hangover from this era is evidently very hard to shake. The promise of the Internet and its direct pipeline to consumers continues to be viewed as an aggregation challenge: bundling digital channels trying to achieve – wait for it – scale.

eMarketer Media SpendingDigital media spending forecasted to surpass TV in 2017.

However, the fundamentals that favor scale are coming apart. Consumers now themselves gravitate to communities of self-interest. They taper their media consumption to channels that serve those interests – often looking to be uninterrupted by interruption-style tactics. Contently recently reported on this development as the slow death or decline of conventional TV viewership as a scale provider.

In many ways, sports and awards shows are the ultimate litmus test of TV medium prowess and delivery of scale:

1. A prime example of this was the recent Olympic Games. The Rio Olympics showed cracks in the big audience veneer as ratings dropped 15 percent from the previous 2012 event in London.

Importantly, the Olympic viewership downturn is mostly in one segment: the coveted 18 to 34 year-old demographic, off a whopping 31 percent. Yet, despite this condition, NBC raked in a 20 percent increase in ad sales. Apparently, there’s a demand for at least the promise of scale.

2. NFL viewership, once a rock solid bastion of TV audience delivery, is taking a hit in 2016. The unthinkable is occurring as ratings decline for the first time.

3. The MTV Music Awards viewership was also down 34 percent. And elsewhere on the awards scene, the 2016 Academy Awards had its lowest ratings on record for the 18 to 49 segment.

Mass appeal vs. mattering

There’s something to be said for the Pareto principle 80/20 rule that a brand’s most devoted followers and fans are most often the ones who will deliver the profit.

Marketing is now shifting into smaller niche segments and micro targets of consumers who follow brands they care about and ignore everything else.

One of the most dramatic and successful examples of this in my own experience was the change by everyday cheese brand Sargento. The company moved off its “all things to all people” business approach, and refocused the brand on a narrower target of food-passionate consumers we called “Food Adventurers.”

Yes, it was hard for Sargento to let go of the previous model – as it might appear the brand was ‘ignoring’ a significant portion of the population. It was an important move for Sargento to pursue consumers who care about food experiences, ingredient quality, and pay attention to food media. Sargento grasped the meaning of being meaningful.

Sargento embraced this consumer fully and developed new products, namely Artisan Blends and similar incarnations that catered to more premium preferences. Letting go of mass-ness was genius and the outcome was an amazing transformation to observe. Yes, we had a big hand in this effort.

Want to create a more meaningful relationship with the brand or retailer’s core customer? The solution: imbue the business with greater meaning.

You simply can’t get to meaning and relationship by casting a broad vanilla net. Instead, narrowcast to a consumer who has a lifestyle passion and interest in what you do. Be it pet food, packaged food, fresh food or beverages, the benefits of getting focused are compelling.

Feeding the Monster?

Of course for a big brand, narrowcasting sounds counterintuitive – you need scale for big scale biz, right? Well, the world and its irrevocable shift in food culture will ultimately force this spoonful of marketing medicine anyway. Mass media will continue to give way to specialist channels and smaller communities of like-minded people.

It’s hard to let go of the scale addiction. We have to feed the earnings monster, right? The P&L will benefit from a refocus on cultivating relevance, meaning and purpose with consumers who care – rather than attempting to rope in the world of folk who don’t.

The freedom of this switch is palpable. The brand and business both acquire a voice and newfound depth in storytelling that go way beyond the old features and benefits “lather, rinse, repeat” outreach.

The 80/20 rule takes care of the numbers. The end result of this at full scale (pun intended), brings innovation in line with the wants and needs of fans who, in turn, come back for more.

Go scoped or go home. And yes, big food will continue to invest in new, emerging brands who have niche marketing and brand community development embedded in their DNA.

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.

ROP eBook on iPad

Purpose as Center of Business Strategy

November 17th, 2016 Posted by Human behavior, Insight, Uncategorized 0 comments on “Purpose as Center of Business Strategy”

Pros weigh in

Emergent recently formed a collaborative relationship with Toronto-based Fresh Squeezed Ideas, a firm focused on helping brands build stronger more relevant and powerful strategies through Behavioral Science research.

This move is consistent with our belief that deep understanding of consumer interests, passion and motivations is required to build communications that engage consumers powerfully and credibly.

Today, we are releasing our first joint publication Purpose: Driving Business Strategy – addressing one of the most important issues now at the forefront of building sustainable growth: rallying business and marketing plans around a company’s Higher Purpose.

Purpose Driving Business Strategy
Why? The purpose-built organization is in a much stronger position to generate meaningful relationships with consumers, who increasingly seek from the brands they care about values and beliefs that mirror their own.

Click here to download our featured article. I think you’ll find it an interesting overview of our shared insight.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this!

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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