Posts tagged "Marketing strategy"

Why Trust Now Precedes All Brand Engagement

June 18th, 2019 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, brand strategy, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Emotional relevance, Higher Purpose, Marketing Strategy, Pet food marketing, Transparency 0 comments on “Why Trust Now Precedes All Brand Engagement”

A storied call to embrace trust creation

Consumers continue to vote using their time, attention and spending to favor brands they trust while virtually ignoring the rest. Yet this important insight apparently hasn’t informed the daily barrage of product claim and assertion-style communication that dominates the food and beverage marketing landscape.

What’s needed is a fresh approach and new ideas that disrupt the old model of overt selling in favor of a more enlightened view of reciprocity — which works to form the proper foundation of any successful brand and consumer relationship. What’s changed? The ever-evolving consumer who shapes cultural norms and with it, expectations that impact what they find meaningful, relevant and purchase-worthy among the brands they consider.

Here’s the profound truth about what sits at the core of consumer behavior: Jerald Podair, Editor of The Rutledge History of the 20th Century United States said it succinctly, “we live in the age of disputed facts, disputed truth, personal truth, my truth and your truth.” The collective desire and yearning among people are simple – they want to know and believe they are in receipt of the truth about products and services they love.

This explains the rapid rise of transparency, product creation candor, and validation as a fundamental driver of what people require ahead of purchasing the brands that matter to them. See-for-yourself-marketing. Thus, food marketing best practices must move further away from gloss and artifice, and closer to embracing the plain-spoken credible voices of personal experience intertwined with respected expert guidance.

Survey data shows the extent of this important swing

At the recent Cannes festival celebrating the ad creative world, Edelman once again presented their annual Trust Barometer, a quantitative study focused on consumer attitudes about brands. The evidence reinforces the conclusion that trust is required for anything in marketing to function effectively.

Here’s the hard truth:

  • 73% of people actively work to avoid advertising. This is likely to increase with continued adoption of ad blocker software that makes it easy to do so.
  • 41% of people say about the marketing activity they do encounter that the communication is seldom seen as truthful.
  • 63% trust what outside third-party experts and influencers say more so than what a brand conveys on its own – what’s that tell you?

Lest this all appear to be an assault on brand communication, there’s another statistic in the report that bodes well for brands that put trust creation at the center of strategic planning.

  • 76% of consumers want and will pay attention to advertising from brands they trust. How come? Because they believe in and embrace the story as true.

The path forward: Emergent guidance

It’s important that we note the difference between trusted and not yet trusted. Brand believers want affirmation of their good decision. Believers enjoy and seek out (confirmation bias) a little positive drama and emotion connected with the community they’ve joined.

On the other hand, the unconverted require evidence and credible demonstration of the product creation backstory, disclosure of company beliefs and mission, and proof of visible actions that shine a light on the truth of what’s being conveyed.

Here are three simple steps to improved engagement and greater marketing success:

  1. What is the message?

Shameless brand self-promotion isn’t nearly as effective as aligning the brand with the consumer’s lifestyle interests and needs – and becoming an enabler of them. You have to earn trust first. Before you can sell your pet food for example, pet parents need to see how the brand helps enhance and contribute to the experiences and interests they have in their shared lifestyle and pet’s wellbeing.

  1. Who is the messenger?

For the yet-to-be-converted credibility matters. Social proof is a critical factor to help foster trust. People believe their family, friends and contemporaries first. How is the brand enabling the voices of fans to convey their experiences and to distribute content that tells their stories? Outside credible experts can also be enlisted to amplify the evidence underneath the product creation story about ingredient sourcing, standards of quality, safety and generally walking the walk.

  1. Intentionally following the path to trust

It’s important to note here this is easier said than done. It requires changing the mindset on why the company exists and what, in the larger, human, universal scope – and certainly beyond the balance sheet – is the company trying to contribute to the greater good. It requires everyone to care about the consumer’s welfare and to see the brand as contributing to their health and happiness. However, what you think and believe will inform every action. It’s hard to get away with messaging around this without addressing the company’s true higher purpose and at its foundation what it stands for.

People are very astute these days at recognizing the truthful from anything that isn’t. If your brand heart is in the right place and you’ve optimized strategies to make trust creation a top priority, there’s an opportunity to earn permission for a relationship that can drive sustainable growth.

What kind of conversation are you really having with your prospective consumers? Is trust creation a top priority around the strategic planning table?

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to get the very best from your agency partners

April 27th, 2018 Posted by Agency Services, CMO, Emergent Column, Insight, storytelling, Transformation 0 comments on “How to get the very best from your agency partners”

What do good clients do?

Marketing isn’t easy. It’s tough and intellectually demanding. It requires an integrated understanding of product and brand strategy, coalesced with consumer insight and served in a warm basket of relevant creative, business-building solutions.

  • There’s really no way to do this well without both parties getting deeply involved in the work.

Unless of course, the goal is just to mark time and fill slots for a la carte communications tactics across a spectrum of expected “support tools” identified in a marketing plan.

On the other hand, if the goal of engaging an agency in the first place is transformative business results then the aforementioned collaborative effort is mission critical.

So what’s the alchemy that governs whether or not this kind of client/agency collaborative thinking occurs? What’s required in the relationship dynamic that makes for fertile ground in delivering out-sized outcomes?

Here it is, in a word: partnership. The truly successful agency and client relationships perform optimally because of aligned interests and goals. But what does that word partner really mean?

  • It begins as a unique way of thinking and behaving with your agency allies that springs from a foundation of trust and inclusion: “yes, we’re in this together.”

For context you can look at the flip side. The opposite of partner might be vendor: an outside supplier cost center to be managed and controlled; confined to a set of stay-in-your-lane guardrails and vertical silo thinking. A fulfillment cog in the marketing wheel to deliver a communications tactic, be it PR, advertising, social media, content or the like. Absence of genuine client/agency trust equates to “relationships” that are governed financially with one-sided agendas (spend as little as possible) and keeping agencies at a ‘do your job’ distance.

The true value of an agency partner

Good agencies are an amalgam of consultant and guide, business strategist, creative thinker, an outside resource devoted to marketing, strategy and communication across a spectrum of businesses and categories.

Better firms are also an elite think tank of communication insight experts. The best of them see a client’s business challenges holistically and not just as a place to apply artistic skill sets in creating engaging campaigns – as if the goal of the ad agency is just making another ad, or the PR firm slating another media interview – rather than their full engagement in creating a strategic solution to address the client’s need or problem in whatever form that might take.

But to really gain the most of a mutual investment, a relationship a true partnership must be symbiotic, with shared wins and benefits.

What do agencies want?

  • Clients that bring them all the way in and share every relevant detail of how their business operates and the challenges they face. Thus, providing enough visibility to information so an agency can truly serve as a trusted and entrusted advisor.
  • Clients should openly ask for counsel, both informative and challenging. Those who overtly say – “we want your best advice, your best ideas at all times. We want your honesty, too, when you think we’re not making a good decision.”
  • Clients who recognize that agencies are businesses too, and deserve to make a reasonable profit from the relationship. This manifests usually as a declaration from the client early in a new assignment: “we want our account to be a profitable one in your company and in return we ask for the very best of your experienced minds engaged to help meet our business goals and solve our problems.”
  • Clients who routinely ask their agencies to weigh in on challenging issues whether they be operational, R&D, cultural, financial or marketing; these are the very best clients because it’s so exceptional when it happens. These clients recognize the breadth, experience and value of agencies that often come equipped with prior experience where similar challenges have been solved successfully. Music to agency ears is the sweet song of trust and respect these requests imply.

Agency obligations

Superior athletes reach for the very best every time they take the field. So, too, agencies have to bring their “A” game everyday. There’s no way to do that unless you become invested in and are passionate about the client’s business. If the agency is operating with the client’s needs and best interests in mind, this will be evident in the daily effort, responsiveness and program outcomes.

  • If the agency sees client work simply as a financial management proposition, then the focus will be on deliverables within budgets, management of staff time to this agenda, and a quick move to ring the alarm bell if work goes out of scope. Nothing wrong with disciplined business management, but if the culture is primarily about managing for profit rather than adding value to the client relationship, the former will subtract from the latter.
  • So for agencies, the partnership begins with making the client’s business a continuing, ongoing study: evaluating and tracking the competitive environment, trade media, and other sources of business intelligence. The more you know the better this gets. It’s as if the client’s business is your own and thus worthy of the attention this priority will receive.
  • This ongoing commitment should be delivered in an envelope of respect for the superior knowledge clients possess of their own business. At times, in the name of leadership, agencies can get off track into “my way” land, based on we-know-best thinking. This form of arrogance usually ends in disintegration of trust and has no place in the mutual respect universe. Disagreement is ok and expected. Brinksmanship, though, is no way to build a mutually beneficial relationship.

Humanity – the glue that binds

When there’s belief that people from both camps are operating in mutual best interest, then agency and client combinations will work optimally. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, business decisions are made emotionally not rationally. It is the human condition.

We sense almost immediately when people are genuine, when we like each other, when we’re being honest and open. Life is short, and thus fit and chemistry matter. The kind of fit that occurs when people think highly of each other and actively work to see things from the other’s point of view.

So optimally, a good dose of values, integrity and empathy becomes the daily vitamin all involved in the client/agency partnership ingest to keep the mission focused on success all the way round.

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.

 

THE EMERGENT TRUST ENGINE: Validation Marketing™

January 24th, 2018 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, CMO, Consumer insight, Marketing Strategy, Retail brand building 0 comments on “THE EMERGENT TRUST ENGINE: Validation Marketing™”

A veritable mountain of consumer insight research continues to underscore the importance of transparency, integrity, ingredient quality and higher purpose to consumer purchase decisions for food, beverage and lifestyle brands they prefer. The legacy CPG and retail marketing paradigm of “interrupt and persuade” has disintegrated. The old methodology of creating strategy that invokes promises and claims around product features, formulation specs and benefits no longer resonates.

At the core of this cultural shift is one over-arching driver that enables sustainable brand relationships: Trust creation. In light of these changes, we’ve designed a new effective strategy planning approach at Emergent; one intended to anchor consumer trust and build added depth and meaning (value proposition) for a brand.

Emergent’s proprietary planning model – Validation Marketing™ – is constructed to supply tangible evidence of a company’s beliefs, behaviors and commitments to quality.

  • Our formal definition of Validation in this context is providing conclusive proof, evidence and demonstration of what we want consumers to believe about the brand and company.

Five key principles inform Validation Marketing. These foundational ideas spring from insight-research studies that chart the cultural migration from a brand’s self-reverential declarations of superiority to a focus on what consumers are passionate about and what is relevant to them.

Principle 1 – The Power of Higher Purpose

Belief and mission have never stood so strongly until now as a gateway to trusted brand relationships with consumers. A brand’s higher purpose represents a departure from transactional thinking and reflects instead what the core consumer truly cares about – what they value around beliefs and a value system that extends beyond commerce. Purpose strategy must be a reflection of the company’s unique mission, and how it’s embedded in the organization’s DNA.

Principle 2 – Trust Springs from Transparency

Openness is best served generously and often – by pulling back the curtain fully on supply chain standards, manufacturing processes, ingredient sources and quality standards. Letting the consumer in the door to observe, advise and co-create. Importantly, this also means acquiring a reflexive willingness to openly admit missteps – a very powerful and very human, laudable quality. This nurtures trust – the real pivot point in any meaningful brand relationship.

Principle 3 – The Connection of Influence to Validation

“Trusted source” credibility is now the accelerator of business communication, rather than the gross impressions or reach and frequency metrics (tonnage in media weight) that defined marketing traction for a generation.

The significance of respected influencers today is the validation they provide that reinforces and confirms what a brand or retailer says is indeed true. Influencers inform from a position of embedded trust.

Principle 4 – Emotion and Lifestyle Relevance

We know purchase decisions are made on an emotional level. Validation Marketing is based on appeals to the heart more than the head. Ultimately this is about commitments and beliefs. These subjects are best served with a heaping tablespoon of emotion and baked-in lifestyle relevance. When a company realizes and integrates its higher purpose into all aspects of how it goes to market, the outcome feeds a more emotive form of communication – one that inspires a true connection to people.

Principle 5 – The Importance of Social Proof

People respect and believe their friends, family members and other consumers ahead of any communication created by a brand. At the Pet Food Forum convention in Kansas City, presenter John Stanley of John Stanley & Associates cited research showing 93 percent of Millennials make their purchase decisions from endorsements, and of those, 66 percent came directly from friends. This helps us see social channels from a new and more productive angle: the mechanism of social proof – another step in the validation ecosystem. Social channel and user generated content tools are critical components in optimizing this channel.

Advocacy Drives Story Amplification

If friends’ recommendations matter during a purchase decision then it follows that brand fans can be powerful ambassadors providing the grist for social community and positive conversation about a brand. Getting to a trusted place where people want to become “members” of a brand community – and not merely purchasers – stems from a brand’s relevant meaning, higher purpose and its surrounding validation and advocacy.

Three Action Steps:

For food, beverage and lifestyle brands here’s a roadmap for embarking on the path to Validation Marketing success.

1. Message – Telling the stories behind how and where you source. The relentless drive for quality, the real people who manage your effort (and yes, your magic!), and the standards you’ve created to ensure repeated excellence. People want to know what goes into the foods and beverages they consume. Take people back to the farm.

2. Manner – There’s real, honest emotion around food, food experiences and the role it plays in our lives. Create context for your products within the inspiration people have in the kitchen, at the table and how they live. Connect the love people have for food and the social experiences it enables to your brand.

3. Make – Emphasize craftsmanship and attention to detail in product creation. What steps do you take to ensure the end result is the best quality? Help people understand how you do what you do. And just as important: tell consumers what you won’t do, the lines you won’t cross and the compromises you won’t make.

At the core of this approach to brand and retail marketing is the Higher Purpose you create that informs everything you do – as described in our post Building the Higher Purpose Brand.

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.

The Power and Influence of User Generated Content

November 27th, 2017 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, brand strategy, change, CMO, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Food Trend, Social community, Social media, User Generated Content 0 comments on “The Power and Influence of User Generated Content”

UGC has greater influence on purchase behavior than brand-built

Marketing food and beverage brands these days can feel a bit like playing darts with the lights off – trying to hit the mark of engagement when unsure of the path to this goal. A recent global consumer study sponsored by Stackla and conducted by Market Cube, helps illuminate the pathway to delivering the kind of content that resonates with consumers. Turns out it is stories created by their contemporaries, friends and family that matters most.

The old era of interruption-style, one-way marketing has been dethroned. We now live in a content-driven world. In an effort to reach increasingly elusive consumers, brands have become self-publishers and active participants in their own social channel communities.

  • People tend to tune out and avoid anything that looks or sounds like conventional marketing, so it is vital that new thinking be applied when designing brand building content strategies.

That said consumers have also become more savvy and sophisticated in assessing the credibility of content based, in part, on the source of that information.

What kind of content is most influential to purchase decisions?

  • Eighty-six percent of consumers believe that authenticity is important when deciding about brands they will purchase, according to the study.
  • Yet 57 percent of consumers think that less than half of the brand-produced content out there is truly authentic.

What does authentic mean to consumers?

User generated content is seen as three times more authentic when it comes from friends, family and other consumers rather than content produced by the brand itself or through the voice of a celebrity spokesperson. (We think use of celebrities can be deemed credible if great care is given to genuine and natural connections to the brand, and when organic and believable messaging tone is achieved.)

People choose to believe other people like themselves first because there’s a perceived higher threshold of honesty and integrity than company-built material. Which, in the eyes of the beholder, may be seen as serving only a transactional agenda.

Here are some highlights from the research:

  • What kind of content is most authentic? Created by consumers: 60 percent. Created by brands: 20 percent.
  • 52 percent of people say they post on social media at least once a month about products they’ve purchased.
  • 39 percent of consumers say they post about food and beverages at least two times a month.
  • 76 percent of people will post on social media (mostly Facebook) after a positive experience purchasing a food or beverage product, or dining out.
  • 70 percent of the time consumers can identify an image created by a brand rather than a consumer.
  • 20 percent of consumers have un-followed a brand on social media because they thought the content was too corporate and self-serving.
  • Authenticity matters to 90 percent of Millennials, 85 percent of Gen-Xers and 80 percent of Boomers

User generated content is a highly intrusive, credible and effective form of engagement because it respects the consumer desire for honesty and integrity above all.

The litmus test for success here comes back to a fundamental understanding of what people believe. Building trust is paramount in brand communication. The voices of users and family members work more effectively here because it flows from a desire to be helpful; it’s not self-serving. For brand-created content, the aforementioned tone and spirit should be factored into messaging to help assure it conveys a human, real and believable approach that doesn’t come across as a hard sell.

The testimonial voices of happy consumers can be one of the most powerful and persuasive of tools at your brand’s disposal. So help them tell their story. Encourage this behavior in your social channels. Feature the voices of your fans and ambassadors. It’s the equivalent of a laser-guided dart hitting the bulls-eye of engagement.

The five-point UGC checklist:

  1. Create rewards for fans that share photos, videos and experiences
  2. Offer incentives for users who share content in their own networks
  3. Develop promotions and contests to solicit content and amplify distribution
  4. Embed UGC content in your email campaigns
  5. Integrate shared authentic customer experiences at your web site

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.

Part 1: Integrated Communications – the New Maestro of Food Marketing

November 14th, 2017 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, branded content, CMO, Integrated Communications, Marketing Strategy, Public Relations 0 comments on “Part 1: Integrated Communications – the New Maestro of Food Marketing”

Is PR ready to move from instrument to orchestra leader?

Perhaps the harshest lesson for anyone in food and beverage marketing is the stark realization that persuasion no longer works. Persuasion was a welcome, business-friendly concept because its DNA was founded in brand-built, self-promotional messaging: here’s our product and why you should buy it.

Cultural shifts and behavior changes have transformed the shape of effective marketing from “talking at” consumers to “helping guide.” Consumers now rule the relationship – thus forcing changes in today’s marketing best practices and the service mix provided by agency partners.

Consumer shifts demand integrated communication solutions

When I first started in the agency business, public relations was primarily the sum of its media relations parts. Editorial media placement defined the marketing PR discipline, springing from its press agent roots in the post World War II rise of global agency companies. As the consumer packaged goods industry grew so did public relations. Its value exemplified in the context of cultivating third party, credible advocacy by a journalistic media source – one that was perceived to be unbiased and thus believable.

  • The marketing PR theory at work then: people in all demographic segments would consume media in print and broadcast forms to engage in the content – news or entertainment – while ads revolve around the perimeter searching (again and again) for attention. Getting your product talked about in the well of content was the ultimate in “intrusive” message delivery; wearing the aura of independent, reportorial endorsement. Controlled message and frequency were never in the equation like advertising, however, extended and cost-effective reach lived within its core proposition.

Mass media lived well with mass communication strategies.

Ogilvy (I was there for 11 years), in an effort to gain greater effective traction on behalf of its consumer branded clients, built an integrated proposition called Ogilvy Orchestration. It was an effort to bring symmetry and alignment between ad, PR, promotion and direct marketing services. While the concept had merit, its execution occasionally misfired due to competition between the various operating companies jockeying for the pole position of strategic client leadership. It was an early form of integrated thinking, yet, more about creating synergy among agency disciplines than a concept built to optimize and leverage consumer behavioral insight on the client’s behalf.

Digital changed the world: the old model lost traction, and a new one arrived

Let’s start by staking a claim: integrated communications – built around consumer lifestyle relevance – is the path forward for effective brand communication.

The consumer, for the most part, is in charge of how, when and where they engage in any and all brand messaging and hence, are in control of the relationships they choose to have with brands. Hence the tools deployed might blend earned media in the form of publicity, or branded content, or social channel conversation, or influencer engagement, or improved forms of advertising built around help over hype.

There’s an old adage, if the only thing you sell is a hammer then the answer to every problem is a nail.

So true. The Internet has facilitated consumer control over media channels and consumption. So there is easy avoidance of anything that walks and talks like traditional marketing. This condition ushered in a new marketing paradigm and tool kit – a decidedly less transactional model founded in relevance to consumer lifestyle interests, passions, needs and concerns.

Along with it, the current digital media eco-system literally demands a more conversational, straightforward and authentic form of communication. I would argue that PR brains are well suited to this task given the history of focus on editorial sensibility around “educating” versus the conventional solution leaning into cinematic salesmanship.

Today, brands must become partner, coach and guide to their audience as an enabler of their lifestyle goals. It is in this method of marketing reciprocity that more meaningful relationships between brand and consumer can be formed. It begs and answers the strategic question: in what ways can the brand improve the customer’s life?

At Emergent, we appreciate the shift to mattering and deeper meaning, rather than singularly advancing product features and benefits. The mattering construct requires businesses to fully operate in the customer’s best interests – which historically was a core principle that sat underneath the value proposition of public relations.

Implications to the planning model and agency

We believe integrated communication is a fundamental requirement for effective marketing strategy. Agencies that understand and can execute this fully will remain a vital and valuable resource to clients.

That said, it requires some modifications in operating behavior from the typical PR model of fielding tactical teams of publicists and creators of editorially-sensible material.

Integrated communications involves assembling an orchestra of expertise: part management consultants, part behavioral research experts, part brand strategy planners, part creative and producers of relevant content in a variety of media forms.

So, for clients and agencies looking to leverage integrated communications in earnest, the talent mandate must answer the call for integrated thinking. Inevitably, this will redefine the skill set requirements for firms who expect to provide the highest levels of value to their clients.

Integrated thinking informs integrated plans, which leads to successful integrated execution.

In Part 2 we’ll take a closer look at the elements of the new integrated marketing tool kit.

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

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

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