Brands can stand out from the crowd by sharing authentic stories about their people and products
In food and beverage, the marketplace is crowded with brands vying for the attention of savvy and often cynical consumers. Delivering outstanding taste and optimal nutrition is no longer enough. To win a share of consumer hearts and wallets, products must deliver an experience driven by emotional values while also competing on functional features.
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Enter the recent explosion of storytelling in food and beverage marketing, one of the year’s top industry trends, according to Innova Insights.
We’ve seen a rapid emergence of storytelling across Europe, where I help lead the marketing programme for Kerry, and members of our global marketing teams are reporting the same elsewhere. By highlighting the values and actions of a company, marketers have the ability to drive purchases, loyalty and advocacy while creating alignment between brands and consumers. This is especially true when a brand’s processes and products represent important consumer values, motivations and aspirations.
To help you tell a clear and compelling brand story, we asked some of Kerry’s top marketers, trend watchers and communicators from around the globe to weigh in on storytelling in food and beverage marketing, from brand values to broadcasting sustainability efforts. Here are 10 ways to better connect with consumers by leveraging your brand’s backstory and aggregating the impact of your everyday actions to create competitive distinction.
“During the decision making process, many consumers are amateur sleuths, researching a brand’s history. Companies can benefit from this by including snippets of this information on product packaging and a longer writeup in places such as a company website. Consumers who find something within the brand identity that speaks to them—learning a company is a certified Women-Owned Business or was created by chefs from their home state, for example—will be more inclined to make a personal, long-lasting connection, and make a purchase.”
—Lauren Piek, Content Marketing Specialist, Beloit, WI, USA
“Rather than shy away from sensitive issues, food manufacturers can shine when they proactively and sincerely address issues—from health and safety concerns to actual scandals. If people are losing trust and feeling uncertain about making purchasing decisions, stories that show how your business works can send a powerful message. Communicating to existing and potential customers about how, as a producer, your brand is ensuring safety and trust through specific examples in ads, social media, interviews and so on can build loyalty and trust.”
—Igor Parshin, Strategic Marketing Manager, Bangkok, Thailand
“Consumers want to understand where their food comes from and how it is produced, so any story around those elements can impact consumer trust and product sales. If you use local ingredients, for example, you can explain how you source those ingredients and how you work in partnership with local farmers. With the ‘locavore’ trend growing, this can help your product to attract consumer attention. Storytelling is no longer a marketing tool—it is a tool to enhance a company’s credibility and transparency. This is a win-win situation: as you answer the consumer need for transparency you gain market share.”
—Coralie Garcia-Perrin, Global Senior Strategic Marketing Manager, Sweet and Modulation Taste, Grasse, France
“Brands can elevate their stories through a 360-degree communication plan that pushes messaging across several channels. Using different mediums to tell your story can ensure you attract a wide audience, capture attention through multiple touch points and generate or strengthen customer relationships. This can be done through traditional methods such as brochures and blog posts, via newer mediums including social media and videos and even through emerging mediums such as podcasts.”
—Marcela Ceneviva, External Communications Manager, Campinas, Brazil
“With well over 3 billion users, social media has become a top way for brands to connect with consumers. People now expect to see authentic brand content mixed into their social news feeds, and many want to interact with brands on a personal level. For companies, this means understanding that all content posted across platforms is part of an ongoing conversation. Woven together, the mix of individual posts and tweets begins to tell a brand narrative. To remain authentic, it’s imperative to understand what a brand stands for, who their target audience is and what the brand wants to do for their customers. To remain consistent, guidelines that outline tone and voice, content pillars, platform strategies and more can be created.”
—Troy Daniels, Global Social Media Manager, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
“Consumers want to support sustainable products. As a result, some companies are prominently displaying environmental efforts on their websites and Instagram feeds while others are switching to eco-friendly packaging. Still others are depicting workers, suppliers and partners in their advertisements to show their people are treated fairly, ethically and equitably. As label callouts such as ‘organic’ and ‘non-GMO’ move from niche to mainstream, newcomers are joining the mix. For example, some brands are now using a symbol to indicate their product was made with 100% renewable energy.”
—Juan Aguiriano, Kerry Group Head of Sustainability, Barcelona, Spain
“Our research shows that when consumers talk about the need for label transparency, what they really want is a complete framework of ingredients, sustainability and nutrition. This all comes back to the idea of trust. It’s not enough to put ingredient information in fine print and assume that’s the end of the conversation. To build trust, we must make a wholehearted effort to help people understand what is in their food, including health benefits and concerns and environmental impact."
—George Manak, Strategic Marketing Director, Meat, Beloit, WI, USA
“Many food and beverage companies are making straightforward and honest efforts to rebuild trust in the industry via improvements in sustainability practices and the treatment of people and animals, among others. However, because more consumers are checking the facts themselves, if any of this is not communicated in an honest, transparent and dynamic way, it may have little impact–or build distrust. One way to get ahead of this is to be proactive with such changes. Brands that improve formulas, clean up labels, reduce nutrition negatives and make sustainability improvements without waiting for government regulation or public pressure demonstrate an elevated care for the consumer. When this is communicated properly, they’ll overshadow competitors.”
—Mauricio Arrieta, Strategic Marketing Manager, Querataro, Mexico
"You don’t want to tell the exact same story as your competitors. It can be informative to review the marketplace and see which unique elements other brands in your competitive set are calling out. This will can help you better determine what sets your brand apart, whether it’s a wide array of flavours or that you deliver a more traceable and transparent product. Once you begin to recognize your most important points of differentiation you can highlight them in ways large and small, from social media hashtags to on-brand pop-up events. These can become your sub-brands in a way—by reminding consumers of the traits that help your product stand out, you’ll strengthen the understanding of your values."
—Maran G Krishnan, MarComms and Digital Director, Singapore, Singapore
"Companies can leverage visuals to tell their stories in memorable and vivid ways that may deliver more impact and emotion than words alone. Artful, custom and unique photography can transcend the mundane observable facts of a scenario. Imagine a farmer set in an emerald green field surrounded by healthy cows. Does the expression on his or her face show satisfaction and fulfillment in nourishing the herd with rich, green grasses filled with healthy omega-3 fats? Showing such an image may automatically infer a company’s commitment to sourcing quality materials with a respect for farmers and the environment."
—Melissa Seipel, Director of Creative and Communications & Engagement, Beloit, Wisconsin, USA
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