Consumer before brand: Learnings from Food and Drink Trends and Innovation 2015

Alison Bachrynowski, Business Director, describes her key takeaways from the Food and Drink Trends and Innovation 2015 event.

There was one consistent thread throughout all presentations at last Tuesday’s Food and Drink Trends and Innovation Conference; that is the importance of keeping the consumer front of mind. Agencies and clients all too often fall into the trap of pushing forward innovative ideas because they are ‘cool’. However, it is essential that we understand the benefits cool new things can offer our consumers and not just our egos! After all, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Advances in data technology give us new and exciting ways to target consumers with personalised messaging. Saying the right thing, to the right person, in the right place and at the right time can undoubtedly have a positive impact on the performance of your communications. Coca-Cola’s Simon Miles shared one such success story. To drive sales of a low performing SKU, Coke used proximity mobile targeting to tell shoppers about an in-store offer, with 19% of recipients going on to purchase the promoted product. However, there is a fine line to walk between being relevant and being intrusive. Getting the incorrect mix of targeting and messaging risks wasted marketing budgets, or worse still, a consumer backlash against your brand.

One way to ensure a positive consumer reception is to take them on your innovation journey. Sue Aydin, Head of Consumer Insight at Heinz, shared her learnings from the brand’s Club 57, an online consumer community. As the market leader, even small innovations within Heinz’ portfolio can alienate fervent fans. However by empowering fans as partners, Heinz finds they respond more positively to brand and marketing innovation. This comes as little surprise in the Age of Social when so many individuals are sharing their point of view online. Give consumers a voice and they’ll share an idea. Even if that idea isn’t right, it will give you an insight into their perceptions, whilst engaging them with a brand that actually listens.

Brands and retailers should pay as much attention to the consumer ecommerce experience, as they do the offline shopper journey. Despite the vast majority of grocery shops still taking place in store, it’s still important to make UX quick wins for those researching or buying products online. Bruce Dove and Karen Pike from Brand View provided unimaginable examples of search results on, with unlucky shoppers looking for ‘acne face pads’ being served pet care products over the more appropriate Clearasil offering. Better tagging in product descriptions, based on the search terms shoppers actually use, is a no-brainer solution to relieve consumer frustrations of online shopping.MEVOutside of grocer ecommerce sites, food and drink brands have further opportunities to engage consumers via great social content. Once again, this will only be successful if content is based on what consumers want to hear, rather than what brands want to say. Asda has enjoyed fantastic success from its Mum’s Eye View YouTube channel because the Asda brand takes a backseat role. As Dom Birch, Senior Director of Marketing Innovation, shared, Asda gives control of its ‘haul’ and ‘how to’ videos to highly influential YouTube vloggers with mummy appeal, enabling the brand to achieve an authenticity that consumers inherently trust. The result is Mum’s Eye View video views consistently in the hundreds of thousands, compared to the far lower hundred or so views achieved by videos on the Asda channel. Birch admitted that more commercially driven results are difficult to measure, but his confidence to progress without heavily researched metrics is admirable, particularly given the relatively low investment needed to deliver influencer content. After all, as comms channels evolve, it’s better to innovate quickly, fail fast and move on, than to miss the moment to your competitors whilst assessing metrics.2015 is an exciting time for innovation from a product, brand and communications perspective. However, it’s essential not to lose sight of the single most important component in your brand’s success. To get caught up in an innovation whirlwind, without sight of whether what you’re doing is right for your consumer, is a fast track to brand failure. By comparison, and as the speakers at Food and Drink Innovation and Trends 2015 know, brands that follow a consumer-first innovation strategy have a far greater chance of success.


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