Monthly Archives: May 2012

You and I don’t always mean we in cultivating brand fans.

With all of the avenues to communicate with consumers, there has been an explosion of branding efforts, particularly among food and beverage marketers, aimed at getting up close and personal with consumers. Creating brand fans and champions has become a national pastime, but how close do consumers want brands to actually get?

The Journal of Consumer Research recently published a study, We are not the same as you and I: Causal Effects of Minor Language Variations on Consumers’ Attitudes Toward Brands, explored the nuances of familiarity in branding communication. The short answer to the question of how close is too close in branding is: it depends. When presented with brand messaging that linked the brand to the consumer using the pronoun we, consumers reacted favorably when they expected a close relationship with the brand. In contrast, consumers overwhelming preferred the brand-consumer link to be characterized as you and I, a subtle but distinct separation, from brands they expected to have a distant relationship with.

What’s a food and beverage marketer to do? First, know your brand by conducting some consumer research to determine where your brand sits on both the familiarity and attitude continuums. If your brand is well known and favorably viewed by a wide margin, brand messaging can probably successfully use the pronoun we to strengthen consumer connection with the brand. It is very important to note that consumers view lesser known brands much like they view strangers, and expect the same social protocols.

Understanding the nuances of language and consumer attitudes is one of the many facets that food and beverage marketers need to consider in developing a branding campaign and ongoing consumer communication. With online and social media, as well as off-line/traditional media, there are more opportunities than ever before to connect with consumers and spread the word quickly. You just want to be sure that the tone and familiarity of the message makes continuing positive impressions.

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Food trends. There’s marketing opportunities in the “sticky” ones.

Food market research firm The Hartman Group, Inc. has been looking at food trends for over 20 years, and through their experience they have identified some great food trends that have stuck around, and some others not so much. Here are a few of the “sticky” trends that still offer lots of food and beverage marketing opportunities.

Anytime can be mealtime. Snacks and small meals have created all kinds of opportunities to market essentially the same food items with a packaging or messaging spin to appeal to a variety consumer feeding times.

Street food. The many purveyors of food truck meals-on-wheels have spawned an appetite for lesser known, regional cuisines or fusions of ethnic classics. Marketing ingredients and components of these interesting dishes with DIY recipes can move this food from the street to the home.

Getting fresh and real. There continues to be a cultural shift toward fresh foods and the implied healthfulness of eating fresh. For many consumers, they simply need a nudge in that direction with meal suggestions and recipes that incorporate fresh ingredients, and tout the joys of scratch cooking.

Private label. Consumers have embraced food and beverage private label beyond a cost saving alternative, as PL products have striven to match national brands in quality and variety. There is opportunity for national brands to remind consumers of the value of their brands, and there is an equal opportunity for private label marketers to grow by attracting those consumers who are not national brand loyalists.

LTOs. Nothing generates a food or beverage purchase decision quicker than limited time offers.  McDonald’s works this strategy every time the McRib appears on the menu. This strategy has also become a mainstay in promoting seasonal produce and special seasonal varieties of anything from pumpkin pie to eggnog.

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What’s a “like” really worth?

Dr. Tina McCorkindale, Assistant Professor at Appalachian State University Department of Communication, recently published studies that found that 75% of the Millenial generation (18- to 29-year olds) said they had liked an organization or business on Facebook. However, 69% of them said they rarely or never returned to the fan page.

Since the primary objective of social media is engagement, this is not an impressive ROI. The question is: why did respondents push the “like” button in the first place? The study found that the majority learned about the organization’s or business’s fan page through a friend, or by accidentally landing there.  Only 28% actually sought out the organization or business. It appears that peer pressure may influence “like” as much or more than other factors.

The take away for food and beverage marketers is that the number of  “likes” is not as important at the quality of “likes”. To boost the quality of “likes”, marketers need to understand engagement…coupons, offers, games, dialogue, and other relevant content that is updated frequently. This is the investment required by marketers to make effective use of social media.

Dr. McCorkindale concludes that, “if they (organizations and businesses) can’t manage the space, they really shouldn’t be using the space.” A well designed social media plan offers unique opportunities to build brand loyalty, but because it is not a static form of communication, it requires an ongoing commitment to engagement.

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