Two Thoughts from Gandhi can Guide Today’s Food & Beverage Marketers, writes Sam Waterfall.
I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that Mohandas K Gandhi was not a heavy user of soft drinks. Of course I’m guessing, but my money would be on him having been more of a ‘tea man’. While he may not have contributed to the manufactured food and beverage industry through consumption, I suggest that some of his enduring wisdom is increasingly relevant to today’s FMCG marketers.
In a world characterised by accelerating technological advances, it remains the role and the responsibility of Marketing to communicate the ideas and confer the benefits of new science and product developments to the consumer. This, of course, is nothing new, but according the HealthFocus(R) International, the leaders in global consumer insight surveys, what’s changing is the consumers’ willingness to accept these marketing messages.
HealthFocus International researches the household’s main shopper in 34 countries by conducting in depth surveys. The result is a psychographic interpretation of food, beverage, diet and health awareness and motivations of the global consumer. While there are many differences between countries and shoppers, perhaps more shocking is the extent of the similarities. Globalisation is advancing and consumers from the USA to China and from Europe in between have many of the same health concerns and share the same growing cynicism and distrust of food manufacturers and their brands.
Product development has come a long way in the last two decades, but the advances have been accompanied by a constant stream of high profile brand calamities which have fuelled consumer distrust. 1985 saw the misconceived launch of New Coke; and while its attempted displacement of Classic Coke is now the stuff of marketing lore and endless case studies, it achieved nothing other than to breakdown the trust of the consumer and erode the brand equity. A similar fate beset Perrier in 1990 when management’s shifting explanation for benzene traces created such uncertainty it ultimately led to the recall of 160 million bottles. More recently in 1998, Sunny Delight, the ‘healthy alternative to soft drinks’, became the 3rd largest soft drinks brand in the UK. Yet by 2001, sales had halved behind negative press claims regarding ingredients and furore over an orange snowman and a girl who allegedly turned orange. In each case, consumer perception was betrayed by inconsistency. Coke was famous for its secret recipe; Perrier a mineral water – famous for purity; and Sunny Delight a healthy alternative – famous as a juice drink among colas. When the consistency of these clearly understood stories was brought into question, the brand equities were dramatically eroded.
What can we learn?
So our first lesson from the Mahatma – Integrity – dimensionalised as consistency of message. Gandhi said, “It’s impossible to do right in one part of life while doing wrong in another part.”
The key point is that brands must be more than label-deep. Today, consumers are increasingly looking for a consistent story. It’s no longer enough to tell your brand ‘story’ on the label. Of course, you should tell your brand ‘story’ on the label, but you shouldn’t stop there. And, most importantly you shouldn’t start there either. Peter Wennström, Founder & President of The Healthy Marketing Team, says that “The value chain begins in the mind of the consumer.” This is the fundamental starting point when designing your brand strategy.
Wennström explains that since the 1980’s and the time of the calamitous New Coke launch, product development has been led by a sequence of just three major trends. As people have become wealthier and more time pressured they’ve opted to exchange their money for more convenient, more premium and, latterly, more healthy products. But he now observes a critical tipping point, which brings us to our second observation from the Mahatma: “You must be the change you want to see in the world”
For the most part, consumers are satisfied that they can buy conveniently, differentiate themselves through brand choice and meet their perceived need to buy health and wellbeing. Now, Wennström says, with their fundamental needs satisfied, consumers want to use their money to “buy change” in the world around them. Increasingly they chose to buy the brands that embody their values and beliefs. They may chose to buy only Fairtrade coffee, only smoothies in 100% recycled PET bottles or look out for Forestry Stewardship Council certified carton. All of this is symptomatic of the growing transparency of the value chain. Consumers have increasing visibility of and interest in all aspects of the product.
Use brand design to differentiate
So we’ve seen that the brand identity must begin in the mind of the consumer and pervade every aspect of the product. And we’ve learned that the motivations for buying consumer goods have begun to transcend the functional and personal benefits of the product and extend to the broader emotional, environmental and social benefits of the purchase.
And this is where Gandhi’s messages seem to offer a guide to today’s marketers. As new product developers and marketers we have the opportunity to create ways for consumers to buy the change they want to see in the world. But we do this at our brand’s long term peril by trying to cut corners and tell a superficial story. The brand identity must be consistent in every element of the brand, the product, and its entire supply chain. Then we have an authentic story to tell and that is what today’s consumer is desperate to hear. Major players are getting this wrong every day. And when the consumer realises and feels cheated by an insincere story it’s a tough journey back. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. As Gandhi admonished, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Sam Waterfall is a Senior International Consultant for the Healthy Marketing Team, the global experts in brand positioning and innovation for the Food and Beverage Industry. Healthy Marketing is a new way of thinking which takes Food & Beverage companies from consumer data to brand success. For more details visit www.healthymarketingteam.com or email Sam Waterfall email@example.com
Article By Healthy Marketing Team Consultant, Sam Waterfall. Originally Published in Soft Drinks International – March 2008. www.softdrinksinternational.com