Monthly Archives: February 2014

Proposed Nutrition Facts Label Changes…Minor Adjustments or Major Overhaul?

It appears that most stakeholders in the the nutrition facts label conversation agree that updates are overdo. The devil, of course, is in the details. Which facts need to be updated, added, or deleted? How should they be presented graphically? In addition to the agenda of better informing consumers so that they can make better food choices, from the food marketers’ perspective there is an additional agenda: branding.

While the nutritional facts label on food packaging is mandated both in content and graphic presentation, and does not relate to an individual product brand, the nutrition facts label has become a brand in and of itself. Consumers recognize it, have learned to read it, and have formed a comfort with its familiarity, even if they would like some changes to the information. The question becomes: how far should the FDA go in updating the label, in light of the “brand” that consumers are familiar with?

Consumers want product information at the shelf level that they can find and consume quickly, usually in a matter of seconds.  Familiarity with the navigation of food packaging, and the nutrition facts label in particular, is extremely important in  consumer acceptance of change. The USDA released a study in January, 2014 that indicates that 42% of working age adults between 29 and 68 read nutrition facts labels most or all of the time when food shopping. That is an increase from the 2007 data that indicated 34% of working age adults read the nutrition facts label of food and beverage products most or all of the time.

With growing consumer interest in nutritional values of foods and beverages, changes to the nutrition facts label needs to consider both the information consumers are looking for and the format in which the information is provided. There is brand equity in the existing label, that like the brand equity in a product identity, has value, and the question in any re-branding effort is:  how far to go….minor adjustments that don’t take the consumer too far away from the familiar original, or a major overhaul?  It is important to consider consumer shopping behavior and the need to provide relevant nutrition facts that can be quickly read. If the objective is to get more consumers making better food choices, their point of reference, the nutrition facts label, should make it easier for them.

Nutrition Facts Label/Table – Proposed Changes to Content and Presentation (FDA 2-27-14)

Proposed Nutrition Facts Label Changes - FDA 2-27-14Graphic: Wall Street Journal/FDA

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INFOGRAPHIC: B2B Marketing/Sales Guide – Using Email, Social Media, Content Marketing

INFOGRAPHIC: B2B Marketing/Sales Guide – Using Email, Social Media, Content Marketing. Download the PDF from link below.


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The Power of Coffee and Branding…It’s Alive and Well at the Sochi Olympics.

If anyone ever doubted the power of branding, here’s an Olympic tale.

McDonald’s is the official Olympic sponsor and purveyor of food and beverages within the Olympic village. That means anyone seeking a hot cup of java or a specialty coffee or tea drink has to patronize the village McDonald’s.

The NBC broadcast crew, some 2500 of them, have access to a  private, covert Starbucks courtesy of NBC corporate for the sole benefit of its onsite crew. The beverages are free to all crew members, so there is no selling going on here. The Starbucks is located within the NBC broadcast center and without the proper credentials, no one can access this equally well-known purveyor of coffee and tea beverages. According to the IOC, no sponsorship rules are being violated here.

Here’s the power of branding part. Starbucks certainly has its fans and devotees, and given a choice, they would always purchase Starbucks over any other brand. So, when they can’t find a Starbucks within the Olympic village, but they see Starbucks cups walking around in the hands of individuals, their coffee brand sense is put on high alert. They start following the cups to find the coffee. To their frustration, they can’t cross the threshold into the NBC broadcast center to access their favorite coffee brand…Starbucks.

While Starbucks can’t profit directly from this brand tale, they have certainly confirmed the power of their brand and justified the investment they have made in branding. To be clear, this post in no way suggests that McDonald’s does not enjoy an equally enormous brand loyalty itself, nor that they don’t serve a good cup of joe too.

#starbucks  #starbucksatsochi #coffeeatolympics #mcdonaldscoffeeolympics #mcdonalds #nbcsportsolympics

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The first 3 questions food marketers need to ask.

It’s not at all uncommon for food marketers to contact us with a shopping list of marketing wants…email campaign, direct mail, social media, advertising, promotional campaigns. Of course, we are happy to assist, but  we really have to ask:  how did you determine that these marketing tactics belong on your marketing shopping list?

The answer to that question lies in a fundamental understanding of the terms strategies and tactics…and which comes first. I’ll answer the “which comes first” first:  strategies. They are the planning and definition of purpose phase in any endeavor. They define where you want to go. Tactics are developed to help get you there. So, it makes sense in marketing terms to define the strategies first because the tactics will easily follow once you know where you want to go.

Many food marketers struggle, in varying degrees, with the strategies definition phase. I’d like to suggest that there are just three questions to ponder and answer. Once you’ve accomplished that, you’re on your way to determining which tactics are best suited to support your strategies.

1. Why…why do we do what we are doing?  On the surface, this seems fairly simple. It’s the stuff of which mission statements are made. But, really focus on defining one clear purpose for your business operations. If you can distill everything else down to that one why, you have identified the basis upon which you make your business decisions. This why question defines your brand.

2. Who…who are we doing it for? The impulsive answer is easy…anyone and everyone who will buy your products.  The catch in this question is distilling the universe of customers/consumers down to that group that is really genuinely interested in the answer to the why question. Examining your current  loyal customers/consumers can assist in defining your target market. The answer to the why question also leads to identifying those customers/consumers who could benefit most from your brands and products. Look for the commonalities in your core customers/consumers and that will lead to a better definition of your prime customer/consumer profile or target market. Before you can sell, you need to know who you are talking to.

3. What…what do we do that is unique? Food marketers know that most product categories are very crowded. It’s the ones that “build a better mouse trap” that outsell their competitors. What is it about your brands and products that sets you apart…what can customers/consumers expect from you that they can’t from your competitors? Defining your competitive advantages defines your message to customers/consumers.

Once you have answered these three questions, you will know who your core customers/consumers are and what to say to them.  Now you’re ready for the tactics. Reaching target audiences is not a “one size fits all” proposition. Tactics need to be chosen based on where your core customers/consumers hang out and how to best reach them. Bypassing the strategic questions can result in costly marketing efforts that do not meet your objectives.

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Food companies, let’s have the marketing budget talk.

Whether it’s the food industry or any other, the budget talk between clients and their marketing/creative partners can take many twists and turns. Some clients are very open about their marketing budgets and the objectives they hope to achieve. Others play it “close to the vest” and prefer not to share marketing budget information with creative partners. We’d like to suggest that being open with marketing/creative partners about budgets and expectations is a much more successful approach in building a mutually beneficial partnership, and this is why:

1. Good partnerships are built on open, honest communication.  Clients are looking for creative partners they can trust and confide in during the course of working together on marketing initiatives. That means open and honest communication about all of the information relevant to the effort, including budget. If a budget has not been established, that’s fine….good creative partners will work with clients to establish marketing budgets commensurate with the scope of work and objectives to be met. If you are not comfortable sharing an established budget number/range with your creative partner, maybe the partnership is not a good fit. Sharing budget information upfront allows marketing/creative partners the opportunity to structure creative solutions that meet client objectives within the budget allocated. Everyone feels more confident in the partnership moving forward.

2. Not sharing budget information can lead to wrong assumptions.  Your marketing/creative partner will have to “fill-in the blanks” in preparing a proposal. Making assumptions for the sake of arriving at a number serves neither the client nor the creative partner well. Much time can be wasted in this guessing game, time that could be spent working on solutions to advance the client’s marketing objectives. If a budget has not been established because a client cannot determine the cost of the scope of work without input from the creative partner, then work together to define the scope of work and set a budget. This is a far more productive approach to budgeting than working through a series of wrong assumptions.

3. A good creative partner will work within an established budget. There are many options available to meet stated marketing objectives. A good creative partner will suggest solutions that are financially appropriate within an established budget. Likewise, a good creative partner will advise at the outset if a budget is really not adequate to meet a client’s stated objectives and both can work to find a solution by adjusting the scope of work and/or incrementally increasing the budget. A good marketing/creative partner will agree to an established budget upfront and, as long as the scope of work does not change, will work within that budget.

Choosing a great creative partner should be based on their creative talent, skill set, and experience. Once you have trust in a marketing/creative partner’s capabilities, it is far more productive to collaborate with them on budgeting, than to select another firm solely based on cost.

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