By Tim O’Brien
Nowadays, a brand is much more than just a logo or design. Today’s brand is the set of expectations it establishes and the promises it sets forth. In today’s volatile consumer climate, buyers seek out brands that strongly align with their values and reflect their persona (or how they want their persona to be perceived.) Given how the digital arena provides consumers easy access to what a company’s brand promise is and to the level of how the company adheres to it, today’s brands are held to a higher level of expectation for living out that promise. A brand has to demonstrate its alignment to their promise to the many skeptics who will seek out proof (or disproof) of their transparency and sincerity. It’s imperative that a brand, as Gallup says, “walk the talk.” According to Gallup, “consumers want an actively aligned brand promise. A strong brand promise is a differentiator, but it can quickly become meaningless to consumers if not backed up.” According to the American Marketing Association, millennials not only appreciate social responsibility in brands but also more or less demand it.
Brand activism can play a critical role for food advertising agencies and food branding companies trying to create Brand Love. A recent study on Brand Love by Foodmix Marketing Communications discovered that, when compared to those who simply like a brand, those who identify as Brand Lovers say the brand has a “story” that feels authentic, that it reflects their personal identity and that they, in fact, often idealize the brand and feel emotionally close to it. In short, consumers expect a relationship with the brands they purchase. Nothing can shortchange a relationship like a lack of trust or a lack of commitment. Brands that express their values and prove their steadfastness in them are those brands that are most able to build a long-lasting Brand Love with discriminating consumers.
The Importance of Brand Activism in Food Marketing
Nowhere is the need for building Brand Love through brand activism more imperative than in the food and beverage industry. Perhaps because of increased restrictions as well as raised awareness about the quality, sourcing and healthfulness of ingredients, food and beverage companies are having their commitment to living out their brand promise viewed under a metaphorical microscope. Food brands that want to increase their viability in today’s consumer world and keep their brand top of mind with consumers in today’s crowded space must maintain their stance consistently and advocate for it through continual brand activism. But how do some brands elevate this “like” to what the food branding experts at Foodmix Marketing Communications calls “Brand Love?”
Wear Your Purpose On Your Sleeve
For a number of successful brands, brand activism isn’t just a quick-hit PR or marketing ploy. Social responsibility is very much woven into the company’s very DNA and helps define who they are. Nowhere in the food industry is this more evident than with Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream – who make charity and activism a central component of their business model. They use transparency, global awareness and social justice as marketing points, ones that resonate strongly especially with young consumers. While Ben & Jerry’s makes delicious, uniquely flavored ice creams, it’s their being blatant about and demonstrative of their purpose that truly sets them apart. Phrased as “Peace, Love & Ice Cream,” this purpose is showered upon the masses, not through traditional means of TV and billboards, but through creating discussions and engaging activism through events, packaging and social interactions. Ben & Jerry’s and others like them first “do good” and then talk about the good they’ve done.
Brand Activism Combats Brand Negativism
Foodmix Marketing Communications found that Brand Lovers more than Brand Likers feel that, if they heard something negative about their loved brand, they’d question the veracity of the claim. Brands that prove they are socially aware and transparently active can build some immunity to the lightning-quick spread of bad press in today’s climate. Their brand activism gives them viability by getting out in front of issues that could affect that brand’s trustworthiness or authenticity. In Europe for example, the food marketing agency for Mars Food is publishing information on the client’s website that urges consumers to consider “occasional consumption” of their products that have higher levels of salt, sugar and/or fat. Here in the states, Smithfield Corporate is taking the blemishes of pig farming head-on and putting their commitment on the line with their call for “Good Food Responsibly”. This effort extends beyond just offering quality pork products to consumers, it’s a goal to provide better quality results for the animals, farmers, neighbors and the world at large. The beer industry has also made their social awareness and activism prominent with the work they’ve done with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to curtail rampant binge drinking and encourage the use of designated drivers. With such transparent recognition of your products’ potential negative attributes, you can ultimately generate more trust in your brand and thusly more Brand Love for your products.
Does Your Company “Walk The Talk?”
Most companies still seem to believe that brands are created externally – that making a good product and getting it into consumer hands is plenty. But today, there is much more to a brand than the product it creates. A brand is as much about the people who make it, market it and move it. Companies now must rely on their employees to not only understand but also embrace and deliver on the brand promise. Today’s social savvy consumers interact with brands well beyond simply at shelf. They are connected to the stories about their brand. Companies can no longer hide behind the curtain of marketing, because consumers now pay close attention to what’s happening within these once covert operations. It’s important that companies craft a culture that promotes their brand in accordance with their brand’s promise and social standards. Because of this, businesses should be devoting as much time, money and energy working with their food and beverage marketing companies to build their brands internally as they do externally.
According to Gallup, “consumers align themselves with a company when they can recognize its brand promise and trust in its ability to keep that promise.” Or as the food marketing team at Foodmix have discovered: one of the keys to building Brand Love is demonstrating a sincere, unfettered commitment to those things they love about you in the first place. Do, and then tell.
foodmix brandlove study