Every sector and industry has seen increasing competition as more start-ups and international brands try to grab market share. While there will be a rare unicorn that explodes to the top and a bunch who will fail, the vast majority fall across the spectrum. It is here that we see the greatest effort and struggle to stand out.
Terry O’Reilly talks about finding the why that caused the company to be created and using it to identify what makes the brand unique as this in turn influences everything (we’ll come back to this later). The majority of companies in the muddy middle fail at this, typically defining themselves by their category. Some examples include energy/protein bars and marketing agencies (ourselves included). In discussing the industry, Alastair Taylor from Publicis Media said every agency has some ability that every other doesn’t but these are typically minor and difficult to market or sell. For brands, it comes down to who do they want to work with.
It’s this reality that makes the collaborative learning events hosted by EQ Works (Jed Schneiderman) so powerful. Rather than fighting with each other, there is way more to be gained by elevating all of our abilities so that our true differentiators (which are creativity in both design and strategy) shine. Additionally, this collaborative spirit is not only needed but becoming expected by brands from their agencies. Tracy Ball from Home Depot talked about how she wants her agency to share their knowledge and help them navigate their path through digital evolutions and innovations. She relies on her agency to be transparent about the software they use and demonstrate how it is brand safe. Part of success in 2020 will be understanding the value in transparency and collaboration – “trade secrets” are out!
Of course transparency isn’t limited to the brand and agency relationship. With a new data breach announced with increasing frequency, consumers are paying more attention to what is happening with their data. The death of third-party cookie tracking is perhaps the best thing for digital marketing according to Kerry Reynolds of Mozilla. She argues that cookie tracking is unreliable and consumers find it creepy – digital marketers need to identify new ways to measure digital ROI (she supports combining back into the integrated mix rather than measuring it in isolation) and develop transparent and respectful tracking. After all, tracking isn’t dead! This will ultimately build trust with consumers, who are willing to provide information when it is used appropriately (as defined by them) to personalize their experiences.
Personalization is key: one size fits nobody. You can’t even just surf the web anymore – everything is personalized and curated.This was the overarching theme at Elevate Business hosted by Facebook. We are in the attention economy and it as lead to a ton of marketing noise as every brand tries to be heard. One way to break through the noise is with experiential. The experiential panel at Elevate Retail (made up of Lance Chung of Bay Street Bull, Anna Wiesen of Somewherelse, Graham Budd of Array of Stars, and Steffen Christiansen of Jam3) highlighted that this can take the form of large, beautiful activations or more needs focused (phone charging station). Once again it comes down to personalizing the experience and keeping the consumer at the centre of planning. They also stressed consistency across platforms as the integrated approach was required for the greatest success, whether it was for an experience or loyalty programs (as stated by Suzanna Morris of Indigo). Building on this, traffic, whether foot or digital, is key as is the engagement once you have their attention as these two drive the sales flywheel as mentioned by Joe Jackman of Jackman Reinvents.
To be successful at this, brands need to be a shish kabob. To borrow Terry O’Reilly’s theory, brands are like shish kabobs, with each piece being a tactic, initiative, touch point etc all held together by the skewer (the brand identity). Consumers expect every interaction with a brand to sound the same regardless of where that is: Facebook, e-newsletter, packaging, customer service…it all ties together. Further, consumers care about what you stand for and if your actions align. Taken together, if a consumer feels a connection with a brand they will spend nearly twice as much.
Given the above, it’s not surprising that many founders find themselves overwhelmed and creating disjointed content and participating in random events/promos that don’t really get the ROI they should. I often recommend that these brands invest in understanding their brand and strategy. With limited budget, most marketing will be on social/digital (where nobody can speak about the brand like the founder can) or events (where the founder will be putting in the hours). As mentioned at the start, lots of new food brands are in crowded spaces with limited differentiation other than taste and texture. This is where companies like Sampler are so powerful – they put product directly into the hands of interested members of the target audience. Similarly, Adriano Marinelli of DeBest Foods and Bram Warshafsky separately suggested start-ups capitalize on the DTC channels to start. This saves expensive listing fees while also giving the data needed to sell the product into the major retailers.
A case study that highlights all of this is Andrew and the team at YelloFruit, which neither sponsored this post nor are they a client (although I’d love for that to change!). If you don’t know who they are, Yellofruit is a delicious non-dairy frozen banana dessert. They stand out from other plant-based ice creams not only because of their primary ingredient but also the way they’ve hit the market this past summer. First, before they launched, Andrew teamed up with Ransom at Caddle to get market insights so that he not only knew how to tweak their marketing but had consumer data for retailers from the get go. Yellofruit stands for clean, healthy fun for kids, adults, and the planet – at least in my opinion – and everything they do aligns to that. Not being able to digital sample or sell, they focused on driving traffic to the retailers who backed them. Tapping into people’s love of big things, they managed to find a banana car that travelled the province all summer – the car drew people, the team gave samples, and those consumers went from the parking lot right into the store to buy. Their Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with pictures of happy consumers in and around the car, posts of consumers doing fun things while enjoying the product, and highlighting features of the product that drew consumers to start with – organic, vegan, etc. On LinkedIn, they focus more on their commitment to the environment, sharing posts from Equifruit and about the banana industry along with product details. No matter where you run into Yellofruit, you get the same consistent message – although their kabob is more likely fruit than meat/veg!
I hope founders, marketers, and leaders find this helpful as they plan their strategy! Always happy to chat or lend a hand!