Posts in Supermarket strategy

People want to buy their food from other people

Pandemic launches disruption of modern supermarket model?

October 14th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, brand strategy, change, Consumer insight, Culinary lifestyle, Emerging brands, Emotional relevance, food retail strategy, Healthy lifestyle, Higher Purpose, shopper behavior, shopper experience, Supermarket strategy 0 comments on “Pandemic launches disruption of modern supermarket model?”

Symphony of logistics becomes an orchestra of societal values

For the last 30 years or more, supermarkets have operated as a highly-choreographed dance of sourcing, merchandizing and value pricing all stage-managed with intricate daily replenishing management of same. It is, in many respects, a remarkable achievement that provides the lowest cost-to-quality food on earth in an assortment depth that is the envy of the rest of the planet. The grocery store has stood as an assurance of food quality and availability, yet now arrives precariously at a moment of transformation that is far beyond the mechanics of coming in-store robots, the challenges of e-commerce friction and assorted home delivery platforms.

Strategic shift underway

Food retail may also be the most visible in-your-face demonstration of traditional brand marketing strategies borne of the post-World War II consumer packaged goods explosion; focused on a more impersonal and product feature-and-benefit form of consumer communication.

A sea change started to emerge in recent years based on an evolving consumer mindset driven about what matters most to them on the path to purchase. Witness the emergence of health and wellness as a primary driver of consumer preference, the attention now paid to transparency and supply chain integrity and a growing concern over food safety practices. All of these emerging trends have eclipsed the traditional purchase motivators of taste, price and convenience.

The Great Pandemic of 2020 pushes the envelope of change faster and farther as consumers not only connect the dots between the quality of the food they eat and their quality of life, but now see retailers and brands as active participants in their social and societal concerns and growing activism.

Two fundamental impacts of COVID 19 on behaviors and attitudes

  1. The pandemic has served to reveal the inescapable, searing questions of economic inequality, exclusion, racial prejudice and its unfairness while lighting a fire to address and solve these inequities. How this plays out will require sensitivity to the issues and strategic planning to address it openly and visibly in policy, procedure and behavior.
  2. On another front, at one time consumers aspired to improvement in their lifestyle through status signaling in conspicuous consumption of brands that elicited those feelings of aspirational identity. However, today this has fallen away, shed by a pandemic that has entirely recalibrated what matters to people. Today a brand reputation is enhanced by its social, cultural and environmental values.

Brands and retailers must add responsiveness to a requirement for higher purpose, generosity in behavior and social improvement to their actions. Do you think this transformative insight has fully translated into how brands and retailers package their story and represent themselves in the marketplace? I would say no. Or not yet, while a few are in the starting blocks and getting ready to claim their competitive advantage.

Recasting the supermarket business model

Here we find ourselves in a moment of mechanization. Robots. Digital ordering platforms. Supply chain optimization. Experiments with drones. Electronic grocery carts. Wringing more efficiency in an effort to get product A into hands B more quickly, efficiently and at lower cost.

Nothing wrong with any of this, except it may inadvertently mask the cultural trend changes that argue for a different priority around how supermarkets organize their business for success and relevance to the consumer they need to keep. Technology has its place, but there is a more human need arising that should be considered strategically, as customer-centric planning becomes a top priority.

Let’s go to the ground on this together, where the food culture ‘rubber’ meets the consumer relevance road:

For over a year we’ve been reporting on the shift to home-based meal consumption and cooking. A fair question then: what does the massive pivot to home cooking mean to supermarkets? We’re not talking about the obvious of selling more products, more often for more occasions.

The intimacy people have with food and its preparation is increasing. There’s another form of ‘closeness’ that is percolating underneath as a potential component of retail strategic uniqueness and differentiation – the two components of sustainable business growth.

People buying food from people

You may recall there was an era prior to the maturing of efficient retail when people knew the sellers and makers.

A relevant story: awhile back I had the honor and privilege of meeting Glen Kohn and his business partner at a networking event staged by Chicago’s impressive food brand incubator, The Hatchery. Later during a deeper get acquainted meeting, Glen spoke in detail about his company Prevail Jerky, an emerging super-premium brand of clean, high quality jerky snacks offering an array of culinary forward flavors.

He told the story of how his wife had food allergy challenges. He wanted to make a jerky his wife and family could enjoy. You see Glen was a smoked meat mastermind who had a personal passion for barbecue, smoking proteins and making his own bespoke jerky. He set out to perfect this high protein snack with a recipe that stripped away the legacy bad-for-you allergenic ingredients and use of nitrates, excessive sodium, artificial flavoring and sugars that dogged this dried packaged meat category since inception.

More magical in my opinion is a preparation technique, and he won’t say exactly how he does it, that improves the eating experience by making the meat less tough and chewy. Ultimately what we have here is another improved, higher quality, better-for-you product in a legacy category, with a personal story behind it. In effect, the food quality is guaranteed through Glen’s personal journey.

Even before the Pandemic sent us behind closed doors and placed an even higher premium on human contact, personal relationships were making a comeback. People want to know who the makers of their food are, where they come from, what they are about and how that translates into the product they’ve created.

  • Increasingly, we see the aisles at food retail stocked with new brands built by a person, not an R&D lab or innovation department. What was once a hall of impersonal, faceless brands, is turning into a showcase of businesses that acquire their social value through consumers’ desire to support an actual, real-life maker.

Makers bring with them values, beliefs, mission and unique standards of quality that provided deeper meaning past the better recipe. Here’s the strategic twist: while local sourcing has been popularized recently, this nuance stretches the idea further to what we’re calling Local-ism.

People now look at purchases as a statement of what they believe is important rather than flags of social status and prosperity. They are voting their beliefs and values with their wallet. The checkout lane is a voting booth. They are electing product winners with a voice, face and story. The intimacy with food goes deeper. The sense of community building gains a whole new perspective. The store is an aggregation opportunity for these stories-as-brands and a place where they can be brought to life.

  • Now retailers have an opportunity to move past the old-school model of being a seller of boxes, cans and bags off shelves at velocity on hyper-thin margins. Food retail can disrupt itself by becoming a form of neighborhood cooking club that respects the environment and the farm while supporting people who craft new food solutions that come to market with a soul. Doesn’t sound like a distribution center for factory food, does it?

What was once impersonal, transactional and formulaic, takes on some of the pastiche of the corner market where the buyer knows the seller, meets the maker and real trusted relationships take root. This is not in conflict with technology and robotics but is rather an important reflection of consumer insight to better guide retail strategy and banner differentiation.

How to think about this: efficiency only goes so far. Becoming a more human-focused business that embraces the emotional investment people have in food, its provenance and related quality is a path to relevance that beats yesterday’s reliance on store location and lower pricing to create competitive advantage. Amazon may have a tougher time with this kind of thinking.

Recommendations on humanizing food retail

  • Optimize your aisles and product assortment to feature local and emerging brands with a maker story.
  • Use your content creation platform to provide a voice for their stories – and a real, relevant reason for your customers to feel connected to the products they buy at your store.
  • Serve this up in a context that works in people’s lives around meal and snack solutions. That’s the foundation for relevance for the food-savvy consumer.
  • Marry and merge your indulgent food strategies with better-for-you as the relationship between these two draws ever closer.
  • Look past the coupon to start creating other experiences both digital and in-store that showcase your love for food adventure and culinary creativity. Love of food is something you can immediately demonstrate to your shoppers.

When you become highly differentiated, unique and relevant to people, your need to rely on heavy advertising spend to generate traffic declines. When you become remarkable in your shoppers’ eyes, people talk about their experience. Word of mouth is still the most effective form of marketing outreach at your disposal. It is an outcome of remarkable-ness.

Changing perspective may be hard to do because retail traditions and embedded thinking are more about logistics and efficiencies than experiences and food adventures. When the name of the game for decades has been how can we deliver food most cost-effectively – somewhere, we’ve lost sight of the real people who are buying the food – and meeting their needs beyond assortment and price.

When you can see merit in bringing to life the voices and stories of food makers and create ways for buyers to meet them, it lifts your banner above competing mostly on price and product range. That’s a race to the bottom no one wins and plays right into the hands of the endless digital shelf.

A supermarket chain CEO once said to me, “if you walk our office halls on any given day you may find it hard to determine if we’re in the food or hardware business. So much of what we do is too far removed from emotional connections to food and what people use it for.”

You just need to fall in love with food and its ability to transform people’s lives.

If this conversation gets you thinking and you would like to explore it further with like-minded people, use this link to start a conversation without any expectation of a business relationship save we made new friends.

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

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

Raley's food retail innovation in Truckee, CA

Imagine a Grocery Store Built on Higher Purpose

August 13th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, brand strategy, Consumer insight, Culinary lifestyle, food experiences, food retail strategy, Healthy lifestyle, Healthy Living, Higher Purpose, Marketing Strategy, Retail brand building, retail brand relevance, shopper experience, Supermarket strategy 0 comments on “Imagine a Grocery Store Built on Higher Purpose”

Food Retail Innovation Now in Truckee, CA

Raley’s, the family-owned Sacramento-based supermarket company, recently launched a new grocery store concept they envision as a model of how food retail should evolve to build consumer relevance. Located in picturesque Truckee, California, just outside Lake Tahoe, the trading area is populated with families devoted to an active, outdoor lifestyle.

Raley’s designed the store concept with Truckee’s active families in mind – visualizing a supermarket focused entirely on healthy living. The Raley’s O-N-E Market banner (Organics, Nutrition, Education) is a four-walled, 36,000 square foot better-for-you food discovery zone. Designed for people who understand there may be a direct link between what you eat and the quality of your life, the concept mirrors their desire to seek out better choices, explore a more mindful selection of products, and learn about improved nutrition. Remarkably, it is a food store that embodies owner Michael Teel’s higher purpose mantra to “change the way the world eats one plate at a time.”

“We have been on a journey for health and wellness, and Raley’s O-N-E Market is the next step in our company’s transformation,” said Chelsea Minor, Raley’s Corporate Director of Public Affairs. “Raley’s O-N-E Market offers a highly-curated assortment of products that are organic where possible, wholesome, minimally processed, sustainably sourced and offers a stage for nutrition education. We want consumers to understand why these products were selected for our shelves and why they are better options for them and the community,” she said.

Who is really in charge, merchant or customer?

For the most part grocery stores operate in reverse from consumer lifestyle insight.  The shopping design and experience is most often built from the merchant’s business model intended to move boxes, cans and bags off shelves at velocity. Thus, in many ways, grocery stores are entirely recognize-able banner to banner with merchandise schemes and traffic flow patterns that follow a commoditized approach to assortment and shopping experience.

Which begs the question: what if a store format is re-imagined as a reflection of the lifestyle interests of its core customers, instead of the other way around? “The biggest differentiator is our product mix. We emphasize foods ‘free from’ artificial ingredients, colors, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats and oils and more. We source organic where possible – in produce over 60% of the department is organic to meet consistently high standards for health, nutrition and sustainability,” reports Minor.

As evidence of that commitment Minor says shoppers will not find any conventional soft drink products inside the store. Indeed, sugar awareness is a priority at Raley’s O-N-E Market. Any cereal containing more than 25% of its total calories from added sugar per serving is identified with a ‘Higher in Added Sugar’ shelf tag. Other categories getting the sugar evaluation include Ready-to-Drink (RTD) beverages, pasta sauces, baby food, protein bars and condiments like BBQ sauce and ketchup.

To help consumers make better decisions while shopping, digital screens in the front of the store rotate messages by department providing information on healthier choices. Foodservice areas use window clings and the menu board to help convey this useful information. Better-for-you guidance is also provided in price rails at the shelf to help shoppers make informed purchase decisions.

Retailer as life partner on journey to healthier lifestyle

Raley’s believes the consumer should be equipped to shop with better information and guidance. In an effort to help them realize their healthy living ambitions, the product options they’ll encounter already lean heavily in that direction. In the high traffic meat department, attributes such as organic or anti-biotic free are flagged within an assortment that’s already curated with healthier and higher quality choices in mind.

To help fulfill the Education mission, the Truckee Raley’s O-N-E Market is their first store to have a registered dietitian on-site to interact and coach consumers. Scott Brown, Raley’s first in-store registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), is there to conduct nutrition tours, provide one-on-one healthy living consults and answer customer questions. Raley’s customer loyalty platform also gets a twist in Truckee: the “Something Extra Health” program offers biometric screenings, classes and in the future will feature vendor presentations.

“Shoppers these days want to know more and are faced with an increasingly confusing environment around navigating claims like ’natural‘ and ’plant based,’” said Minor. “We feel we have a responsibility to help explain and clarify what best practices look like in making food choices. Our role as retailer is to help them on their healthy living journey by operating as guide and coach.”

The future of food retail?

Most satisfying in our conversations with Minor and others at Raley’s was their sense of commitment and passion about what ”changing the way the world eats one plate at a time” truly means and how that plays out when you’re inside the front door. The position Raley’s O-N-E Market takes is active not passive, expressing leadership rather than go figure it out for yourself.

No one is going to beat Amazon on friction-free e-commerce, or Walmart on lower price. We have ample evidence that the middle market in grocery retail is a tough place to do business when the value proposition is based on location (getting weaker to defend) or all-things-to-all-people assortment (not a real strength anymore).

We believe the platform of highly differentiated and focused concept – especially in the Health & Wellness space – gives consumers an experience and another reason to shop brick and mortar. This is critical to food retail success and means leaning in fully to a commitment that places the customer at the center of strategic planning.

This insight must be informed by a crystal-clear higher purpose that translates into on-the-ground strategic decisions which defines and manifests in every aspect of store operation.

Human beings are emotional creatures. People are not fact-based analytical decision-making machines. We know the human sub-conscious plays a far more important role in helping guide actions and decisions than the cognitive side, yet most retailers operate on the “rational” channel.

When it’s heart-over-head, the grocery store shopping experience is enhanced by strategies that acknowledge our deep love affair with food, interesting culinary experiences and the prevailing desire for a healthy lifestyle.

  • Disney knows how to create the magic in their kingdom. Imagine a food store with the same heart and passion for food experience and how that could play out in a store setting.

Raley’s recognizes the growing importance of grocery foodservice experiences especially at a time when going to restaurants is less desirable. Yet the magic of environment and ambiance are no less important here than at the corner bistro. “Raley’s O-N-E Market includes McKinney Loft – a tribute to Steve McKinney, skier, mountaineer and local icon. The loft features plenty of seating, a beer and wine bar, bar bites, and an outdoor fireplace and large TV screens,” explains Minor.

At the crux of Raley’s likely success with Raley’s O-N-E Market is its higher purpose. This is harder to define correctly and to optimize fully. For that reason, Emergent has built a four-step plan to guide higher purpose development. You can download a copy here.

If would like to discuss this in the context of your business and its future, please use this link to start a conversation.

For more food trends, consumer insight and communications strategy follow us on Twitter @EmergentLiving.

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

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Previously Bob was Founder and CEO of Wheatley & Timmons; Founder and President of Wheatley Blair; President Ogilvy & Mather PR Chicago; President and COO Ogilvy & Mather West. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Your Brand’s Higher Purpose Right Now is Health and Wellness

April 4th, 2020 Posted by brand messaging, brand strategy, branded content, CMO, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Emotional relevance, food retail strategy, grocery e-commerce, Healthy lifestyle, Healthy Living, Higher Purpose, Insight, Supermarket strategy 0 comments on “Your Brand’s Higher Purpose Right Now is Health and Wellness”

This is the moment to help consumers adopt a healthy lifestyle

COVID 19 has changed everything for consumers, who are now looking for ways to get back in control of their lives amidst unprecedented uncertainty. Food, beverage and lifestyle brands and retailers have an enormous opportunity to step into this need right now and help consumers do the one thing that can help protect themselves and their families from the advance of the pandemic: take control of their health and wellness.

  • Strong immune systems are supported by optimal health and wellness and can be of benefit to everyone no matter their age. While the world operates uncontrollably around everyone, the ability of people to acquire healthier eating habits and experience other activities that will enhance their wellbeing, is within their grasp.

We have growing evidence that brands are becoming more relevant (important) than public institutions as a source of help and inspiration in these trying times. If you are considering where to place your bets on messaging and communications strategy, supporting health and wellness is your new calling.

Emergence of higher purpose strategy

For years now we have continued to publish routinely on the shifts in public sentiment and behavior that merit brand’s adopting a higher purpose to govern their decisions, operations and marketing. The pandemic serves as a catalyst for making this strategic endeavor a fundamental part of sound marketing best practices. The days of self-promotion and strict transactional thinking about brand building are over. More enlightened brand support is required, especially in view of the transformational change brought on by COVID-19.

Brands need a relevant, useful, valued voice right now, one that helps inspire people to adopt the changes that will help benefit their own health. This is the strategic path to establishing your brand’s higher purpose.  Content creation here can vastly improve the traction and engagement levels of brand communication in any relevant category, from better-for-you beverages to pet food.

The role of the higher purpose brand in health and wellness

The role of your brand in this important mission is as credible guide and advisor on the path to enhanced health and wellbeing. The instruments to deploy include:

  • Healthier eating, preparations and menus
  • Enhanced exercise and wellness regimens
  • Improved sleep, relaxation and physical renewal
  • Stress reduction and emotional management
  • Family engagement, learning and relationship development
  • Integration of pet lifestyle in all of the above
  • E-commerce shopping tips and guidance to navigate dietary and wellness objectives

Stated simply, the best path is a holistic one that recognizes the integration of physical, emotional and spiritual needs – fundamental to enriching the lives of your customers and making a difference in how they successfully address the upheaval they’re experiencing.

Deployment of third-party voices

Key to activation is the use of outside third-party voices to help tell your story. Whether they are ‘real consumer brand fans’ who want to be of help to those around them, or experts in these subject matters areas from nutrition to culinary guidance.

Restaurant businesses are not faring well, and your efforts here could provide a new voice and relevance to chefs at a time when they need other channels of opportunity. Believe me, they want to help, too.

This is not the time to go dark

Ample evidence exists that brands who continue to invest, who continue to actively engage their consumers, come out ahead in sales growth and market share positions during tough economic times. Consumers remain open to receiving marketing messages from brands, especially those that have their best interests at heart.

However, the character of the message becomes ever more important and why the health and wellness platform for communications is directionally significant. Helping people get back in control of their lives is an important call to action. You have an opportunity here to earn their trust and their attention.

How Emergent can help you

  1. We can help you shape strategy around a higher purpose mission, tailored to the unique characteristics of your brand, business and consumer.
  2. We can build a compelling messaging platform that provides guidance to all external and internal communications efforts.
  3. We can help you identify and secure the right outside voices to help build trust and validate what you want people to know and believe.
  4. We can help you create content and execute outreach in earned, owned, paid and social channels of communication.

Let us know your questions and challenges. We’re happy to help in any way we can.

After all, we’re all in this together.

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

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

Stark reality of rapid change mandates marketing shift

March 24th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, brand strategy, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, e-commerce, Higher Purpose, Marketing Strategy, Supermarket strategy 0 comments on “Stark reality of rapid change mandates marketing shift”

Guidance as new voice required in the face of cultural upheaval

Whatever the marketing plan looked like four months ago, it’s changing now in the face of a new reality and shifts in consumer attitude. Here we will chart the conditions and explain an enlightened approach.

So you understand what sits underneath the shifts:

Awhile back when we were engaged in the home safety products category, we had access to reams of quantitative and qualitative research to help us understand what the barriers were to purchase of potentially lifesaving products. The primary hill climb can be summed up in six words: “It will never happen to me.” Home fires, carbon monoxide incidents and other similar close-to-home threats happen to “other people,” consumers believed. This complacency could only be disrupted when confronted with real people stories of loss and tragedy.

The self-assessment people made was, never in my backyard. Now that sentiment has broadly shifted.

The unfolding events around us all has created a new reality. The change can be summed again in a statement, only modified as “it CAN happen to me.” We are witnessing the emergence of primal fear, anxiety nourished with uncertainty, multiplied by the speed of change going on and accelerated by public policy moves in an effort to flatten the curve of pandemic impact.

People believe they are truly vulnerable, while news reports of continued escalation in COVID-19 cases operates as confirmation of that view.

What does this mean to you? There is a rapidly increasing need for emotional support and preparedness. If you’re wondering whether or not consumers are paying attention to your behaviors and communication, a new research report suggests they are closely watching your moves.

  • Gfk research has been tracking the changes and in a recent report said that 73 percent of consumers say how companies react and handle the unfolding crisis will have an impact on future purchase decisions. No surprise, 85 percent of Gfk respondents indicated the virus is impacting their shopping behaviors, presaging a significant, and likely lasting, migration to e-commerce channels.

Primary call to action: consumers are looking for “a brand I can trust to guide me.” Thus, it’s time to step back and take a hard look at what initiatives and outreach in your current efforts are specifically addressing the need for trust creation.

Trust and safety are paramount

  • How are you expressing and addressing empathy and support for the lifestyle upheaval and anxiety people are experiencing?
  • Can you help people answer and manage the emergence of ‘family cabin fever’ conditions in the home?
  • Can you provide lifestyle encouragement, advice and ideas to help home-bound families continue healthy living regimens and behaviors?
  • Of note here, the more ‘unexpected’ it is from you in the areas to try to be helpful in, the more unselfish and trustworthy you appear.
  • Time to enable and encourage community conversation of shared experiences and events in your social channels. People need a place to engage and share.
  • Reveal details of your ingredient safety and testing standards in product creation. In fact, generally there has never been a better time than now to be transparent about everything.
  • What are your manufacturing hygiene protocols and safety procedures?
  • For emerging brands, communicate your supply chain integrity and ability to continue the regular flow of products to distribution. If there are limitations in this area, explain them openly and honestly.
  • For food retailers, your customers are going to hit exhaustion with home meal preparation 24/7. How can you amp up your prepared meal solutions business to bring some welcome relief for home chef monotony syndrome?

Engagement likely to be at an all-time high

With fewer distractions and a feast of extra time on their hands, people will be more open to engagement and have the bandwidth to pay attention. Content creation strategies can help fill the void. That said, it’s important to observe the rules of being helpful and useful over product promotion hype.

In 2008 and 09 when the economy tanked, a great lesson was served to businesses everywhere. Companies that continued to invest and communicate experienced share gains over rivals who answered the soft economic conditions by going into a fiscal fetal position.

You have the chance now to be seen and heard. What you say will impact perceptions of your ability to be trusted and of value to consumers’ rapidly changing lives.

If you need help navigating in this time of great change, please let us know.

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

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

Alert: Buying Patterns in Full Shift

March 17th, 2020 Posted by change, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Digital ordering, e-commerce, grocery e-commerce, Growth, Higher Purpose, Insight, Social media, Supermarket strategy 0 comments on “Alert: Buying Patterns in Full Shift”

Marketing now with meaning and empathy

According to Marketing Dive and research from DISQO, online search and purchase behavior has increased 59 percent in the last week, led by cleaning supplies and health aids, while massive sales bumps are occurring also around shelf-stable food and beverage products. The extraordinary conditions reveal signs of an emerging new phase, ‘Quarantine or Restricted Living’ preparation as consumers hunker down at home for the long haul.

On Monday, Amazon announced hiring of 100,000 new positions to help them keep up with the surge in online transactions and added pressures on their delivery infrastructure. Meanwhile restaurant companies are in full pivot mode, making new moves to answer the need for curated family meals available through pick-up and delivery.

  • One restaurant in Chicago, Prairie Grass Café, has opened a hotline service called From Our Kitchen to Yours, in an effort to help home cooks with guidance and advice on cooking and meal preparation. Meanwhile Weber Grill is creating Family Grill Packs, available through DoorDash delivery or takeout.

E-commerce transactions are likely to increase dramatically in the coming weeks, as people increasingly stay put, under guidance from the Center for Disease Control and state/local governments and departments of health. Emergent forecasts these behavioral moves will likely represent a lasting change that will usher in a new era of online food shopping and meal acquisition from a variety of sources. Removing friction from online search, menu-building, transactions and delivery will be vital as this story unfolds.

Marketing in the midst of uncertainty

It is important that brands approach marketing by leaning in with empathy and deeper meaning, working to be useful and helpful in this unprecedented environment. The question marketing teams should be asking: how can we help families cope with the stresses they are facing, the lifestyle upheaval of home-bound living, and the requirement of cooking and preparing virtually every meal?

This is the opportunity to be a partner and valued voice, helping consumers with these challenges rather than focusing on product feature/benefit selling. Before you is an opportunity to build lasting relationships that positions the brand with higher purpose, as a more human and approachable, trusted guide and resource.

Positive indicators

Businesses in food, beverage, pet, cleaning, health aids, and home-related categories are likely to prosper in the current situation, along with e-commerce platforms and delivery services.

We will get through this together. Brands will emerge on the other side as more enlightened, authentic and trustworthy businesses truly making a difference in customers’ lives.

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

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

Coronavirus Call to Action for CPG and Retail

March 13th, 2020 Posted by Agency Services, CMO, consumer behavior, e-commerce, Emotional relevance, food retail strategy, Human behavior, Insight, Retail brand building, Social media, Supermarket strategy, Validation 1 comment on “Coronavirus Call to Action for CPG and Retail”

Your next moves to retain trust and reputation

Right now, your consumers are worried, bewildered, concerned and uncertain about what shoes might drop next. They are being sent home from the office, schools are shutting, sports and entertainment events are gone, Spring break vacations are upended, and the future impacts of the pandemic are hard to predict.

We know you equally have concerns and are working hard to address any uncertainties. We’re with you and know your heart is in the right place.

This is a significant moment on the continuum where brand trust and reputation can be secured or injured. What you do next will matter, and it’s important to note that communication may be one of the most important assets at your disposal.

  • Honest, transparent messaging breeds trust and feeds patience, while silence will fuel uncertainty and dilute confidence.

Number one: communicate early and often

This is not the time to be quiet. If you make or sell a consumable product, especially food, beverages or pet food, people are worried about what comes next. Here’s what they want to know, right now.

For CPG

  1. Is there anything going on in your supply chain that will negatively impact the availability of your products? You may not have all the answers but it’s better to communicate current status than to stay silent. What you don’t know you state as such.
  2. What’s happening in your manufacturing, whether that be your own facilities or co-packers, with respect to employee activity, plant hygiene, and mitigation plans should people be sent home?
  3. What are your standards, methods, procedures on maintaining vigilance over ingredient integrity and safety, and testing for same through the product creation process?
  4. How can they get your products and services online? We know that feels like a ‘water is wet’ type question but it’s important and should be addressed in these conditions.

For retailers

  1. Are you able you keep customers apprised of out-of-stocks and shelf replenishment schedules?
  2. Can your pharmacy experts set aside scheduled time for by-phone consultations or online Q&A’s?
  3. Are you signaling home delivery wait times when capacity is stretched?
  4. What are your food handling an on-premise hygiene policies and procedures to help avoid any contamination?

The message matters

Your voice in this moment will impact the outcome. It’s important to avoid corporate speak, industry jargon and complex, “inside baseball” forms of messaging that only an employee can unravel.

A human, approachable voice including information that is presented with clarity and transparency will resonate with those you wish to reach. People routinely ignore dense, complex, analytical-style messages. Simple is better.

This is not the time for grand standing, self-promotional and brand-anthem style outreach that attempts to pass over the reality of what’s happening. Instead, empathy and care for the health and wellbeing of your users should ring through everything you release or post.

Next steps

  • Publish updates and trust-enhancing content at your web site and in your social channels on a weekly basis. More often if you have new news to share.
  • Keep it simple and straightforward.
  • Encourage dialogue and conversation at your social sites to invite questions from fans and followers.
  • As the situation changes, keep your stakeholders informed.
  • Be generous of spirit and look for “surprise and delight” opportunities and stories for users and channel customers. Celebrate helpfulness, acts of kindness, and ‘we’re all in this together’ kinds of inspirational unity.

Navigation leads to reputation

Your efforts to be accessible, approachable and honest here will lead to respect and confidence among the stakeholders that matter to the future of your business. Both internal and external audiences will benefit greatly from your efforts to keep them apprised of what’s going on.

As always should you need help navigating these uncharted waters, we’re here to support you with guidance, messaging, copy, media and anything else you might need.

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

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

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