The Food Brand Marketing Sea Change

June 19th, 2015 Posted by brand marketing, change, storytelling 0 comments on “The Food Brand Marketing Sea Change”

Part 2: Reimagining Food and Beverage in America

Family At Farmers Market

Let’s start with defining what brand means. CPG businesses have been building temples to brand strategy for decades. The brand is supposed to be the emotional bridge and equity vessel that supports a premium price and drives preference at the shelf.

Thus, the approach and systems for go-to-market have developed a near ‘lather, rinse, repeat’ quality to them. The process starts with research, to assess consumer opinions, needs and behaviors. Next, the development of “The Brief” to summarize product features and benefits, optimized to category competitive strength. And then, creation of appropriate communications tools that invoke, claim and assert quality, features and benefits. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

What if the fundamental role of brand is changing? Do the old processes still apply?

New brand thinking: So Prove It

The American consumer’s long-standing infatuation and love affair with brands is in decline. Most organizations already realize it is no longer possible to convince and persuade consumers. And many CPGs have refined their content strategies to play more effectively in emerging media — fishing where the fish are.

However, the tendency to invoke and assert quality and benefit remains embedded in a system that must change to match the key roles that relevance and belief play in how today’s purchase decisions are made.

In sum: Brands are no longer the singular defining vehicle and marker of quality. The role of brand is now being recast as a messenger and bearer of news about quality. Consumers want proof, validation, and evidence of what’s involved in producing a food or beverage they buy.

The arguments in support of WHY a product is superior in quality and taste are found in nuanced sourcing and production criteria. Equally important is the role of a belief system — meaning and higher purpose — that sits at the heart of how relationships are cultivated between consumer and brand.

Storytelling takes a unique turn here: in some cases working all the way back to the farm, the earth where ingredients came from; how products are developed and what goes on in the making that ladders up to higher quality and its companion, a better taste experience.

The Superior Role of Truth and Trust

Assertions won’t cut it. Consumers are looking for transparency, proof points, and validation by respected sources that confirm and endorse what is conveyed – and in so doing, elevating both company and brand authenticity.

Action steps:

  • Let’s meet the cow, the farmer or the grower.
  • Let’s get to know the inside expert who sources and guards the markers of quality.
  • Let’s tell the culinary story and background on recipe.
  • Let’s understand how things are made in a transparent way.
  • Let’s be open and honest about commitments to quality and sustainability – and the challenges and efforts overcome to bring quality to the forefront.
  • Let’s talk about our beliefs and higher purpose (our soul) as an organization, too.

If there’s something in your product/brand story you don’t want people to discover, then you have a job to do. Fix the recipe because the product is the marketing these days. What’s inside the product is important and the brand alone can no longer carry all the water of belief.

Look for our next installment: Premium Sells


Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent Healthy Living. 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 [email protected] and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

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