Posts tagged "marketing plan"

Brands are badges to be worn

4 Unique Strategies for Premium CPG Brand Growth

September 23rd, 2021 Posted by Brand Design, brand marketing, brand messaging, brand strategy, Category Design, Emerging brands, Food Trend, Insight, Marketing Strategy, Product design, Strategic Planning 0 comments on “4 Unique Strategies for Premium CPG Brand Growth”

Advantages you can plan and design for

Food culture in America has dramatically shifted during the last 10 years. People favor premium quality, higher priced products that address modern dietary needs serving health, wellness and sustainability goals. Better food experiences, fresh ingredients, more sophisticated tastes and the brand sustainability symbolism that goes along with it help complete the mission and taste adventure. This is the preference paradigm where all innovations whether from legacy brand or new player must pay homage on the road to success.

  • Here are four key strategies that hold sway over your ability to succeed, to grow and gain share for food and beverage innovations.

We highlight these four distinctive growth strategies in part because they are passed over all too frequently. Eclipsed by the allure of instant scale, every-new-retail-door-is-a-good-door and ill-advised distribution moves that undercut the very brand value proposition that premium CPG solutions embody. This helps explain the high innovation failure rate or seemingly insurmountable plateaus where new emerging brands stall out, never getting a shot at the high volume homeruns of wider adoption downstream.

Want to assure your brand innovations are successful and not a casualty on the path to pantry and fridge domination? Then read on.

  1. Your product concept is the marketing lynchpin (watch out for the Special Occasion Trap)

Food retailers care about velocity and monitor it relentlessly. Marketers care about scale because velocity and scale together are the flags of a winning concept; thus, why growth nirvana for premium CPG success always begins with strategic product and category design. Your innovation goal is a product that naturally, intuitively fits with frequent if not daily consumption occasions and feeds high repeat purchase behavior. Retailers understand this and look for it.

Products that are intended for niche, episodic occasions are much harder to score scaling victory for the very reason they don’t lend themselves to velocity, high repeat purchase business imperatives. If fancy jams are your jam, be prepared for the embedded difficulties that come with slow turn categories or segments with a narrow, special interest fan base.

2. Public ‘display’ categories add symbolism romance to marketing

Food and beverage purchases these days are largely symbolic. People ‘wear’ their brands as a statement, a flag, a visible demonstration of what they value and what they wish to signal to the world around them about who they are.

You know this so can you plan for it, use it. How can you enable consumers to fly your symbolic brand flag? Does your premium brand innovation lend itself to public display occasions such as barbecues, parties, taken to the office or gym and consumed in a social setting? Brand iconography, symbolism and telegraphing of same can be deployed here to help your users display and vote their beliefs and values. Too often this opportunity gets overlooked.

3. Pack strategies can ignite new occasions

No doubt you’ve heard of price-pack architecture. There is a bit of CPG magic in this strategic growth solution. It helps you lean into new and different occasions while creating higher average retail price points (more cash and flow) with a perceived embedded consumer discount, and more facings (brand billboard) at shelf. Pack architecture projects open the door to migrating your users to new consumption occasions.

Amplify Brands’ Skinny Pop brand rode the pack architecture idea to fame and fortune by creating both smaller bags and larger pack sizes of their pound-able guilt-free popcorn. The move lifted average price points while leveraging new use occasions from school lunches to birthday parties. When you offer new packs the input costs are manageable while adding exponential growth on the income side and serving the usage occasion/velocity rule at the same time.

4. The slightly uncomfortable but immutable rule of upscale zip code distribution

There’s an old but wise saying: fish where the fish are. For premium priced food and beverage innovations the distribution strategy decisions you make will have an enormous impact on your ability to gain traction and scale the business. Where you do business matters especially in the early going.

Premium innovations are home to higher quality ingredients, real food-based formulations.  These brands reflect the lifestyle symbolism embraced by consumer cohorts who in reality control the fortunes and failures of new product fame or flame out.

What do we know: educated, high earning households congregate in upmarket neighborhoods. Trial for premium priced CPG innovations will always be better served in retail doors that exist to serve an upscale shopper base. These folks not only won’t flinch at your higher price point, they are also hunters of new premium innovations. Early trial fuels their social currency of being a word-of mouth warrior.

There was a time when Whole Foods owned the early trial zone for premium CPG innovations, but other banners have caught up in their premium offerings. Now it’s a zip code exercise where your decisions are more about the education levels of the communities you distribute in ahead of other considerations.

The guidance: not every new door is the right retail door. Controlled expansion plus patience are better for building your business rather than taking distribution wherever you can get it. EDLP retailers have a different model and a different shopper base driven more by price point than your quality ingredient, healthy lifestyle bona fides. Walmart is better for mass legacy brands for this reason.

  • Broader distribution and wider geographic expansion make sense when innovations become mainstream and lower income households begin to take them up. Going that route too early can create problems leading to profit-eroding price drops and even delisting if you’re not careful.

There are 40 metro areas in the U.S. where greater than 30% of the adult population has a Bachelor degree or higher. That’s a cohort of more than 65 million adults. Higher income zip codes within those metros are primed for premium CPG introductions. These higher income, higher educated households are tuned-in to the evolutionary changes going on in modern dietary preferences. They are listening to your narrative.

  • In sum, you will grow in geographic areas where large numbers of people attach their lifestyle symbolism to your brand and spread it in their social circles. You should be on shelf in the banners where the shopper population is experientially primed to look for you.

Don’t forget to consider University towns for the same reason. These can be enthusiastic communities for bold, dietary alterations and innovations. Young adults especially are early adopters and influential in making new dietary shifts.

Here is the premium CPG innovation recipe for success assuming the product design fits squarely in the frequent consumption arena.

  • Build visibility, awareness and discoverability in the right stores in the right zip codes.
  • Increase local household penetration.
  • Increase consumption rates among early-in users by adding consumption occasions.

If you have these challenges and strategic questions as you plan your innovations and launch strategies, use this link to start a conversation with us. We can help you create a roadmap to success and the brand narrative well told to go with it. We are new product launch specialists.


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.

Eat Just non-chicken chicken

Want Users To Listen, Give Them Something Worth Listening To

May 27th, 2021 Posted by Brand Design, brand marketing, brand messaging, brand strategy, Category Design, change, Climate Change, climate culture, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Differentiation, Emotional relevance, engagement, Growth, Navigation, storytelling, Strategic Planning, Sustainability, Transformation 0 comments on “Want Users To Listen, Give Them Something Worth Listening To”

Why Brand Education is More Effective than Selling

There’s an almost irresistible, gravitational pull in brand marketing to focus on self-promotion. It’s instinctive and alluring to talk singularly about why your product is better than others. Is your head nodding up and down? You may believe the persuasive story is your awesome tech, your incredible recipe, your authentic ingredients, your great taste, your contemporary look, your creative store design – all of the various arguments why your brand or banner is terrific and a superior choice.

  • These brand advantages and qualities are now fundamental currency in a marketing game whose rules have changed.
  • Yes, all of these things remain important, but should they be the leading tip of your marketing spear? Not anymore. Here’s why.

The dynamics powering consumer and brand relationships have transformed. Consumers gained control of brand engagement when the Internet and digital era handed it to them. Your users know everything, can compare anything, and quickly learn from the experiences of others good, bad or indifferent. They can turn your engagement tactics on or off with a click. When consumer relevance reigns supreme, it’s time for an enlightened approach.

Secondary research confirms most people run away from self-congratulatory messaging outreach that looks like traditional selling. For them, it isn’t trusted communication. Effective marketing recognizes that the journey brands take with their best customers is built on a foundation of reciprocity and value exchange.

Role of the modern brand is guide and purposeful voice

Instead, your brand should present itself as a guide, coach and advisor on the consumer’s life journey. Marketing becomes relevant and resonant to users when the value offered is of intrinsic benefit in helping them achieve their personal aspirations and goals. Your brand should be a partner not a seller. Key insight: the dynamic of how brand relationships are made has shifted to help over hype, so your voice and story should realign with it. How so?

Eat Just brand, the first cultivated chicken meat to win regulatory approval for sale in Singapore, recently struck a deal with a hotel-based restaurant called Madam Fan. They are launching the first home delivery menu of dishes using Eat Just’s non-chicken chicken.

Inside the food delivery container is a Google Cardboard viewer with a link to a short film. According to Eat Just CEO Josh Tetrick the video transports you to a Brazilian rainforest where you observe this rapidly disappearing climate-critical resource. You see this amazing natural carbon sink being replaced by industrial farms that raise animals for meat and the corn and soy crops to feed the animals. The goal of Eat Just’s video is to help users appreciate why cultivated meat matters to the planet’s health.

Turning the food delivery box into a portable brand experience is such a smart move.

Did the video do a typical romance of their product tech? No, it was instead an inspiring educational experience where the consumer learns about the connection between our food system and its related climate impact. This frames the Eat Just brand’s higher purpose, it informs in a way that’s consistent with changing consumer values and beliefs about food. It creates a unique teaching moment – and a powerful one at that.

This is how a community of believers and advocates is built. The video endears the Eat Just brand to its users. Of course, for all of this to work, the product eating experience still needs to be perfect. It should be an authentic analog to chicken flavor and texture – and taste should hit squarely on the crave-able and delicious notes.

  • That said, in a world of common feature-to-benefit selling tropes, Eat Just credibly, remarkably rises to a new level of value exchange, where eating that nugget of chicken meat acquires a deeper meaning than it would deserve outside this context.

What’s more, the approach educates and benefits the recipient in a compelling way – an “a-ha” moment of learning that rainforest is rapidly disappearing (at an alarming acre per second). Emotion is embedded in the subject matter of the video, so it plays to what we now understand about consumer behavior and the (major) role of emotion in shaping perceptions and actions.

Marketing that’s wanted by the recipient

Your goal is to create marketing that is welcomed by its intended audience, not avoided. When the food or beverage brand helps its core customer with creativity in the kitchen, or enables wellness and fitness experiences, or communicates a higher purpose like food scarcity, the brand gains permission for a conversation. Here the brand bonding is facilitated because we’ve moved beyond transactional selling to a more relevant and powerful dialogue.

You may still wonder: isn’t the path to sales growth paved with communicating product attributes early and often? Not at the expense of failing to educate users. This has everything to do with understanding the rules of reciprocity and trust that influence purchase behavior. Trust is earned when the consumer believes you understand them and their needs and operate unselfishly to work in their best interests. Trust is the active ingredient in an authentic give-and-take relationship between brands and users.

Food and the role of crave-ability and deliciousness

Worth noting, food is an emotion-packed category. People care deeply about the quality of what they put in their bodies. They want to know the ingredients used are high quality, healthy, real, safe and also better for the environment. They especially want to avoid making a bad decision, so how food is presented with an eye towards taste and eating satisfaction helps eliminate the perceived reflexive risk of “It’s healthy so it’s going to taste bad.”

One notable caveat here: any number of fast casual restaurant brands are aware of eat with your eyes magic and advertise food that looks sumptuous and crave-able – all beautifully presented with super strong appetite appeal. Except that the stark reality of what’s actually delivered on the plate is frequently so far removed from the ad imagery that it sets the stage for massive disenchantment and trust disruption.

  • Truth matters. Social channel chronicling of disappointment spells out what’s at stake with consistent over promise and under deliver.
  • If you convey it’s delicious, it better be delicious.

When education is your mission

Sweetgreen is a fast-food chain that understands the role of ethos and deeper meaning in their brand proposition and go-to-market behaviors. This belief system permeates every aspect of how the brand is presented and how the business operates to demonstrate its higher purpose values.

They recently announced a refresh of their brand as they amp up their climate impact bona fides while redefining what fast food is in context of why the company exists. Here’s how they presented the values that sit underneath their new brand identity:

  1. “Food: sweetgreen wants to show that fast food can be synonymous with real food. They invested in new food photography, menu designs and packaging in an effort to highlight their food ethos, which celebrates seasonality, local sourcing and transparency. 
  2. Sustainability: sweetgreen believes that climate change is the defining challenge of our generation. This new identity was designed to showcase sweetgreen’s sustainability initiatives and its ongoing journey to carbon neutrality.”

Education is the leading strategy at sweetgreen. They believe consumers benefit from knowing more about how their food is sourced, farmed and prepared with an eye towards healthier and higher-quality choices that remain friendly to the planet’s wellbeing.

Why help over hype is the way to go

We have entered a new era where brands with purpose and deeper meaning attached to how they operate have an extraordinary opportunity to create lasting, deeper connections with their core users. It’s no longer necessary to compete for attention through a constant drumbeat of hard selling product features.

If you’re committed to building the best possible product experience your capable of, the consumer will recognize and experience it. Why they keep coming back, and why they engage fully in your social channels has more to do with how you help them by enabling their passions and interests and aligning with shared values.

Education is a principle move to provide added value, and while doing so, enhance your relevance. It also respects the expert guide and coach role that brands should play in effective communication.

When you create marketing users want rather than avoid, the opportunity for conversation skyrockets. The relationship, therefore, is a journey not a transaction. Educating consumers is simply smart marketing and sets you up for successful engagement across all digital platforms. It automatically leans into your higher purpose, a point and position not lost on consumers who are looking for it.

If this sparks questions about refining your strategy and brand voice around education-forward outreach, we’d love to talk with you. Use this link to begin a conversation.

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.

Heart over head everytime

How to Harness the Power of Emotionally-Relevant Marketing

May 11th, 2021 Posted by Agency Services, brand advocacy, Brand Design, Emotional relevance, engagement, Growth, Higher Purpose, Human behavior, Insight, Marketing Strategy 0 comments on “How to Harness the Power of Emotionally-Relevant Marketing”

Understanding the human being you’re talking to

People are not analytical, fact-based decision-making machines. We are feeling creatures who think, not thinking creatures who feel. It’s heart-over-head every time. Yet the vast majority of brand marketing outreach is based on a rational presentation of features and benefits.

The incredible formula.

The amazing ingredients.

How it’s faster, more efficient, less costly.

The shiny new food tech underneath.

But what if I told you that conscious thought does NOT inform the decisions consumers make. “For 50 years we’ve been using the wrong model. Emotional tugs trump rational pushes.” Dr. Robert Heath, Journal of Marketing Research

Uh oh.

Doesn’t matter what the product is either. Marketers are trained to serve up what they believe is the best, most logical, defensible and factually-compelling argument that can be made about why Brand X is better than Brand Y or Z. But this is upside down.

Here’s the essential truth as we know it: “Non-conscious intention produces both a conscious thought and action,” says Timothy Wilson, a Clinical Psychologist with the University of Virginia.

Ooh Kayy? So what does that mean?

The latest Neuroscience tell us why we’ve been unintentionally mis-managing marketing for a very long time. Turns out there are two brain systems at work in every person. System 1 is an effortless, always on, intuitive autopilot side of the brain. System 2 is the effortful, learning, rational, analytical side of the brain that unfortunately is inherently lazy. System 1 makes 98 percent of our decisions, leaving 2 percent for System 2 to ponder. Yes they work in tandem but System 1 is in charge.

Here is another way to understand the difference: System 1 can process 11 million bits of information per second. System 2 processes 40 bits of information per second. Gulp. Turns out the intuitive side of our brain is a lot smarter than we ever knew. That hunch or gut feel you had is probably right!

The impact on marketing best practices

System 1 responds to emotion because it uses emotion. Here’s how to think about it.

  • Acts without deliberate analysis
  • Generates our impressions, feelings and inclinations
  • Exerts powerful influence on choices and judgments
  • Drives the options we choose and originates the actions we take

Here are six essential ingredients for optimizing marketing outreach that track with what we now know about how people really operate and handle decisions.

  1. Exposure: we automatically assign superiority to what is familiar. Communicating sticky, memorable phrases and ideas is a good thing.
  2. Proof: we are drawn to prefer products and brands other people like and endorse.
  3. Positive feelings: if we feel good about a brand, we assume it possesses an abundance of beneficial qualities.
  4. Actions: people respond more readily to what you do more so than what you say. Brand experiences can show your heart.
  5. Reciprocity: we are hard wired to reciprocate in kind when faced with clear generosity. Surprise and delight is more than a catch phrase.
  6. Art: we respond well to artistic expression. How you use words, visuals, sounds and style matter.

The case for deeper brand meaning

Here at Emergent we’ve been talking about the importance of Higher Purpose to brand growth for years. On one level, Higher Purpose marketing is respectful of the fact that purchases are largely symbolic these days, a form of signaling our values and beliefs to others around us. Thus, Purpose creates added value to the consumers’ perceptions. However, Higher Purpose is also part of this emotion-driven eco-system that informs how people behave and take action.

“Science now proves what brand

strategists have always sensed. We

human beings have a need to believe in

and act upon something that’s greater than

ourselves… Let’s realize the significance

of this discovery and impress upon

everyone that a brand is a belief system.

Want greater rewards? Then impart your

brand with deeper meaning…” – Emergent

Give consumers something they can believe in – advocate for – that reflects their values and beliefs. This is how you create a community of ambassadors who will spread the good word about your brand and business. Transactional relationships between brands and users are a thing of the past. Your brand value proposition should extend beyond the product itself. It also fits snugly with our understanding of how to communicate successfully to System 1.

If you have more questions about how this revelation might impact your go-to-market plans, use this link to start an informal conversation.

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.

Climate activism

Climate Culture Change is Coming

April 26th, 2021 Posted by Brand Activism, brand advocacy, Climatarian, Climate Change, climate culture, consumer behavior, Consumer insight 0 comments on “Climate Culture Change is Coming”

Are you prepared for the shift in consumer demands?

  • Advancing greenhouse gas (GHG) levels.
  • Accelerating impacts of climate change.
  • Our GHG emission-heavy meat and agricultural production system.
  • Evolving consumer expectations and food choices linked to climate outcomes.
  • Global food scarcity.
  • Are all these issues inter-connected? Yes.
  • Is the consumer about to grasp this and connect these dots?

Yes.

  • Food, beverage and lifestyle categories are ground zero on a major culture shift now underway that redefines the meaning of sustainability and will recast the value proposition for nearly every brand in the business.

Can you see it coming?

You already know sustainability has been a growing issue for consumers. However, as a purchase consideration sustainability is morphing to focus on climate threat impacts. This will change the value proposition and strength vs. weakness of brands both CPG and retail. A new class of Eco-Sumer is emerging that sees the checkout counter as a voting booth to signal their demand for change and flag their activism on these vital quality of life issues. Their significant purchasing power will put pressure on companies to act. Are they on your strategic planning radar?

The early stages of change

Sustainability has moved past its teenage years and is maturing. In 2018 Nielsen predicted consumers would spend $150 billion on “eco-friendly” products by 2021. However, the sands of adoption are shifting underneath as the rapidly rising consumer concern about agriculture and food production’s link to GHG emissions gets traction.

Soon the consumer will come to understand that agriculture is the second leading producer of greenhouse gas. Specifically, meat production accounts for 65 percent of the world’s nitrous oxide, a gas with a global warming impact 296 times greater per pound than carbon dioxide. What’s more, total emissions from agriculture are forecasted to grow 80 percent by 2050 due to a significant increase in demand for meat and dairy products.

Emergent’s research barometer is tracking the evolution and expansion of consumer sentiment on sustainability. This issue increasingly has bearing on brand value propositions. The consumer view of sustainability’s relevance has already expanded to include assessments of transparency, ingredient sourcing, food safety, animal welfare, employee treatment and now carbon footprint. Important for you to consider: this is quickly becoming a standard yardstick of product and retail experience quality.

Culture shift leads to behavior shift

According to Forrester research, half of U.S. adults are operating now in various shades of green and are demanding accountability from brands and retailers, while 32 percent of consumers are going out of their way to purchase brands that are dedicated to reducing climate impact.

Meanwhile the Edelman Trust Barometer reports that 72 percent of consumers are concerned about climate chaos and 40 percent are even fearful of it. The Pandemic has shined a spotlight on vulnerability between human health and the ongoing destruction of our wildlife eco-system which helps tamp down disease spread as more and more land is repurposed for industrial agriculture and meat production. Rainforest, the world’s largest carbon sink, is disappearing at the rate of an acre a second for this reason.

A 2019 Kearney study concluded 71 percent of consumers take protecting the environment into consideration when shopping. By mid 2020 that number had run up to 83 percent. With increased awareness of our food systems’ culpability in climate threat, consumers will be looking for guidance and direction from brands on their efforts to mitigate the problem.

Increasingly popular “Net Zero” commitments are only the beginning. Consumers will soon begin to scrutinize those moves, looking for consistency across the waterfront of company operations not only on energy and water use, but also how the food ingredient supply chain is factored into carbon footprint.

  • Climate and sustainability initiatives, commitments, practices and standards are about to become a launch pad for business competitive advantage.

The coming moment of truth: shopping friction

How do brands and retailers help consumers make a sustainability decision? There is no credible mechanism for determining how climate positive a brand or retailer is. When rules are drawn up internally by companies, the metrics applied around different definitions of climate impact will inevitably vary brand to brand.

Lack of any central oversight or common benchmarks makes consistency nearly impossible to achieve. Consumers are going to have a hard time assessing which claims are meaningful from those that are not. When a best practices vacuum like this exists, there will always be third parties wading in to fill it. Pundits and self-styled experts will offer their views on good vs. bad and so the race to secure credible guidance will begin.

  • We know consumer expectations are already on the rise. Now is the time to create a set of industry-wide standards on carbon footprint and define which elements of performance need to be included in assessing climate impact scores.

First step: holistic analysis

This isn’t just about clean energy. Or mitigating water resource over-use. A 360-degree evaluation will be required to consider supply chain, ingredients standards, operations, manufacturing, company culture, employee policies, brand higher purpose, cause relationships, plus the communication of standards to stakeholders, consumers, retailers and investors.

Investor and regulatory change coming

The Kearney study also revealed that 77 percent of investors now see climate change as a consideration in their valuation decisions. Further 79 percent of investors believe that regulatory changes will be a factor in their decision-making over the next three years.

There’s no question the new Administration is making climate a top priority and public policy will favor companies that get ahead of this. The Securities and Exchange Commission has already set up a task force to monitor ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) misconduct of publicly traded companies. At some point there will be regulations aimed directly at disclosing emissions.

Where to go from here

It’s time for the Climate Audit, a thorough evaluation of company operations, good and bad, that contribute to (or remove) emissions either directly or through vendors, distribution and supply chain.

  • Greenwashing is going to be a key area of vulnerability for organizations that take a half-baked stance on emissions and simply try to ride the wave of consumer sentiment by invoking climate faithfulness. Half measures are likely to be exposed so it is important to get it right and leave no stone unturned in evaluating where emissions might come from and how best to turn it down or off.

The rationale for these changes and shifts is compelling:

“Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane levels in the atmosphere continued to rise in 2020, with CO2 level reaching their highest point in 3.6 million years, according to calculations by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The barrier was broken despite a reduction in expected emissions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.” – Jordan Freiman, CBS News

This CBS report was startling given the slow-down in commuting and travel due to the pandemic. It underscores that GHG emissions from fossil-fueled transportation are still only a portion of contributing factors to global warming. Agriculture is a big one and getting bigger. This revelation will put food choice at the center of the bull’s eye for consumers who use their wallets and brand preferences to vote their values.

If you find this conversation meaningful and would like to discuss how climate impact can be properly and successfully addressed in your organization, use this link to open a conversation.

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.

The case for radical differentiation

The Compelling Case for Radical Brand Differentiation

April 15th, 2021 Posted by brand advocacy, brand marketing, Brand preference, brand strategy, branded content, change, CMO, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Differentiation, engagement, Higher Purpose, Marketing Strategy, Strategic Planning 0 comments on “The Compelling Case for Radical Brand Differentiation”

Distinctiveness – a recipe to win the consumer’s mind

The greatest challenge brands experience on their journey to stardom (or eventual decline) is an unrelenting force at work that drives sameness into category competition. Ask any brand minder and they will recite their product advantages, formulation improvements and what they deem believe are distinguishing features. Yet in reality these characteristics are often a mild gradation of difference. This all-too-common condition pushes purchase decisions into more marginal and subjective territory such as attraction to package graphics and photography.

If you want to win the battle for the mind, you need every advantage. That begins by recognizing the all but universal existence of traditional category conventions and behaviors. The trick is working overtime to separate the brand from the crowd in your category orbit. Like 10-year-olds at a soccer match, most competing category combatants chase the marketplace ball of go-to-market practices like a rabid pack around the field. They rarely separate fully to position themselves uniquely for a more strategic and ultimately game winning play.

Be different. No really, really, really different!

In every category brands must compete for share of brain, wallet, sometimes stomach, engagement, mattering and value to the user. Yet modern advancements in technology, innovation, ingredient sourcing and production have made it virtually impossible for any brand to sustainably own a secret sauce achievement over time. One that can radically separate it from the other contestants. Copying is now an achieve-able artform.

If anything, brand experiences become somewhat interchangeable and thus can (will) fall victim to lowest common denominator pricing maneuvers that create a pocketbook incentive for switching. On the other hand, brands with deeper relationships and emotional connection to users can overcome the frequent rust of commoditization and marginal distinction.

Here we make the case for radical differentiation!

Let’s work together to break the rules and category conventions of brand behavior by flying purposefully in the opposite direction. Your goals and objectives are better served by creating greater separation than deciding to “live with” the middle-of-road-ness that often exists side by side in how brands package and market themselves. It may feel safer to follow the pack, but in the end home run outcomes are unlikely when virtually every brand bat is going to be calibrated for a reasonably decent base hit with consumers.

  • In fact, different is more powerful than better. Better is always a shade or degree move (perceptual). Unique can win devotion past the purchase decision.

Where can brands strategically separate?

Let’s start with who you are serving. Time and time again we’ve found that redefining who the core consumer is can offer a healthy start on the journey to radical differentiation. “All things to all people” will never be a recipe for distinction.

In every food, beverage and lifestyle brand category there are unique consumer cohorts. We also know that in many instances a more involved and engaged category buyer is often a heavy user who will represent a disproportionate share of brand sales volume and profit.

Narrowing the definition of who you want to serve is your first move towards better brand health, looking for the pockets of greater fan participation and emotional investment.

  • We routinely conduct category segmentations not just to understand different cohorts shopping a set of brands but also to find the fanatics and warriors who are champions of a business based on their lifestyle and attitudinal quirks or preferences.
  • Persona development work is key to helping define these slices of marketplace enthusiasts – those more likely to resonate to what’s on offer.

How do you design for them? What do they want? What constitutes a surprise and delight? How can you enhance relevance and resonance with them? Yes this means picking a narrower audience profile for planning. However, we’ve repeatedly observed this sharpened focus will improve every aspect of strategic gamesmanship while creating efficiencies in media communication. It sets the brand up to really engage groups of enthusiasts rather than being simply noticed (or not) by everyone.

Re-packaging the story

Designing language, tone and story relevance to the right audience is critical to set the brand apart. Spending time navigating Oatly’s website is a fascinating tour of a business with a unique voice, wearing its beliefs and values like a form of branded organic fashion. It’s not for everyone and isn’t intended to be so. It is a separator from all others, a rebel brand archetype that steps away from dairy conventions to do everything differently.

The words and narrative are masterfully curated to reflect the brand’s higher purpose around sustainability and a belief that an authentic human voice is more engaging than clever marketing speak. If the audience focus has first been narrowed to a band of believers, then the story should be refined to reflect and mirror their interests, concerns and values.

Symbolism 

These days product purchases are expressions and visible flags of values people want to be associated with or known to others for supporting.

The Nike brand isn’t really in the running shoe or athletic wear business. It is in the celebration of human commitment to athletic improvement and competition business. The brand is drenched in symbols of belief, striving, personal improvement, effort and achievement. These values transcend the levers of commerce and elevate Nike from all other players.

Can you add symbols and signals to your web site and outbound content that aligns your brand with shifts in popular culture important to your brand’s relevance and resonance?  

Looking for white space (differentiation) and trends to lead (culture change)

White space discovery is harder than it sounds. Our brains are wired perceptually to see what’s there rather than what’s not there. So how do you discover white space innovation in crowded categories? You must become a zealot customer anthropologist, studying their needs, wants and desires looking for under-served or unrecognized need states.

Both Beyond and Impossible plant-based meat companies arrived on the scene at a time when consumers increasingly viewed plant-based products as better for them. A trend gaining momentum across the food store. Witness the rampant growth of plant-based milk brands that upset the legacy dairy industry.

Their radical differentiation was to walk the opposite direction of improving vegan burgers for vegans. They set out to make plant-based burgers for meat lovers. Audacious. Charismatic. An impressive move to assault the beefy meat case. Their claim was bold and unique. The product experience delivered and now it’s a juggernaut of business expansion. A real zig to the common zag of most plant-based food innovations.

Higher purpose

People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to believe in brands that share their values, that provide a way to make a difference. When the brand voice goes beyond the product to embrace issues people care deeply about, the dynamics of the consumer brand relationship change. No longer just transactional, the brand is imbued with deeper meaning and the voice gains gravitas and potence.

This is how you create a community of activists, advocates, ambassadors and believers who can see themselves embedded in your mission. Remarkably this tends to lower the overall costs of marketing because the brand doesn’t need to beat people over the head with paid self-promotion. The community has its own engine, pushing word of mouth out horizontally.

Some of the more visible examples:

Patagonia and its out-sized commitment to sustainability

Ben & Jerry and its radical commitment to social activism

Panera Bread and its ongoing efforts to address hunger and transparency

Warby Parker and its mission to help provide sight to the seeing challenged

Timberland and its tree mandate to answer carbon footprint and climate change

Of note, higher purpose is a zig move for the very reason so many brands don’t recognize the value of it, or fail to execute authentically, fully. Higher purpose only works optimally when belief and dedication to the platform is religion inside the organization, flowing all the way through operations, marketplace behaviors and long-term strategic decisions.

What’s your higher purpose and the reason people should join your brand’s movement? Or do you still think a formulation tweak will lead to massive marketplace victory?

Designing to intentional difference

Radical differentiation is a strategic play. It is how you can win the battle for the consumer’s mind when (for the most part) product categories are noisy, fuzzy, blurry pools of sameness. Consider who you are serving and what a narrower focus could mean. Look at white space innovations and trends as an opportunity to step outside the category norms. Change your voice, behave differently at the shelf. Move out of the standardized look and feel in how your product is packaged.

Run in the opposite direction from the pack. You will stand out. People will notice. If it’s done right, it can mean a change in the future trajectory of your company.

Should this concept strike you as worthy of further exploration and you would like to get a fresh perspective on what it could mean for your business, let us know. We would love to discuss how this journey might benefit your brand.

Use this link to open an informal conversation.

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.

Climate change impacts consumer preferences

New climate-conscious consumer has a beef, are you ready?

February 9th, 2021 Posted by Brand Activism, brand advocacy, brand marketing, Brand preference, Climatarian, Climate Change, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, COVID-19, Differentiation, engagement, Greenhouse Gas, Healthy lifestyle, Healthy Living, Higher Purpose, Marketing Strategy, Pandemic, Supermarket strategy 0 comments on “New climate-conscious consumer has a beef, are you ready?”

Culture change impacts food and beverage brand relevance

There’s a new sheriff in food and beverage town now. A consumer on the hunt for climate- friendly choices. They have a hankering to use the checkout counter as a ballot box to vote their beliefs. Are you prepared for them? Just who is this new cohort rapidly gaining momentum?  As an audience of influencers and advocates how significant will their impact be on the future fortunes of food businesses and retailers in 2021?

Read on.

Five years ago, a great dot-connecting moment transpired when consumers determined that the quality of what they eat has a direct and tangible impact on the quality of their lives. Food retail saw a marked shift in shopping patterns to the perimeter fresh departments as preference for fresh, real food overtook the decades-long infatuation with convenient, inexpensive, highly processed packaged foods and snacks. The aftermath of this transformed ‘what does healthier mean’ calculus and fed the innovation skate ramp of new, entrepreneur created food products flooding the store. These super premium brands-with-deeper-meaning and made from higher quality, ethically sourced real food ingredients have captivated consumer attention and retail shelf space. How many brands of artisanal beef jerky are there now competing for a slice of the snack dollar?

We reminisce on this point just to remind us all that change comes quickly. Our collective goal as marketers is to stay ahead of these transformative shifts. Thus able to help define the state of the art for your brands, rather than scrambling to re-acquire relevance after observing share erosion in the quarterly results report.

Rise of the Climatarian

Another dot-connecting transition is underway. A growing number of bellwether consumers are grasping the connection between the food production system and its out-sized impact on greenhouse gas production plus the climate change threats that accompany it. According to our insight research partner Brand Experience Group, their ground-breaking study on sustainability, estimates the current number of consumers who are passionate about or committed to the importance of “sustainable consumption” at 34% and rising.

The role of meat production and industrial agriculture processes contributing to the planet’s warming is changing the food choice value proposition to invoke a claim that defines carbon footprint. While the word sustainable has gained traction in recent years as a formal player in marketing lexicon, it is acquiring a more specific meaning. Sustainability and climate change are getting married and we’re all invited to the reception.

What’s driving this? In his stellar New Yorker magazine feature “After Alarmism: The War on Climate Denial Has Been Won,” climate advocate David Wallace-Wells paints the picture.

“In California in 2020, twice as much land burned as had ever burned before in any year in the modern history of the state — five of the six biggest fires ever recorded. In Siberia, “zombie fires” smoldered anomalously all through the Arctic winter; in Brazil, a quarter of the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland, was incinerated; in Australia, flames took the lives of 3 billion animals. All year, a planet transformed by the burning of carbon discharged what would have once been called portents of apocalypse.”

Increased media attention on the issue has circulated data revealing the significant top box role beef and lamb production have in methane creation. Global agriculture practices and meat collectively contribute more to climate threat than all fossil fuel transportation combined. The impact of climate on people and society is being played out in prime time through recurring news coverage of raging wildfires, droughts, super storms, increasing Hurricane impacts, melting glaciers, rising water levels and flooding worldwide.

We’re about to see a shift towards carbon footprint as a definer of sustainability. Those with an attractive, relevant brand story to tell are manifesting this attribute in product label scoring while legacy food and beverage companies swarm to announce “Net Zero” emission commitments. Meanwhile there will be growing scrutiny of supply chains to root out sources of greenhouse gas. The decarbonization of our food system is getting underway. Consumers will demand it. It will be juiced by new food technologies and a cohort of emerging brands that pioneer ways to create food without built-in climate deficits.

Digital innovation will be eclipsed by bio-degradable everything

Alongside global warming is a related developing trend – an innovation heat map swing from digital technology to significant advancements in bioengineering and biofabrication.  A complementary view of sustainability looks hard at the role of plastics and other trash dump materials in so many facets of our lives with a convincing argument that recycling isn’t the best answer. Creating products, packaging, even clothing, from materials that simply disappear harmlessly is exponentially better for the planet.

In 2019, nearly 500 million plastic toothbrushes were sold with the majority of them ending up in landfills and the ocean. They cannot be recycled. Since plastic was first mass-produced in the 1950’s, 9.1 billion tons of it has been created and landfilled – an astonishing 91% of this massive plastic tsunami isn’t recyclable, according to Fast Company magazine. On the toothbrush front, Colgate owns 30% of the entire category and in an effort to end the proliferation of plastic they are introducing “Keep” – the first planet-friendly brush that employs a reusable aluminum handle. The replaceable brush head is still plastic but the design represents an 80% reduction in plastic material use.

Steve and Nick Tidball’s Vollebak, a futuristic brand of men’s fashion, is re-writing the rules and process for clothing creation. Their plant and algae t-shirt is made from plant-based linen and wood pulp fibers decorated with ink from algae. The shirt can completely decompose in 12 weeks when tossed into the compost pile. A shirt that literally disappears. “Sustainability is easier to understand when it involves feeding your clothes to worms,” said founder Steve Tidball in an overview article on their technology showcased in The Future Normal newsletter.

Key to this coming movement of planet friendlier foods, products, processes and ingredients is a revealing focus on the impact of lifestyle and consumption habits on our planet’s health. The realization that what we buy is a reflection of our values rises as a functional and viable path to signal those preferences and beliefs. Consumers’ wallets are used to vote their preferences. This new path to purchase will require brands to look deeply across the organization to determine where improvements and changes can be made to align with this sea change.

Undoubtedly yet another generation of new brands will emerge with carbon footprint claims and planet-friendly packaging as the lead in their brand voice. More innovation is coming. There are, however, business challenges ahead for these upstarts.

  • What is the secret to scale-able and sustainable growth, the path to sales homeruns not base hits? We reveal it here.

80% of CPG start-ups will never get past $1 million in sales

Some new emerging brands have well-connected founders and are able to attract investment that creates resource advantages. “Money can buy distribution. It can buy advertising. It can buy huge field marketing events. But it can’t by consumer enthusiasm. It can’t buy cultural relevance for the brand’s attribute-outcome symbolism,” exhorts Dr. James Richardson, of Premium Growth Solutions.

After an initial, well-funded launch with a strong velocity report card, things start to stall or plateau. What’s wrong is often embedded in the product itself. It just isn’t that remarkable. Or, importantly a narrow, niched positioning causes the brand to stall. It simply runs past its ability to attract an audience sufficiently large enough to keep the velocities on a northward trajectory. Enthusiastic users, perhaps, but a narrow, smaller fan base nonetheless.

Scaling beyond the mid-range isn’t an outcome of more funding or the awareness that can buy. It is delivered by steering the brand towards the right and largest addressable market. Beyond Meat famously did not create a better vegan burger for vegans. They opened the aperture wide by casting themselves as a meat made from plants for meat lovers. They threw down the gauntlet of crave-able taste experience and asserted they were as good as a beef burger. Bold to be sure. The product delivered on its promise under that scrutiny.

The genius was casting a wide net to meat lovers and in doing so working to build relevance and resonance with a very big audience of meat department beef shoppers. It wasn’t because there was this giant standing pool of people representing themselves as “flexitarian.” No, instead they invoked meat lover and by that they meant anyone and everyone who loves hamburgers, the most popular sandwich on earth. The outcome was a rapid rise to hundreds of millions in sales.

Largest. Addressable. Market.

Don’t make vegan cheese for vegans. Instead craft extraordinary, delicious plant-based cheese for cheese lovers. A high taste bar to be sure, but then that’s what separates the extraordinary product innovation from the merely average.

Climate change and bioengineering will reshape the food, beverage and lifestyle brands business more quickly than anyone imagines. Venture capital and innovation will quickly chase these dreams. More higher-purpose brands will be invented. Some will be out-sized winners while some will remain small or fail altogether. The difference maker won’t be the size of the budget and the awareness that can acquire. Sound strategy will play a decisive role in the fortunes (or lack thereof) of these businesses based on the quality of the innovation itself, the size of its potential market and the alchemy of how and where its relevance is expressed.

If this thinking strikes a chord and you would like to brainstorm further the implications for your business, use this link to start an informal, no-charge conversation.

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.

Archives

Categories