Posts tagged "social media"

WILL SOCIAL CHANNEL SHIFTS DRIVE BRANDS TO GO DIRECT?

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

Brands look to better manage their own destiny

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

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

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

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

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

Algorithm alarm bell – now what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behavior changes occurring behind the curtain

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

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

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

Emergent’s guidance on optimizing social channel strategy:

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

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

Help over hype – always.

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

 

 

 

Relevance Drives the Recipe for Social Media Results

February 13th, 2018 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, brand strategy, branded content, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Public Relations, Social community, Social media, storytelling 0 comments on “Relevance Drives the Recipe for Social Media Results”

Social media has emerged as one of the most important channels of communication for brands and retailers – in no small measure due to high levels of consumer participation on these platforms and in these communities. Fueling consumer traction is an opportunity for two-way communication; a dialogue rather than monologue. It is a more human and interactive environment – and thus adds value to the consumer’s life and experience by providing unique ways to engage.

  • Of note, social media participation accounts for at least one of every three minutes people spend on the Internet, according to Global Web Index.

We already know that consumers prefer to get information, guidance and ideas from voices they deem trustworthy. Social channels help fill this need as a trusted source, especially when the proportion of content generated by consumers themselves (trusted) is correctly balanced with posts created by brands (not as trusted).

The question we often get from clients starts with how to extract optimal effectiveness from social channel program investments.

Here’s the Emergent recipe for improved social channel results: 

1. Competing successfully for social attention through relevance and utility

Rule number one: social is not a conventional media platform for pushing out self-promotional sales messaging. The great divide between social channels contributing measurably to growth vs. not, begins with the relevance of content and value to the consumer’s lifestyle passions and interests. Social discourse is not advertising.

  • While this may seem intuitively obvious, we observe any number of brands using social as a traditional media play, dominated by product promotion and transactional messages.

The first step towards social media engagement success begins with mining insight into the lives and aspirations of the audiences brands wish to serve. Ideally consumer insight research is part of the overall marketing plan and can be deployed to gain a better understanding of what a brand’s core users care about. Better to truly know them rather than base the messaging map on hunches and assumptions.

From this baseline insight, we build personas – detailed descriptions of consumer segments that make up the population of users either existing or desired. The personas then inform content strategy and help design a community experience founded on relevance, and added meaning to consumer interests and lifestyle.

This approach helps guide community managers to optimize the entire social encounter around core consumers, and in doing so, feeds engagement levels and social’s holy grail – content sharing. When content delivers intrinsic value to the audience, often in an entertaining way, it gets shared and thus multiplies reach.

2. High quality content wins, every time

According to user generated content platform company Stackla, 86 percent of consumers say authenticity matters in deciding what brands they like and prefer. Additionally, 60 percent of consumers believe content from a friend or family member will influence their purchase decisions. Comparatively only 23 percent say they are influenced by content from a celebrity.

User generated content (UGC) is another key component – again founded on the fundamental construct of trusted source. UGC should be embedded as an important component of social strategy, bringing in the voices of real people and their stories as a powerful foundation of validation and proof.

  • Consumers believe each other’s experiences with a brand first and foremost; more so than self-promotional content from a brand asserting the benefits and performance of its products and services.

Balanced content strategy enhances engagement. As such, to enhance overall content effectiveness, social channel management should address an apportioned mix of:

  • User generated
  • Brand created
  • Curated third-party content

Within this content eco-system is a formula we follow to plan content on a calendar basis. We recommend that roughly 80 percent of the content track message, topic and tone that are inspirational, educational, useful or fun. The remaining 20 percent of the calendar can be devoted to brand promotions and offers.

Of note, we know that quality content is far more important than quantity in social channels. It simply takes more thought, time and effort to create material that truly benefits other people and adds value to them than inconsequential frequency-fillers. Even when aggregating user generated material it’s important to curate the posts that are interesting and informative from anything that’s not offering a coaching or relevant entertaining moment.

3. Content creation guidance

HubSpot reports that visual content is 40 times more likely to be shared on social media than other forms. This data tracks with evidence that Blog posts using photos garner much higher readership than those without. This helps explain the out-sized popularity of Instagram – especially for food and healthy lifestyle brands.

In general:

  • Show readers the lifestyle they aspire to live. If its outdoor adventure they crave, then you know where to go. If they’re kitchen commanders, help build their culinary adventure.
  • Reveal the emotion under your product story. The devotion of craftsman to craftsmanship is an emotional journey people want to take. Talk about your commitments, standards and beliefs.
  • Inject some art into product photography. Make your photos more interesting by thinking creatively about the setting and how to imbue the image with greater meaning or emotion.

4. Influencers and influencing

At the start of this post we described the anchor from which all audience blessings flow: trust. Trusted voices are the key component to securing belief among consumers. Today’s consumers are understandably skeptical, and their ‘trust threshold’ is that much higher.

Brands are no longer free to simply assert claims of superiority or better experience. Other respected sources need to corroborate what you hope to convey. Influencers are a part of this strategy.

Bloggers and third-party subject matter experts add another dimension to content plans, bringing borrowed equity and credibility to the table. So it makes sense to build and nurture a universe of relevant influencers in your category. These voices can help verify what you want people to believe, while expanding the reach of your message through their networks.

The 50 or so Bloggers who are currently part of our Emergent Media Network operate in this role as added credible voices and authorities. Our obligation in this symbiotic relationship is to bring useful, relevant, well-researched and credible story ideas to the table. Quality in equals quality out.

Social strategy is, by definition, an integration of content marketing, community building, nurturing and the aggregation of user-generated stories. When built around insight about the audience and their needs, with content they care about, an opportunity exists to earn permission for a deeper relationship – based on mutual respect and trust.

Social is, well, social.

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.

How to Build Your Brand’s Tellable Tale

October 20th, 2017 Posted by brand marketing, brand strategy, branded content, Consumer insight, Social community, Social media, storytelling 0 comments on “How to Build Your Brand’s Tellable Tale”

The formula for brand stories that drive engagement

Marketers are living in the age of consumer control – of the conversation, of granting access, of the genesis of any relationship that may exist between a brand and its users. For this reason, relevance has become a watchword to define what separates real engagement with people from that of disinterest and disconnection.

Relevance always begins with a deep understanding of the consumer’s lifestyle interests and passions, their concerns, needs and desires. It is here, in alignment with what people care about, that brands can find mutually beneficial ground to create conversation. We’ve described this as engaging via help over hype.

To activate relevance, brand stewards must think differently about the relationship dynamics with consumers. It’s hard to move away from the usual transactional behavior and messaging – unless – you really embrace caring about the people you wish to win as customers. You must commit to deep understanding of how the brand sits in service of improving people’s lives –and not just in terms of delivering on product benefits.

Tactically, nowhere is this seen in greater relief than through building communities of brand participants and ambassadors. Social platforms enable interested groups and fan communities to join together. These communities are powerful forces. There’s simply no better way to win new customers than to have current true believers share with others what they love about the brand – it’s the ultimate testimonial.

However in doing so, there are some rules which must be respected: this is not a channel to push out self-serving sales messages. Instead, it is the land of relevance and creating connection – to people’s lives, to each other, to community and sharing.

What’s at stake? There are two types of brands: those that matter and in which the consumer becomes invested, and those that don’t where products are viewed as commodities bought on price – easily interchanged with other options on any given day. The former is a way of becoming embedded in the hearts and minds of consumers through community and engagement, while the latter bypasses this approach in favor of talking “at” people.

Building brand engagement through story

Forming relationships is first and foremost a storytelling mission. Either those shared by brands or those created by consumers.

Have you ever noticed the stark contrast between brand communication that feels like informing, educating and honest conversation, as opposed to a message that looks like marketing and is designed to persuade?

“People influence people. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message.” Mark Zuckerberg

The tellable tale by definition is useful, valuable communication the consumer wants to share. All too often brand social channels are preoccupied with using the medium as another platform to push selling messages out the door. Which is vastly different than respecting the sharing and conversational aspects of the environment.

Here are six steps for brands to create compelling tellable tales:

  1. Feature real-people stories – activate the compelling real people customer tales of change, improvement, transformation and delight earned by brands who work to enhance the lives of their users.
  2. Demonstrate beliefs and mission – people want to be part of something greater than themselves. It is imperative that brands fully embrace a relevant ‘higher purpose’ that guides brand/company behaviors and decisions. A real, human, useful purpose beyond fueling product transactions.
  3. Transparency rules the relationship – people want to know about the commitments and standards you follow that govern how you do business. Integrity and honesty are critical to establishing connections with consumers.
  4. Go behind the curtain – companies, intentionally or not, are often like black boxes that operate behind a closed door. Now, however, people want to know how products are created, where ingredients are sourced, how employees and suppliers are treated. Open the door and let them in.
  5. Humanize your brand – bring to life the people who create, innovate, build and personify the company’s beliefs and mission. Tell their stories. Let them explain in their own words why the company is operating in the consumer’s best interests and how the business works to improve people’s lives.
  6. Entertain along the way – as the great David Ogilvy once said, “you cannot bore the customer into buying your product.” Entertaining communication allows elements of fun, humor and excitement to filter into the construction of content. Make it interesting, engaging and emotional, as well as informative.

Finally, encourage your fan community to co-create and build content of their own. Nothing is more powerful or compelling than this form of outreach. Be an enabler of social sharing. Encourage customers to contribute. Make it easy to do that. Repurpose what they make and distribute widely.

The 80/20 rule is usually in effect across most product categories, meaning that a smaller population of heavy users are most likely also to be the fans who help tell your story and carry the message. Take care of them!

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.

 

 

 

family grocery shopping

The Food and Beverage CMO Directive: Belief Management

March 10th, 2017 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, shopper behavior, Supermarket strategy, Uncategorized 0 comments on “The Food and Beverage CMO Directive: Belief Management”

Is this embedded in your marketing plan?

Belief: Something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion (Source: Oxford Dictionary)

Belief is now central to closing the deal with consumers – to earning their allegiance and engagement. Yet, belief and its sibling trust are often not acknowledged directly in marketing strategies, priorities and especially downstream business behaviors.

We already know consumers are fully in control of initiating any conversation (pull) with brands – while traditional business, marketing and media strategies (push) have been upended by cultural shifts and technological disruption. Trust, relevance, and consumer-centricity have become foundational to growth because they mirror consumer expectations, and thus inform brand preferences.

Of all the business priorities clamoring for attention, it now falls on CMOs to become belief managers – working (harder) to build trust between consumers and brands in a business environment where skepticism rules.

Trust is not necessarily enhanced in…

  • Paid media channels – the channel and form carries their own liabilities
  • Interruption-style tactics, both online and offline
  • Brand assertions of quality, superiority and benefit

Areas where trust is cultivated…

  • Earned media a third party provides independent perspective
  • Social media – the consumer’s personal opinion is aired, unedited
  • Retail and digital experience – consumers witness it first hand
  • Verified quality and transparency – credible experts supply the proof

Today, the marketer’s goal is to transform customers into advocates and ambassadors. But to do so first requires belief. Trust is difficult to secure and challenging to preserve. It springs from a point of view that brand relationships are really like friendships, and so trust must be earned and nurtured through actions not just words.

The bargain for Belief Management is consumers determine you are operating in their best interests, that you are devoted to quality and craftsmanship; that your business operates with real values, a tangible soul and is making an effort to improve the world around us.

There was an era when marketers felt they could control and transact belief by ordering up paid influence through advertising imagery, music, message done in an effort to persuade. Now the artifice of concocted, self-promoting story is running headlong into a reality test. The consumer isn’t listening. They are, however, listening to each other – thus ‘social proof’ is a major part of the belief acid test.

Mining moments of truth

Belief Management might be best expressed as a planned effort to identify and activate opportunities to be completely relevant and believable. How? By curating all consumer touch points, from in-store experience to operations decisions to communications:

  • Be candid and honest.
  • Be transparent.
  • Be open.
  • Be helpful.
  • Be useful.
  • Be generous.
  • Be an enabler and supporter.

As you read those statements, they sound oddly familiar – as in the type of human behavior that leads to trust and friendship. The more brand relationships mirror characteristics of human friendships the better this gets.

In the marketing plan, belief must manifest in every step the organization takes to put the consumer at the center of strategy. That said, with consumers increasingly skeptical of corporate motivation, the pressure is even greater for brands and retailers to not only represent themselves as authentic, transparent and trustworthy – but TO BE authentic, transparent and trustworthy.

This is why Higher Purpose is such a vital component of installing belief. To the extent the business is shaped and guided by a legitimate belief system that steps beyond the transaction and profit motive, the deeper meaning and values help facilitate company behaviors that ‘prove’ a customer-first commitment.

It should be noted, there’s also a stark reality. In today’s connected world where ‘anything that can be known will be known,’ brands now live in glass houses. Honesty as an imperative is fueled by the reality of hyper-connectivity and the ability of consumers to rapidly obtain information in real time, confirming or denying, what your company does and does not do.

The Importance of Validation Marketing

At Emergent, we started work awhile back on a new planning model. We call it Validation Marketing. We created this series of steps with one fundamental concept that sits underneath: it is a trust creation engine.

If you accept the idea that belief and trust are vital to getting “permission” for any kind of relationship with those that buy from you, then this recipe for belief creation is for you. It is a virtuous circle. As belief managers we establish the foundation for engagement, working hard to build relevance and deeper meaning with consumers. Why? Because we’ve, in effect, humanized the entire operation and, in doing so, created the basis for trust.

For food retailers, if you follow this thinking all the way to the ground of shopping experience, there’s an opportunity to elevate and differentiate the banner brand. Legacy policies suggest some lack this insight or are unable to translate customer-centricity all the way through to offering food adventures in an environment that is traditionally focused solely on pushing transactions.

The irony: transactions will be better served by working harder on belief management.

Digging Deeper

Interested in learning more about harnessing the power of brand purpose, developing belief strategies and becoming the beneficiary of consumer trust?

Watch the webinar we hosted with Fresh Squeezed Ideas on the “Power of Purpose.” Moderated by the Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) Mark Baum, the webinar features Emergent’s Bob Wheatley and Fresh Squeezed Ideas’ John McGarr, a premier consumer insights provider.

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

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

digital devices

The Shattering of Mass Appeal and Media

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

Moving from scale to scoped…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mass appeal vs. mattering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeding the Monster?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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