With anything between 25,000 and 60,000 product lines in a multiple retailer store, every product category is super-competitive.
Many businesses do not have uniquely, differentiated products, so audience attraction through product and brand standout is key – and whilst in past decades the marketing mantra was ‘communicate what the product is’ and ‘do this in an engaging way’, this no longer works in the hyper-competitive marketplace of today.
So what makes a successful food brand today? They are commonly characterised by absolutely understanding why they exist, by forensically knowing their audience and by effectively communicating their reason for being to their customers with unwavering, engaging accuracy and consistency.
This requires engagement first and then communication of what they are. If it fails to engage, then it will never get beyond saying ‘hello’ – a conversation with a potential purchaser simply won’t start.
Just as when we meet people for the first time we share ‘our story’, 21st century brands must also have their story. Whether they be new brands or legacy brands they must have a compelling story that resonates with their audience.
Creating the brand story starts with insight and a deep understanding of why a product and brand exists. Target consumer identification follows leading to a precisely articulated reason for being. And indeed, many established brands are also learning for the first time that being able to communicate their mission and vision is key in creating a solid, effective brand proposition with a competitive edge which can boost their sales – rather than a hollow vessel in which few consumers believe.
Culture and ethics are also vitally important elements of a brand and it has never been more critical for the essence of a brand to radiate through every element of its marketing communication, staff and supplier relationships and customer interaction.
This presents a challenge to many long-established businesses however, as most of them have always been product centric and have historically relied on marketing and price promotions to cement a relationship with their customers.
However, as many have found to their cost, in these challenging times, consumer brand loyalty can be fleeting with many constantly seeking out the best deal and buying on price. In this respect many traditional brands have been relegated to commodity status.
21st century consumers are both shrewd and savvy – and they quickly reject the ‘pseudo’ get up of hollow brands created to exude ‘family, natural and artisan values’ without any substance, choosing to only occasionally purchase these product when they are on price promotion.
So who is responsible for the manifestation of the brand ‘why’ within organisations?
In this respect, there is a significant cultural difference between the majority of large, anonymous multinationals and entrepreneurial brands.
In the former, many of the staff are solely motivated by their remuneration due to the lack of why’ within their organisation and as a consequence these businesses rely on their scale, significant marketing activity and continuous price promotions to overcome the lack of a deep and motivating reason for being.
Whilst all companies of this size will have brand guidelines and a brand book, many don’t do enough to convey and embed their brand ethos in their staff with few including an introduction to the brand within new starter induction programmes for example and as a consequence, few HR departments have true visibility of the guidelines and mantra and fail to take ownership of them.
This leads to uncertainty and disinterest and a business can quickly find itself having to defend its market position through price and promotional mechanics – massively undercutting the potential value of the brand as it finds itself trading rather than leading.
Conversely, a crowd-funded start-up where the team have most likely sunk all their personal savings into the venture, live and breathe every element of their ‘why’ with a deep understanding and passion – not because it is contained in their brand book.
So how do great brands do it?
They employ people with the same passion and wants who will work for the business with their hearts, not just for the pay cheque.
They use insight, they forensically understand their audience, their market sector dynamics, where the brand is now and where it’s going to be in one, three and five years’ time, what is happening competitively and what is happening culturally. They motivate their staff by sharing their vision and their ‘why’. These are brands that people believe in because their owners do, and this resonates with every member of their team and manifests in every aspect of their product and brand.
Hence, defining the reason for being is critical therefore as it gives the business purpose and direction within a complex and ever changing society.
By doing so a brand will extend beyond its product and packaging, it will have an emotional resonance, a voice and a personality – equities that consumers both recognise and will pay for, and critically, that build brand loyalty too.
And they convey why their food brand exists through every touch point with their team and their audience.