Super Bowl…a food and advertising frenzy. The stats tell the story.

Pre-Super Bowl week is a busy time for food marketers and all advertisers alike. With an estimated 181 million US viewers and total spending expected to reach $12.3 billion, the Super Bowl has become a feeding and advertising frenzy. Take a look:

1. Total Super Bowl spending by viewers is expected to reach $12.3 billion, spread among food, athletic wear, decorations, and TV purchases.

2. The average per viewer spend  is estimated to be $68.27.

3. Of the 181 million projected US viewers, 77% will purchase food and beverages.

4. It is anticipated that 39 million viewers will throw Super Bowl parties, while 62 million will attend parties, and 10 million plan to celebrate in restaurants and bars.

5. The average media cost for a 30-second spot during the game this year is $4 million. Several food and beverage brands are ponying up the dollars.

6. While there is a lot buzz about Super Bowl ads, a recent survey indicates that 52% of viewers watch the Super Bowl for the game, with 23% indicating they watch the Super Bowl primarily for the ads.

7. Ads need to be entertaining, according to 91% of respondents in a recent survey of those who plan to watch the game. Humor is key while ads designed to generate an emotional response do not have as much appeal to viewers.

8. Social media will play a significant role, with 55% of respondents to a recent survey of those planning to watch the game  indicating they plan to post comments about ads. Over 50% will go online to access additional advertiser content during or after the game.

The take away for any food marketer is clear:  a consistent, committed branding and marketing effort is always important, but it can really payoff during those big annual food focused holidays, events, and occasions…whether it’s Super Bowl, Valentines, Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, or Christmas.

Sources: Prosper Insights and Analytics, Stagnito Media, January, 2014;  Burson-Marsteller Fan Experience study, MediaPost publications, January, 2014; Ad Age, January, 2014.

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Don’t let your food brand depreciate.

Of all the assets any food marketer owns, hands down the most valuable is its brand. While all the other tangibles such as processing equipment, physical plants, delivery fleets, furniture, fixtures, and so on, depreciate over time, a well managed brand appreciates over time. Yet, in many organizations, brands are viewed as simply the logo art that resides in the marketing department.

To change that perspective, food marketers need to think of the term brand as synonymous with reputation. Every product package, every marketing piece, advertising, online presence, the individual and collective actions of the brand’s owners and employees, all of these build a reputation that influences consumer perception, trust, and ultimately purchase decisions.

A recent study from Weber Shandwick and KRC Research underscores the connection of brand value and reputation, and strongly suggests that corporate reputation is as important as product branding in consumer purchasing decisions. The research included over 1,300 consumer interviews and input from over 500 senior corporate executives from firms with revenue of at least $500 million annually. Seventy percent of respondents indicated that they avoid purchasing a brand’s product if they dislike the company that owns the brand and 70% indicated that they are increasingly looking for parent company identification on product packaging. Further, over 50% stated that they hesitate to buy a branded product when they were unable to locate a parent company name or identity on packaging.

Brands can quickly depreciate with a couple of missteps, and even well managed brands can suffer an occasional misstep. Building a solid positive reputation and brand over time can help any brand better manage the fallout from any misstep…it is human nature to more easily forgive someone who has been known to be trustworthy in the past.

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Food brands need proper care and feeding.

Food brands are born out of a commitment of resources to create the face of a product. The investment is not just limited to capital in its creation and promotion, it also includes the time needed to build awareness and trust. Without proper care and feeding, food brands can’t serve the purpose for which they were created.

Just how should brand owners properly manage their brands to achieve their goals? Here are some important tips for the care and feeding of food brands:

1. Consistency. The best known food brands have spent years building consumer awareness and trust, and this has been achieved by consistency in the presentation and messaging of the brand across all platforms. These brands have a clear definition of their values which enables them to stay on message point whether it’s packaging design, consumer promotional efforts, websites, social media or B2B marketing. There are no mixed messages on these brand faces.

2. Compliance. Part of the investment in developing a brand is developing a set of brand rules that enable all stakeholders to use the brand within the same guidelines. While a brand’s face may be used by many stakeholders for many different purposes, the face must remain the same to preserve the integrity, and in some cases the legal status, of the brand in the long run.

3. Control. This is one of the biggest challenges for food brands today. While brand owners may have achieved consistency in brand presentation and compliance among stakeholders in brand use, control of external brand use and exposure is extremely difficult in the digital environment. Brand owners need to establish procedures for brand management that include a dedicated team to monitor and immediately respond to challenges to the brand face, whether it’s an unhappy consumer or an unfortunate circumstance. The brand face must be continuously protected to maintain its value and integrity.

Whether a food brand is a fresh new face or a well known global face, investing in brand asset management is an integral part of brand development. Brands do not survive for long on their own…they need to be  properly cared for.

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Consumers are shopping for healthier foods and packaging can help them out.

Consumers are shopping more for healthy alternatives in the grocery aisles and food packaging can make it easier for them.  According to the 19th annual FMI survey “Shopping for Health”, consumers are becoming more informed on eating healthy and they’re reading food packaging for claims that support their health concerns.

The top health claims that attract consumers to particular food brands and products are varied. The top concern is heart health (73%) , followed closely by wanting more energy (71%), digestive health concerns (66%) and improving mind/brain function (65%). The more prominent these claims, substantiated by product ingredients, the more that consumers appear to be influenced by on -pack claims. Not that long ago, consumer surveys suggested that food and beverage product choices were being influenced more by claims of what was not in products… sugar -free, no trans or saturated fats, etc.

Food and beverage marketers need to pay particular attention to consumers responses to packaging and prominence of product claims. Most consumers indicated that they do read food labels, but that audience share has dropped from 71% in 2007 to 64% in this recent survey. Interestingly, consumers may be reading labels less, but they are buying more food products with certain label/packaging characteristics, primarily what is in the product versus what is not in the product. This proactive approach to food and nutrition is evidenced by what consumers say they are looking for on food packaging:

  • Over 50% claim they are buying more whole-grain products and seek out those on-pack claims.
  • Over 40% are looking for reduced/low sodium products.
  • Low fat (41%) and lower/reduced/zero calories (28%) are the next most sought after claims.
  • All natural is a claim that 28% of consumers are seeking, in spite of the fact that there is no established FDA definition of this claim.
  • Approximately 20% of consumers indicated that they have seen front-of-pack nutrition information. Of the total survey respondents, 61% indicated that front-of-pack nutritional information would be an improvement over such information remaining on the back of packaging.

Packaging design has always been an important element in the branding and marketing of food products. These survey results help point food marketers in the right direction in terms of the packaging information that consumers are looking for when they grocery shop and where on packaging they expect to find it.

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Content marketing is easy? Dispelling the myths.

Content marketing, a mere concept a short while ago, has become part of mainstream marketing strategies for many food and beverage marketers. Some of the reasons for this shift in status reside in misconceptions about content marketing…like, it’s easy. Here are the content marketing myths that need to be dispelled.

1. Compared to other marketing channels, content marketing is easy: Nothing could be further from the truth. Content marketing is based on a process of getting acquainted, developing a relationship, and establishing trust with target audiences. The investment is long-term and so are the returns. By contrast, advertising is much easier in that a campaign is developed, creative is run in  appropriate media, for a specified period of time. The results are measured, for the most part, during and immediately after the campaign has ended. It is the repeated contact with target audiences over a long period of time by providing relevant content that builds the relationships and trust upon which a content marketing effort can be evaluated.

2. Content marketing can be accomplished with minimal time investments: In a 2014 B2B Content Marketing Trends report, the biggest challenge reported in maintaining a content marketing effort was a lack of time. When you consider the process of content marketing, it’s easy to understand this claim: a content strategy needs to be developed; continual creation of content that is time and labor intensive; distribution and continual promotion through email, social media, SEO, etc.; ongoing performance measurement and adjustment to the strategy. Content marketing is a valuable strategy, but it certainly does not fit on the short-term marketing strategies list.

3. Automation puts content marketing on auto-pilot: There are many routine functions of content marketing that can be successfully automated, but none of those involve content strategy and development, as well as continual promotion…the three most labor and time intensive functions. Food marketers who enter the content marketing arena assuming they can do some initial set-up and then forget it, will be sadly disappointed with the results.

4. Content marketing is pretty inexpensive: Expensive is a very relative term and some marketers assume that content marketing will always be the less expensive alternative among marketing strategies, such as advertising and media costs, or PR efforts. Content marketing does better accommodate smaller brands in that they can enter this arena for fewer dollars initially than the cost of a 30-second spot in prime-time, but big brands are spending big dollars on content marketing and their results reflect their elevated investment. Content marketing success is realized over years of consistent investment and content development, and that adds up to significant dollars.

5. Anyone on staff can handle the content marketing effort: Since content marketing is so time intensive, many marketers pass the buck on down the line, often to the least qualified staff member. Another assumption is that the youngest, although usually least experienced, staff members will be best suited for this task because they are more “tech savvy”. Creating relevant content on an ongoing basis requires experience and writing skill. Content marketing needs to be considered with the same importance as other skilled functions within the company and staffed with qualified individuals, as this is part of the overall investment in pursuing a content marketing strategy.

Content marketing is one of many strategies to be considered in an overall food and beverage marketing plan. However, like any marketing strategy, it is important to understand what you’re signing on for and to develop realistic expectations regarding timelines and measures of success.

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An integrated marketing plan…where do we start?

Some of the best known, most successful food brands have become so because they embraced social media early on and used the wealth of analytical data generated to optimize all of their marketing opportunities…they integrated their efforts.  An integrated marketing plan is the road map to managing a brand’s promotional efforts on paid, owned, and earned media channels.

To get the most out of advertising and marketing investments, here are the steps to develop an integrated marketing plan:

1. Define the purpose. The most common reason that marketing initiatives fail is because they were not born out of a well designed framework. The most basic question is this: why are you doing this marketing effort? The answers will lead to a clear definition of objective(s) and the strategies needed to achieve them.

2. Define the measures of success. Measures of success will follow from the defined objective(s). For example, if the objective is to create more brand awareness, a measure of success would be a 30 point lift in awareness, whereas an objective to increase sales would be measured by a 20% increase in sales volume. The measure of success will lead to the metrics to be examined. Each different objective will require its own set of measurement metrics.

3. Define the target audience. Use social media along with other traditional sources of audience data to examine consumer behavioral patterns. Online owned, earned and paid media data can be more easily analyzed through the use of dashboards.

4. Determine where the target audience hangs out online. If your target audience is fitness centric millennials, websites that cater to those interests would be candidates for media placement and targeted content.

5. Identify “influencers” and get to know them. These are the individuals who are active online communicators with a particular interest in your product category and brand. Establishing and maintaining open channels of communication with influencers can significantly expand your “sales force” through their brand advocacy and exposure.

6. Test for accuracy. Social media content that is  used to analyze target audience online behavior and messaging impact will include data you don’t want…spam, advertising, and other irrelevant or misleading information. Use a current version of a social media analytics application with the technological capability to filter out garbage data so that the resultant data set is trustworthy.

7. Define the brand’s position. Before effective messaging can be developed, brand positioning must be clearly defined. A thorough understanding of the brand and its consumers, as well as competitors, will determine its points of differentiation and, ultimately, its most effective message points.

8. Get ready to react in real-time.  Once a marketing campaign has been launched, monitoring performance through social analytics will provide real-time data and a real-time opportunity to react and make adjustments. Automatic notifications can be set-up when any unusual activity is detected that needs to be addressed quickly.

9. Measure campaign impact. Using a social analytics application and the measures of success previously defined, the overall impact of the campaign can be measured along with the impacts against specific benchmarks such as category and historical data. Measurement should also be made of paid and owned media as drivers of earned media to determine the ROI of media investments.

Following these steps will help ensure the development of an effective integrated marketing plan that maximizes the impact of all the campaign components.

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In marketing, is content king? No, great content is the real king.

For food and beverage marketers, connecting with and engaging consumers has become the major thrust of most marketing initiatives. Online advertising, email, and particularly social media, have proven themselves to be much more than the promotional “flavor of the year“, and with good reason. They facilitate personal, one-on-one interaction with consumers, and foster brand awareness and trust. But there is one very big caveat marketers need to know:  it is not the quantity of content a brand puts forth . . . it’s the quality of that content that drives successful marketing.

In food and beverage marketing, what defines great content? Here are three key questions to ask in developing content that will build and strengthen brands through consumer engagement with a brand’s website, online advertising, email and social media marketing campaigns.

1. What’s the value?

If a brand is going to ask consumers to read and respond to its messages and content, that content has to be of value to the consumer audience. For food marketers, it’s more than claiming superior product attributes. What’s in it for consumers? Content of value provides useful information and unique insights into the food product and its variety of uses. Recipes, serving suggestions, targeted nutritional information…all of these subjects provide food marketers with a rich source of content that is of value to consumers and can enrich their experiences  in using food products. Great content is written from the perspective of consumers’ interests and needs for relevant information. While incentives to purchase a product can be incorporated into audience-focused content with a direct response mechanism, great content is not simply a self-serving sales pitch.

2. Where’s the audience?

In developing great content, it is important to understand where the target audience is “hanging out” online. This knowledge not only ensures that the target audience will actually have an opportunity to see a brand’s content, it also sets the tone and feel of the content. A food brand’s choice of venue for its content speaks volumes about the brand’s understanding of its core consumers and how to reach them. Misplaced content serves no purpose no matter how good the content may be. The right venue is one that the target audience already regularly visits and trusts, allowing a marketer to leverage existing trust between the venue and the audience.

3. What’s the purpose?

Food marketers should consider this question from two perspectives. Developing content that is meaningful and engaging to the target audience is the first perspective, but it is equally important to consider the brand’s strategic goals. Food marketers need to be cautious about topics that might garner a great deal of attention, a sensational headline or topic for example, but the content does not really align with the brand’s strategic goals. The purpose of great content is to provide relevant information to the target audience while supporting the brand’s core strategic goals. Generating an audience of “curiosity seekers” through content that does not really align with brand values serves no purpose.

If you can answer these questions, you’re on your way to developing content that will engage your consumers and differentiate your brand from competitors. In food marketing, there is a need for both self-promoting advertising and content marketing. What’s really important is understanding the difference and using each of these tools effectively.

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Rules for successful social branding.

There is no “one way” to build and maintain a great food and beverage brand, but there are some marketing rules that will really help in successful social branding.

Find the fit. In social media,  marketers have very few precious seconds to capture audience attention. Consumers may know some things about your brand, but there is also some information that is missing…information that completes the brand’s relevance for your target audience. That piece of information should be the focal point of your message. It is the hook that draws consumers to your brand emotionally. Find that fit and consumers will reward you…miss that fit and you become just another message to be summarily ignored. It’s about respecting your audience’s time and attention span.

Be helpful. Marketers love to send a steady stream of communication to their target audiences, but are you sending messages that are of value or just “more of the same old blurbs”?  Ask yourself:  “Why would consumers want to regularly hear from my brand? What am I sharing with them that improves their lives?” The reasons consumers should want to connect with your brand should be obvious to them in the messages you’re sending. It’s the difference between “Like us on Facebook” and “Get delicious recipes and coupons – like us on Facebook”.

Show some personality. Since it is “social” media, it is the right time and place to showcase your brand’s personality. Consumers really connect with the human side of brands. Invite your brand fans to share their experiences with your brand…birthdays, holidays, fun with family and friends, any occasion where your brand and products have had a role in your brand fans’ lives. The only really important point to keep in mind is that you remain true to your brand’s image and use this opportunity to reinforce what your consumers have come to know about your brand. Don’t send mixed messages in an attempt to over personify the brand.

Start conversations. Social media is all about conversations, but it’s not about what you have to say about your brand.  It’s about what consumers say to you and to each other about your brand.  While you may start some conversations with interesting and brand relevant content, always encourage and make room for consumers to do the talking and sharing. Reward consumers for their social interaction with your brand by inviting them to “share their favorite recipe or brand experience with friends, and the brand may host your next big get together”.

Invite the ShareIn social media, the Share is every bit as valuable as the Like and Follow. It creates the person-to-person connection with your brand and spreads the word faster than any other vehicle. To make your brand “share worthy”, your content must be relevant and dynamic. There should always be something new and interesting going on at your brand’s social sites and website. Make sharing easy for consumers with share buttons and invitations obviously placed on all your brand communication…consumers won’t share if you don’t make it easy.

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Email as a branding tool? 65% of B2B buyers think so.

Every day, over 294 billion emails are sent. This makes the 400 million tweets and 2 million blog posts seem paltry in comparison. With that much email communication going on daily, it is understandable that in a recent survey, 65% of B2B buyers indicated that email shapes their  perspective of companies and brands. Food marketers can take advantage of email for B2B brand building by considering a few key points in structuring email campaigns and composing individual emails.

Here are some tips to more effectively use email as a B2B branding tool:

1. Personalize:  The sender is half of the relationship in any communication. The receiver has a name and so should the sender. One-on-one is the most effective technique in establishing a brand as an entity of people who care about the people they want to do business with. To elevate your email above the “blast” communication level, send them from a person, not sales@ or marketing@ addresses. The primary reasons emails go unopened/disqualified are the sender and the subject line.

2. Target: In B2B food and beverage marketing, not all contacts/potential customers are created equal. Each has its own unique needs to be met and problems to be solved. By targeting your messages, you position your brand as uniquely capable of meeting your customers’ needs instead of just selling your products. This approach creates a dialog and engagement based on problems/solutions that build your brand.

3. Show some personality: Every company and brand has a persona that is reflected in all communication, including advertising and marketing, in email and any other communication channel. Always speak to your audience in the tone and persona of your brand. Consistency in communication is a powerful brand builder because it is the means by which your brand becomes familiar, and the more familiar your brand, the more comfortable your target audience will be in doing business with you.

4. Define the action: Every brand building and promotional email should have a call-to-action. . .what are you asking your target audience to do? The way in which you ask someone to take an action is very important. Make sure the action is helpful to the audience and not simply self-serving. Brands need to build value and a call-to-action is an excellent way to do this by offering something of relevance or importance in exchange for the action. Place a call-to-action near the beginning of the email to reinforce your intent to be helpful and position your brand as being customer focused. It also helps in grabbing the reader’s attention quickly placing the “what’s in it for me” upfront.

Food and beverage marketers who embrace email as a branding tool will begin to look at emails through the eyes of their customers. Since email is the primary channel of business communication, it always presents an opportunity to build a brand.

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How food marketers can make stock photos work.

People do relate to photos of people, and psychologists have confirmed that images of human faces do attract attention on website landing pages. However, with the proliferation of relatively inexpensive royalty-free images available, there has been wide-spread over-use of the abundant supply of photos. While food marketers can certainly benefit from the use of people images on their websites and in promotional support materials, they need to consider these stock photo use guidelines:

1. Don’t use stock photos just to fill in an empty space. Simply having access to tens of thousands of photo images, does not ensure that any selected image makes sense. Photos, stock or custom, have to serve a marketing purpose and re-enforce the brand and its message. Ask yourself: Is the photo relevant to the message?  Will the photo resonate with the target audience? Will the photo support the call-to-action or detract from it? Photos used for marketing purposes have to be much more than eye candy.

2. Don’t use “been there, done that” images. The last thing a food marketer needs is to see the same image they used on their own website or in promotional materials appearing in many other marketing arenas, particularly a competitor’s. So many stock photos are trite, contrived images that have appeared virtually everywhere for decades…the staff at a conference table, picture perfect models sipping a beverage, happy customer service reps in headsets. While the subject of these photos may be relevant for a current particular use, make them real, current, and uniquely yours. It is refreshing that the current trend in people images is natural and real, almost editorial like, and not so picture perfect and contrived.

3. Be consistent when selecting photos. Whether stock or custom, photos used throughout a website or other promotional materials need to be consistent in terms of photographic style. Backgrounds, lighting, attitude of human subjects…consistency in these areas creates a cohesive set of images throughout the website or other promotional materials. Selecting multiple images individually without evaluating them as part of an overall presentation can result in a very disjointed, patchwork looking presentation.

4. Do a reality check. This is simply your reaction when you look at an image. Does it feel real, natural, credible to you? Will the image resonate with the target audience, particularly in a subtle, positive, and persuasive way? If an image does not feel right, it probably isn’t, and the search for an appropriate alternative image should continue on.

Custom photography is the best choice to get images that are exactly what is needed for a particular use. However, there are times when that may simply not be feasible and stock photography is the only option. Food marketers can make stock photography work by following these guidelines to choose images wisely.

Do you need some assistance finding that perfect stock image…or, is it time for custom photography? With access to literally millions of stock images through our stock image accounts/libraries,  and our extensive experience and capabilities in custom food and beverage photography , we can help with any of your photographic needs. For more information or an estimate,  contact us.

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