How can you get a 7-fold increase in your brand value?

brandingMarketing professionals have been advising clients for decades to invest in brand positioning and identity to produce a greater ROI on all other marketing and promotional efforts. After a 10-year study, we now have quantifiable data to support that sage advice courtesy of WPP brand consultancies The Partners and Lambie-Nairn, in collaboration with Millward Brown and BrandZ. Using a 10-year period of brand valuation data and combining that with consumer opinions of the same brands for the same 10-year period, we can now quantify what we always suspected:  investing in brand positioning and identity produces markedly greater returns in brand value when compared to, or used in conjunction with strong advertising.

Here are the comparative results for the 10-year study period:

1. Compelling brand value proposition, a distinctively designed brand identity, and compelling advertising and marketing support:  168% increase in brand valuation

2. Compelling brand value proposition, a distinctively designed brand identity, and weak advertising and marketing support:  76% increase in brand valuation

3. Weak brand value proposition, a poorly designed brand identity, and compelling advertising and marketing support:  27% increase in brand valuation

4. Week brand value proposition, a poorly designed brand identity, and weak advertising and marketing support:  21% increase in brand valuation

For food and beverage brand owners and stakeholders, one of the most remarkable takeaways from this study effort is the degree to which branding drives brand value growth, even though most brands allocate the majority of their marketing budgets to advertising and promotional efforts. Without a clear commitment upfront to creating and establishing a brand, along with consistent brand messaging over time, the dollars spent on marketing and promotional support are far less effective. Investing in a brand strategy and identity before focusing on advertising and promotional support efforts can increase the ROI, ranging from 21% to 168%, in brand value over the long haul. With brand valuations ranging from millions to hundreds of millions of dollars, these percentage increases represent huge bottom line dollars.

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Food packaging. Let’s clean it up.

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Clean packaging/labels for food and beverage products is a hot topic. Consumers certainly have spoken about their desire for simplified ingredient lists and easy to read/comprehend food product packaging. The topic is also generating confusion not only among consumers, but also food and beverage product producers and marketers.

First, it’s a matter of definition. One issue that is complicating the clean label discussion is the fact that there is no regulatory definition of clean label, even though the food industry itself has put forth several options. The “unregulated” definition that is commonly understood by consumers may be the one that matters most to food marketers until regulatory agencies decide to take on the task. For consumers, clean labels are generally understood to mean food products formulated with ingredients that consumers have some familiarity with and that they view as “wholesome”. While this definition provides some guidance for food marketers, it is a somewhat slippery slope. A food brand has to consider its product’s target audience in determining what is “wholesome”. An unwholesome ingredient to one target audience may be perceived as wholesome or maybe even desirable to another target audience, depending on what the product expectations are for each target audience.

Consumers are not the only driving force. While consumers cannot be under-estimated in importance and influence in the clean label discussion, there are other forces driving the discussion. Increased globalization of food and beverage distribution has driven the need to clean up formulations and food labels. Products with uncomplicated ingredient lists are confronted with far less international regulatory hurdles as food producers expand their markets to capitalize on growing global food demands. Progress in food technology, while not necessarily a driver of the clean label trend, has certainly enabled it. Meeting consumer demand for convenient, healthy, great tasting, and safe food products has been advanced by emerging ingredient, processing, and packaging technologies. To stay competitive, food brands have had to evolve with the available technology.

What does this mean for food packaging? The clean label trend affects food and beverage packaging in several ways. First, obviously, is the need to revise the content, copy and visuals, of product packaging to reflect the changes in product formulations, ingredient lists, and nutrition facts. From a branding perspective, packaging design and configuration needs to reflect a clean/transparent approach visually. These are a subtle suggestions through typeface, uncluttered layout, and packaging materials such as front-of-pack windows or transparent packaging materials so that products are visible through the packaging. The role of packaging colors and textures should not be overlooked in their suggestive influence on the definition of wholesome. The clean label trend has generated a new vocabulary of marketing buzz words that have come to be understood by consumers and marketers alike as defining simplified, wholesome products, and this new vocabulary needs to be woven into marketing copy not only on product packaging/labels, but on all other marketing materials and media.

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A word up.

“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.”  Ansel Adams, Photographer

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Let’s come to terms on some marketing and advertising words.

marketingadvertisingwordsWe’re often asked, “what’s the difference between marketing and advertising?”. In fact, there are several terms in the advertising and marketing world that many of our food and beverage clients have asked us to clarify. We’ve found that we can better serve our clients needs if we’re all talking the same “language”. So, let’s come to terms with some commonly used words in advertising and marketing speak.

Marketing vs Advertising

These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they have very different meanings.

Marketing: the process of developing, distributing, promoting, and selling products and services.

Advertising: One of many communication tools used to persuade a target audience to buy.

Types of media

Advertising is placed or appears in three types of media:

Paid Media: Time and space that is purchased for the advertiser’s message, and includes media such as print, broadcast, social media (ads, not mentions in posts, tweets, etc.), paid search engine advertising, and sponsorships.

Owned Media: Communication channels and content that are completely controlled by the advertiser  such as websites, blogs, newsletters, and social media pages.

Earned Media: Messaging that promotes companies, products, and services that is generated through public and media relations, consumer/customer reviews, and social media chatter and posts. Earned media does not have a direct dollar cost to a company.

The “brand” word

Terms derived from the “brand” word often need some clarification:

Brand: The complete set of attributes that describe the unique value a company, product, or service brings to its customers, consumers, and stakeholders. A brand establishes the points of differentiation of a company, product, or service from its competitors.

Branding: The development of a logo symbol, often accompanied with a tagline, that is used to visually convey the unique identity of a company, product, or service.

Brand Building: All of the advertising and promotional efforts used to develop a brand’s identity, increase awareness of the brand, and build brand equity.

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Two old school marketing tools are making a big comeback.

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There are an unprecedented number of communication channels food marketers have access to today to reach their target audiences. For many B2B and consumer audiences, however, information overload has been reached and they are also experiencing a little tech burnout. This may explain why some modern marketers are returning to two communication channels that many have labeled as old school. Here’s what and why.

Print Catalogs   Yes, the good old print catalog. Around 2007, as paper became more expensive and consumers had almost universally adopted online shopping, marketers shifted their focus to digital channels. However, to cut through today’s digital clutter, marketers have begun returning to print catalogs and in 2013 there was an increase in print catalogs for the first time since  2008. A recent study revealed that over 55% of online shoppers actually browse through catalogs for inspiration and product details before shopping online. Over  30% of online shoppers refer to print catalogs while they are actually shopping online. Many retailers who continued to produce and distribute print catalogs during the recession were also some of the best known luxury brands, which served to elevate the status of print catalogs. Why have some marketers returned to print catalogs? Consumer feedback indicates that they are growing weary of all of the targeted digital advertising they receive and want to peruse catalogs at their leisure without being inundated by ads for every single product they review online.

Email  Like catalogs, email had been declared dead by some marketers who cite all of the advertising activity that shifted to social media channels as evidence. However, as social media has become an endless stream of information, some of it uncontrolled by brand owners,  marketers are revisiting the advantages email. Email can be targeted in its messages and its recipients. Email can be used for single, one time communication/messages as well as for ongoing communication such as newsletters and periodic reports. For food marketers, email can be used not only for product pushes, but for more general information on nutrition, health tips, recipes, cooking tips, and entertaining ideas. The best reason to re-consider email is that marketers have total control over the timing, frequency, and content of email messages.

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Packaging. The gap between consumer importance and satisfaction represents opportunities for food marketers.

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The recently released 2015 Packaging Matters, an annual research study from MeadWestvaco Corp., reveals significant gaps between how important some packaging attributes are to consumers and how satisfied they are with the packaging of products they buy. Over 80% of the more than 5000 global respondents/consumers said they were only moderately satisfied with product packaging while only 10% said they were completely satisfied. For food and beverage marketers, these gaps represent opportunities for improvement, and growth in consumer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

The study included product packaging in 11 different product categories, 6 of which are food and beverage product categories. Specific packaging attributes, 21 total, were measured in terms of consumer importance and consumer satisfaction. The following list of the 21 attributes and the score/value for each reflect the relationship of consumer importance to consumer satisfaction. So a score or value of zero (0) would mean that the importance and satisfaction for that attribute were in absolute balance. Positive values/scores indicate that satisfaction exceeded importance and consumers felt that their expectations were exceeded.  Negative values/scores indicate that satisfaction for a given attribute did not meet consumer importance.  The larger the gap or negative value, the bigger the opportunity for marketers to improve their packaging in terms of that attribute. Here are the packaging attributes and their scores:

1. Intuitive to use:  -6

2. Easy to open: -14

3. Easy to extract all of the product out of packaging: -14

4. Easy to extract the right portion amount out of packaging: -16

5. Maintains product freshness: -20

6. Prevents spilling, leakage, or breakage: -24

7. Has new/innovative packaging features/functions:  +3

8. Allows convenient on-the-go use:  -7

9. Easy to use pump/sprayer function:  -17

10. Designed to fit consumer’s specific lifestyle: +2

11. Easy to re-close or reseal:  -21

12. Easy to carry or transport: -6

13. Provides useful product information: -14

14. Easy to find/spot product on retail shelf: +4

15. Attractive packaging appearance/shape: +11

16. New or unique appearance/shape: +8

17. Communicates brand’s core values and purpose: +2

18. Can be easily reused or re-purposed: -7

19. Can be easily recycled or composted: -15

20. Designed to keep consumer/user safe:  -15

21. Designed to keep product safe: -20

With 15 of the 21 attributes in the negative value/score zone, there are many opportunities for food and beverage marketers to gain a competitive edge through an evaluation of their product packaging and making improvements. The other take away from this study is the importance of product packaging in meeting or exceeding consumer expectations for the brand and product.

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Some tips to build and retain brand value.

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Building brand value often feels like a daunting task within the highly competitive space that food and beverage brands reside. Yet, in 2014 global brands managed to achieve a 12% increase in value. It is tempting to attribute this feat to deep marketing pockets, but there is more to it than that. Here are some things that any brand can do to help retain and build reputation, to check declines, and effectively leverage the upticks in consumer preferences and the economy.

1. Latch onto a star category.  Many food product categories are experiencing increased consumer interest and growth. If you are fortunate enough to have brands in these rising star categories, now is the time to invest in meeting the increased demand these product categories are currently enjoying. If your food brand does not fit neatly into one of these growth categories, look for ways in which you can expand your brand such as mergers/acquisitions, partnerships, and licensing or co-branding opportunities.

2. Tackle your social issues.   A few food and beverage categories are facing reputational issues, such as carbonated beverages that are under attack in terms of healthy choices. Reputational issues can drag down brands even though there are products within the brand family that do not have reputational issues. Even if your brand’s product category has the potential to face issues that are intertwined with deep consumer sentiments such as environmental, social, or health issues, facing those issues openly can help minimize the downsides. While addressing your social issues openly may not grow your brand, it will help mitigate a decline in your brand value.

3. Integrate your market share.  Every food and beverage product has its share of the market within its category. Brands become more valuable to both their owners and their consumers when they can integrate their market share with the “life share” of their consumer audience. What we’re talking about is brands that consumers have developed a trust and dependence upon to the degree that whatever the eating or entertaining occasion, they cannot imagine not consuming or serving the brands’ products. For example, Campbell Soup brand enjoys this life share status through the classic green bean casserole that is ritually served for holidays and family gatherings throughout the year. The ability to wed brand market share with consumer life share is a brand building strategy.

4. Be more convenient.  Food and beverage brands can help increase their value by increasing their convenience to consumers. Convenience encompasses many areas of product branding…packaging, ease of use/preparation, variety of applications/eating occasions, portability, and distribution/retail availability. Brand owners should continually evaluate these aspects of convenience, looking for ways to improve brand value.

5. Keep checking your appeal. Checking your brand appeal should be an ongoing effort. Consumer preferences evolve over time, and food brands that don’t evolve with them can find themselves left behind. Your brand appeal ranges from product formulations and varieties, the appeal of your packaging design and materials, website, social media, and advertising…all of these are touch points your brand has with consumers. Maintaining brand relevance not only helps to retain brand value, but helps grow the brand by appealing to new audiences.

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Trends that could change the food retail game.

Digital-first connectivity, hyper-localization of consumer data and in-store/on-shelf efforts such as the use of packaging to clarify health and wellness claims and build consumer trust are three game-changing industry trends that retailers should be monitoring in 2015, Nielsen Senior Vice President of Global Consumer Insights James Russo said Monday. Supermarket News 2/9/15.

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FLMA labeling changes provide marketing opportunities.

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The Federal Label Modernization Act (FLMA) is scheduled to be finalized in early 2016 with full compliance anticipated by 2018. The FLMA is expected to affect over 700,000 food and beverage products/UPCs. While the FLMA may be viewed as disruptive to some, savvy food and beverage marketers are viewing it more as an opportunity, and here is why:

1. Product reformulation. Changes in calorie counts, reductions of salt and sugar, and other formulation changes that may result from the FLMA offer food marketers an opportunity to respond to changing consumer tastes and address their concerns for healthier choices. Brand owners can gain competitive advantages and redefine their brand positioning through product reformulations.

2. Package sizes. With a redefinition of portion sizes that is expected to come out of the FLMA and the growing trend of snacking/mini-meals, food marketers have a opportunity to re-package and reposition their products in response to these trends. Consumers are driving the definition of snack foods, and food marketers need to listen and look for snack food opportunities among their product offerings.

3. Clearer, more informative packaging. While the FLMA is focused on the nutrition facts that appear on packaging, food marketers should think beyond the boundaries of the nutrition facts table and consider the entire packaging landscape as an opportunity to provide more product information and build connections with consumers.

The FLMA is coming even if the time-table is readjusted.  Now is the time for food marketers to be proactive and begin re-evaluating their products and packaging from a marketing opportunities perspective.

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Snacks and mini-meals are redefining marketing strategies.

snacking

The consumer shift to snacks and mini-meals continues to grow, and food marketers are redefining their strategies in response.  Recent market research conducted by Packaged Facts and Dupont Nutrition & Health revealed that over 85% of Americans snack daily, and the average number of snacks and mini-meals consumed was 2.8 per day in 2014, up from 1.9 per day in 2010. Further, over 50% of snackers consume three or more snacks and mini-meals per day.

The growing preference for snacks and mini-meals is forcing food and beverage marketers to change their perspectives on their product offerings and marketing efforts. Here are some of the ways in which they are redefining their marketing strategies.

Healthier product and menu options

Consumers associate eating multiple small meals in a day with a healthier diet and they are looking for “better for you” foods to snack on. Marketers are evaluating their food products and menu items in terms of how they can be offered in convenient portion sizes at attractive price points. Day-part plays a role in the selection healthy snacks versus indulgent snacks.  For example, 74% of morning snacks and mini-meals are considered healthy by consumers, but that changes dramatically throughout the day with only 27% of snacks considered healthy in late evening. Marketers are targeting their products to the appropriate day-part for their products and menu items.

How foodservice is adapting

Snacking and mini-meals have proven to be a windfall for foodservice operators, enabling them to draw consumers at times between traditionally defined meal hours. Snacks are a true win-win for both cost-sensitive consumers and restaurants  because they can be offered at lower price points  than regular menu items, but at a higher price per ounce than typical full portion sizes. From a menuing perspective, snacks have a dual application both as appetizers and sharable dishes.  QSR and fast casual operators are also creating snacks and mini-meal items that are  being marketed on “value menus”.

CPG marketers are repackaging products

Many packaged food marketers are offering snack and mini-meal sizes of their products in convenient portion packaging. According to Packaged Facts, “the emergence of convenient packaging formats has made it easier for consumers to eat while “while on-the-go”. Single-serving tubs, cups or bags help snackers control both portion sizes and calorie counts, which allows them to hit two trends at once: snacking and healthy foods”.

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