Posts tagged "food marketing"

Food Marketers Seek New Strategies as Consumer Trust Declines

December 11th, 2018 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, brand strategy, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Emerging brands, Food Trend, Transparency 0 comments on “Food Marketers Seek New Strategies as Consumer Trust Declines”

Food and beverage brands must move to new story…

Growing consumer concerns over health and wellness.

Evolving expectations around higher product quality.

Emerging calls for greater transparency and truth in labeling.

General cynicism toward marketing that sells ‘at them’.

In study after study consumers continue to show their lack of trust while demanding more honesty from brands vying for their spending — with rewards going to those brands that ‘get them’.

Some marketers have attempted to force-fit traditional claim and assertion style marketing tactics into digital platforms but with little success. To consumers, it still smells like conventional spin so they work to avoid it entirely.

Other marketers have smartly moved their strategic game plan to focus on building more respectful consumer relationships around alignment with lifestyle interests and aspirations.

  • Yet new information and insight now coming to light suggests, while lifestyle connections remain important, there’s a new sheriff in town governing what breaks through the clutter to secure brand consideration and selection.

In many respects, this revelation makes absolute sense based on our deeper understanding of consumer skepticism and absence of trust combined with their desire for honesty, authenticity and expressions of a true soul coming from brands and businesses they choose to favor.

Seekers of truth and understanding

We’ve come to a place where marketers recognize consumer interests more fully, texturally, as they evaluate new and emerging food brands with a merit-based system. It’s important to note here first, the fundamental requirement for business growth in any category requires an unshakeable bedrock of clear brand differentiation.

Around the unwavering consumer call for standout uniqueness is an equally strong desire for better products that are also better-for-you, and culturally connected to relevant social issues such as sustainable farming, green environmentally-friendly operations and animal welfare. 

The new secret sauce for accelerating food brand growth

In a recent Premium Marketing Strategy report by food industry trend expert The Hartman Group, a survey question was posed: what kind of narrative would likely cause you to select a new premium brand?

The answer wasn’t about better price or taste. Rather, consumers wanted to know more about how the product was made. Followed in close order by a related topic – the source of ingredients used to make the product; in sum, the product creation story.

So what does this mean?

It’s a gigantic red, neon flag waving three feet in front of every marketer. Consumers want to assess the merits of the food or beverage based on how and who created it.

Contained in the details of this product creation backstory is the necessary evidence of quality, healthfulness, and connection to culturally relevant practices and beliefs. Rather than accept assertions on face value, consumers want to peer under the hood, and in doing so, narrow the chance of being influenced by proverbial brand apple-polishing.

  • It’s one thing to claim better-for-you, and it’s entirely another to reveal ingredients, processes, methods and sources that authentically demonstrate healthy and higher quality.

How to be the credible brand storyteller – Show Me!

So you sell hamburgers… where did the beef come from, who raised the cattle and how were they fed and cared for? About the bun and vegetables used, same need. What are your standards of quality and what about the relationships with your suppliers; their carbon footprints? How is the hamburger prepared, what evidence can be provided about food safety, ingredient integrity and freshness?

No matter the category, there’s a transparency story underneath about how you make things, how you source ingredients and what goes on in your kitchens.

This is the information that forms the basis of earning brand trust and evaluation of the brand’s relevance to consumer beliefs and cultural affiliations. Said another way, the product creation story isn’t a nice to do, rather it’s a must do in getting to active consideration.

Worried that this kind of information demand will be difficult due to weaknesses in your creation story? Then, you have a mandate to make improvements. It may be time to recognize that new premium food solutions are growing while many legacy brand businesses are losing share of heart and sales.

The strategic recipe

Armed with this consumer insight, the food and beverage path to marketing best practices begins with creating an inventory of competitively strong product attributes. These attributes will inform the rationale for how the product will credibly deliver on its key benefits.

  1. Important to note this should be cast as unique attributes that help elevate and separate the product from competing brands, and that make the product better at delivering its promised benefits.
  2. Competitively significant attributes are then integrated in storytelling about product creation and ingredient sourcing.
  3. This means elevated, premium production and sourcing criteria outweigh benefits in the hierarchy of successful brand outreach strategies. Thus, it’s important to cite value-added attributes not offered by legacy brands.

As the decline in consumer trust continues to chip away at the authority curve for brands, what moves in to fill the vacuum left when assertions and claims don’t resonate? A new era of food and beverage marketing opens based on a real-world reality-check about what’s inside the product.

Tangible, visible evidence of quality now passes assertions of quality in effectively reaching consumers with the motivating message. What the consumer is really saying: Show Me!

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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.

Emergent Announces Emerge Partnership with FMI

July 10th, 2018 Posted by CMO, Emerging brands, Food Trend, Growth, Healthy Living, Navigation, retail brand relevance, Supermarket strategy 0 comments on “Emergent Announces Emerge Partnership with FMI”

Mentoring for the greater good in food and beverage business

Today Emergent formally announces a partnership with the Food Marketing Institute’s new Emerge platform, a forum to help nurture and grow new, developing food brands on their way to potential stardom.

FMI recently created Emerge (love the name!!) as a path to helping its stakeholder base of food retailers and CPG brands, realize growth opportunities presented by investments in developing food and beverage companies. It’s no secret these nascent brands are now gaining shelf space and consumer devotion, often at the expense of legacy brands that at one time dominated the food preferences of American households.

  • At stake for all is helping scale these new enterprises without inadvertently upsetting the proverbial applecart ̶ by violating the product truths and marketing rules that influence their hard-won fan base.

Emergent was established to help food, beverage and lifestyle brands successfully navigate the sea change from interruption style, talk-at marketing and communications to a more healthy lifestyle relevant and participatory model. In keeping with this mission, we have focused also on emerging brands and the distinct differences that govern their go-to-market best practices.

We saw an opportunity through our long-standing alliance with FMI and the evolution now taking place at food retail, to be of greater service and value in helping organizations deal with the seismic changes going on in the industry. We have joined Emerge as a Mentoring partner, there to offer our deep experience and familiarity with how consumers behave and marketplaces evolve, to help these new food ideas gain a faster footing in the race to meaningful volume.

We’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting and guiding entrepreneurs who are making a difference in their efforts to create a sustainable business while also embracing a higher purpose. This matters to us greatly because we have a mission, too.

Our higher purpose is to influence the health and wellbeing of people by helping improve the food and beverage industry’s efforts to align more closely with preferences for a healthier lifestyle. Our values are their values and vice-versa.

As business people we respect the need for all parties to achieve scale while maintaining the integrity of the original concept and remaining faithful to the principles that guided the creation of the business.

In this, we are Mentors that understand the motivations and desires of those who create these new companies as much as we know intimately the needs of people who buy and consume their products.

For that reason we’re honored to join with FMI in this endeavor to embrace change and be a catalyst for helping the industry adapt. The food industry is unique in its blending of technology and emotion – a perfect alchemy that respects the fact we eat to nourish and experience enjoyment, while recognizing the impact the food system has on the world around us.

Best time ever to be in the food and beverage brand building business!! Thanks FMI for inviting us.

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.

 

 

Mining the Marketing Gap: Promises and Expectations Lost

June 11th, 2018 Posted by brand marketing, brand strategy, CMO, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, food experiences, Restaurant trends, shopper experience, Social media 0 comments on “Mining the Marketing Gap: Promises and Expectations Lost”

Actions and experience overtake words…

You see the ad on TV for the casual restaurant chain; beautiful food, luscious, mouth-watering dishes redolent in bright colorful hues with freshly-made steam stunts and sizzle sound effects designed to get that mouth watering. You might eat the screen.

We’re confident the chain brand minders see these displays of gastronomic splendor as adoring portraits of what they want consumers to believe. You can almost taste the flowing, cascading drawn butter. But then…there’s the actual experience. You can also see the disappointment train hurtling towards the taste buds at break-neck speed, when in reality the product itself can’t reasonably fulfill the promise envisioned in the marketing.

Over-cooked proteins running along side the previously freezer-burn state of ingredients comes through in chewy textures and dryness that slams head-on into the saucy, just-ripe, fresh product pictorial. Imagery can be artfully arranged on beautiful plates displayed in the advertising. If everyone could just eat the ad, please!

What’s the price of breaking a promise and expectation?

What is presented as hand crafted comes through as factory made, and in that bright shining moment the aura of disenchantment comes home to roost. Yes you can cynically declare, “sure but what did they expect, it’s a chain restaurant after all, not some high-end white tablecloth place.” Even in the silver service trade the same experiences of historic letdown can be had when chefy epicurean food doesn’t ring true and questions arise about who is really behind the kitchen stove.

Just beyond the restaurant service levels, dining room experience, wait times, order accuracy, cleanliness, friendliness and all-around happiness-inducing procedures, lurks the opportunity to either delight or dissatisfy.

Across the continuum of retail experiences from supermarkets to clothing retailers to department stores, boutiques and beyond, everyday there are moments available to wow and surprise or participate in an epic fail. In today’s digital culture, the reality, broad-daylight moments can be relayed to communities of friends or fans in mere seconds -replete with accompanying photography or video to verify the facts.

True experience is key. The validation of assertions in marketing is so incredibly important, we, at Emergent, have built an entire marketing model around trust creation. We call it Validation Marketing. The price of failure to build trust is just too great. Reputation is everything and reality is the truth serum administered daily by measuring the gap between promise, purpose and actual proof.

The decline of marketing effectiveness has often been laid off to the “interruptive” tactics of forcing people to gulp down sales messages. Now that consumers have control over media, the force-feeding is about gone. Persuasion sits on the garbage pile of old-line mass media ploys – a communications dog that just won’t hunt anymore as consumers click to avoid the onslaught.

However we have another aligned explanation: the wink-wink of imagined expectation vs. authenticity served early and often, has constructed a concrete chasm between brands and their users. You cannot underestimate the fallout, the insidious rust and corrosion that’s heaped on brand/consumer relationships when ‘actual results may vary’ stings the hardest. It happens all too often when what someone thought would occur inside the store or product package gives way to the “the little white lie” that was shaped with cinematic story in the marketing.

Transparency reigns supreme

There have been too many trips to disappointment junction. What we now have is a belief breach in the brand relationship. If the product or store experience doesn’t match the marketing is it wrong to go there in the first place? It might be.

Every brand, every business today lives in a glass house. What can be known will be known digitally, quickly and by ever-larger audiences. So the distance between anticipated outcome and actual experiences must be closed. The trophy in the battle for future growth will go to those marketers who understand the significance of this behavior principle. Sweating the details of how everything works to deliver on expectations is required. What you say, especially do and provide must all match up.

How does an organization assure that the truth is told rather than fiction? If the truth about the product is sub-optimal, fix the product – ditto store experience. By the way, the product and experience IS the marketing.

When transparency is embraced as a marketing principle, the move to ‘reveal all’ changes the paradigm of how plans, programs and communications are built. If you are amply proud of your product and store experience because the real encounter and formula is indeed terrific, then pulling the communications curtain open a bit wider becomes more comfortable, do-able.

  • Trust sits at the core of everything in marketing and in business. Having respect for the consumer’s welfare and intelligence should share equal stature in how strategies are created. Employing trusted sources and voices as part of the marketing mix are vital to helping validate what is promised.

This is the price of admission, now, to a brand relationship. It’s a 360-degree approach to marketing and planning that recognizes how all aspects of what a brand or store or restaurant does and how it performs must be factored into the trust equation.

What delivery on the promise looks like:

  • SweetGreen’s promise of devotion to fresh, real produce ingredients is true and lives in the product experience.
  • Starbuck’s assertion as a third-place of social experience is for the most part, a true thing (some recent behavioral missteps a note-able exception).
  • Apple’s promise of intuitive product experience is for the most part, true.
  • Amazon’s delivery of a friction-less e-commerce shopping environment bears truth daily.

For every true there’s many more that routinely blow the tire between what’s promoted and what happens. The organization’s total commitment to optimal quality and experience is required BEFORE communications are designed.

Communications inspired by transparent outreach and allowing consumers inside the tent, will win out over the portraiture that looks great on the surface, but is hiding something else underneath. The really great athletes in virtually every category of competitive sport achieve their fame and fortunes daily by working, sweating, training, trying and performing. They are driven to do so.

Marketing should fully embrace those same operating principles, energy and work ethic. No disguise needed.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Millennials and Meal Kits: Will Dynamic Duo Shine in Supermarkets?

March 15th, 2018 Posted by brand marketing, CMO, Culinary inspiration, Culinary lifestyle, food experiences, food retail strategy, Food service, Food Trend, shopper behavior, Supermarket strategy 0 comments on “Millennials and Meal Kits: Will Dynamic Duo Shine in Supermarkets?”

Retail kit growth could impact restaurant business…

Recently we learned that Walmart is planning to introduce prepared foods and meal kits to their stores nationally. This action is in response to an increased interest among Millennial shoppers for more convenient and higher quality, fresh ingredient meal solutions.

Given Walmart’s massive size, the impact of this move could create more challenges for an already stressed restaurant marketplace and help trigger other supermarket companies to upgrade their own meal kit strategies, compounding the impact. Technomic reports business has slowed for the last two years at the nation’s top 500 restaurants. At casual chains like Olive Garden and Chili’s, growth went from an average 4.7 percent in 2015 to flat in 2017.

Millennial preference for home cooked meals

According to Port Washington, NY-based NPD Group, 83 percent of Millennial consumers report more cooking at home and fewer restaurant visits, while 63 percent of Millennials say they want to cook more.

Concurrently the supermarket business is in the midst of transformation as Millennial shoppers flipped the script, causing a move away from traditional center store packaged foods, to shopping the perimeter departments for fresh, real food options. The fresh trend is seen as evidence of their preference for home prepared meals. Thus, also helping explain why legacy “big food” brands have seen their market shares decline in key packaged food categories over the last 10 years.

  • At the core of this behavior is a central theme: virtually all generation cohorts – from Boomers to Gen Z – have connected the dots between higher quality, real food experiences and desire for a healthier lifestyle.

The interest in cooking at home is an outgrowth of efforts to assert greater control over ingredient quality, preparations and portion sizes along with the ability to better manage household food spending. At Emergent we see another explanation: the consumer’s love affair with food and culinary inspiration continues. The desire to exercise that creative calling in the kitchen is strong as it fulfills the number one driver for food purchase and consumption: healthy lifestyle. Consumers tacitly believe that home cooked food is healthier.

Boxed food adventures

Perhaps one of the most important, embedded features of meal kits is the ability to experiment with new cuisines and flavors at low risk and with ingredients already portioned and in some cases prepped.

When dinner is now often decided at 5 pm the day of consumption, kits are an enticing just-in–time option to solve the meal need, without having to shop a 50,000 square foot store for five to seven items. It’s a form of high quality culinary convenience that meal kit companies like Albertson’s Plated brand often deliver with a backstory and ethos sitting underneath.

Millennials passed Boomers in 2016 to become the largest domestic audience of shoppers, numbering some 75.4 million topping the Boomer generation’s previous lead of 74.9 million mouths. This generation has grown up with global cuisine; the rise of specialty food markets, locally-sourced ingredients, unique restaurant concepts, and even chef-driven bar food.

It’s telling to note that fully 24 percent of the entire Millennial cohort shopped Whole Foods last year even though the chain has only 430 stores – a remarkable statement about their interest in higher quality food options.

As e-commerce gobbles up more transactions for pantry stock-ups, the food retail business will depend increasingly on its ability to curate unique food experiences and fresh ingredient solutions – and that plays right into the hands of grab-and-go kits. What’s not to like, as kits deliver:

  • Curated don’t-have-to-think-about-it menus
  • More convenient scratch cooking solutions
  • Wholesome, higher quality ingredients
  • Easier and quicker prep time
  • Experimentation vehicle for new cuisines, new techniques and personal customization

Food-enthusiastic supermarket?

The meal kit business is symptomatic of larger changes looming ahead in food retail as e-commerce disintermediates the packaged foods category. As a result, supermarkets will be forced to redefine their models once built around selling those packaged products at volume to fuel the balance sheet.

Emergent believes the future of food retail lies in mining culinary inspiration and food experience. Creating the Disneyland effect of “magic” around food adventure and the consumer’s interests in more innovative and interesting food solutions.

Can the food enthusiastic grocery be far behind? The growth of groceraunt concepts will continue to gain ground as food retailers look to leverage their expanding commissary investments for meals to be consumed on site – yet another customer relationship building opportunity! We anticipate more supermarket jobs for classically-trained chefs as a result.

What’s next for foodservice?

Restaurants are entering a new era of innovation competition to more rapidly evolve menu boards and offerings that reflect the cutting edge shifts in tastes, new ingredients and food culture. Restaurants have always been the tip of the spear in new food trends that then trickle down into other channels in the food industry.

Now more than ever the call to action gains momentum for restaurant companies to explore tastes, preparations and ideas to stay ahead as supermarkets improve their fresh food quality, ingredient standards and Deli menus.

It seems to us that restaurant companies also need to explore further the equity in their own brands to potentially create new signature food products that compete in other channels – much as Dunkin Donuts has done with their superb coffee line and Panera with their soups.

  • Millennials’ enthusiasm for food and healthy lifestyle will continue to push grocers to earn their business by providing the quality, selection, and preparation options they want. Restaurants, while innovating on flavor and cuisine, may need to consider expanded channels as enhanced, food-enthusiastic food retailers vie for share of meal occasions.

This may be the most exciting time ever to be in the food business!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Mining for Growth: The Consumer’s Relationship with Food

March 2nd, 2018 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, brand strategy, branded content, CMO, Culinary lifestyle, Digital marketing, food experiences, Healthy Living, Marketing Strategy 0 comments on “Mining for Growth: The Consumer’s Relationship with Food”

Marketing and the day’s main meal

Cultural shifts and changes impact how consumers treat eating occasions. This condition becomes even more important as people no longer build their schedules around mealtimes. The script has flipped and thus mealtimes are arranged to facilitate the daily schedule.

In this new world order that puts time and where it’s spent at a premium, distinct functional requirements have surfaced around the consumer’s objectives for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast now orbits the purposeful necessity of energy needs and is often governed by habit and routine. It’s also subject to elimination at times. Whereas lunch often falls victim to another evolving behavior – snacking. Like the start of the day, lunch serves as another fuel-stop to drive the personal engine, often while navigating a complex schedule and a fluid set of time priority constraints.

The dinner bell singularly chimes as a culinary and social oasis…

Dinner continues to hold steadfast as the clear winner in time devoted to food thinking, planning and engagement – offering a unique opportunity for brands to become enablers and participants in a personal and social culinary journey.

  • Dinner is a food-forward rite where the meal and menu serve as a means to elevate enjoyment, self-esteem, creativity, exploration and social engagement.

Breakfast, lunch and snacking reside in a practical, efficiency zone. The consumer’s brain-time investment is just different than dinner. In the evening, according to The Hartman Group’s Transformation of the American Meal report, the experience around food and preparation takes on a higher level of priority and added meaning.

What does the consumer aspire to do with dinner?

Hartman reports to fulfill their expectations for:

  1. Good food – nutritious and delicious
  2. Good cooking – skillful, personalized and often from scratch
  3. Good company – enjoyable moments and warm conversation

So, the logistics around dinner are on another level entirely for food sourcing, creativity, time spent and energy invested by home cooks and their helpers. Simply stated, dinner is less routine, not snack-ified and works to satisfy the yearning for shared food adventure.

As a marketer could you find more fertile territory for engagement than the one meal occasion where inspiration and help are clearly needed?

Dinnertime is a clear pathway to relevant engagement

Dinner is rich connection territory and we’re not just talking about flavor profiles. Dinnertime is an open field for resonance exploration and relationship building for both CPG food and foodservice.

When the day has been too mentally and maybe even physically taxing, outsourcing the evening meal is on the agenda. That said we know from secondary studies that people prefer home-cooked meals when they can do it and believe those meals are universally healthier – as home cooks are able to control ingredients, preparations and portions.

However, when scheduling overload collides with evening mealtime needs, restaurant and other “do it for me” solutions hold sway. Meal kits sit in an interesting position as low-risk enablers of culinary exploration, while also making it easier to deliver a high-quality meal with less effort mentally and at the stove.

Ordering food for delivery or visiting a restaurant shifts the balance of time investment from culinary work to social interaction – an important component of the evening mealtime experience.

The eco-system of needs and requirements for the evening meal is a place where brands can play a pivotal role. Key direction: help make dinner meal planning and execution more enjoyable.

Areas to leverage strategically:

  • Health and wellness – key to lifestyle preferences across the board. What’s the bulls-eye? Helping people bridge their interests between healthy ideals and indulgent desires. Now that higher quality food experiences have become the new healthy, the door is open to blending these two universal human needs.
  • Palate planning – for the most part dinner has increasingly become a just-in-time mini-shopping event as people, often coming from work, stop at the store to shop for menu ingredients. Right there is a moment of uncertainty that can become more purposeful with the right menu ideas and curated shopping lists.
  • Social connection – the social milieu around dinner is an interesting pastiche of enlivened senses, warmth, close attention and enjoyment that enables sharing and conversation. The dinner table is more than a piece of furniture. It’s a place where memorable moments and personal connection are served right alongside the main course.

If effective brand communication is dependent entirely on its relevance to consumer interests and passions, then imbuing your brand with greater meaning becomes paramount in making marketing investments work.

Knowing this, dinner is an important moment and opportunity where need and fulfillment are open territory for brand helpfulness. Also vital to note is the significance that food culture informed strategies play to secure consumer engagement in social channel and content marketing outreach programs.

  • Said another way, it is often the absence of cultural resonance and connectivity that dooms brand communication to the vast pile of ignored messages.

It’s our job here at Emergent to monitor these cultural and consumer-insight conditions so we’re able to respond strategically and creatively for the brands and businesses we represent. If your strategic plan isn’t feeding and exploring these important moments of real-life consumer connection…then you’re potentially skipping the marketing meal that offers the greatest opportunity for engagement and brand growth.

Is it dinnertime yet?

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

 

WILL SOCIAL CHANNEL SHIFTS DRIVE BRANDS TO GO DIRECT?

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

Brands look to better manage their own destiny

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

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

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

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

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

Algorithm alarm bell – now what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behavior changes occurring behind the curtain

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

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

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

Emergent’s guidance on optimizing social channel strategy:

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

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

Help over hype – always.

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Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

 

 

 

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