The Definitive Guide to Creating a Marketing Strategy for Food and Beverage Brands

This is a comprehensive FREE guide for building a Marketing Strategy for food and beverage Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies. I'll take you through a step-by-step framework to walk you through how to build an effective (achieve your goals) and efficient (with the least amount of time & money) Marketing Strategy for your business.

This guide is for you if:

✔️ you feel overwhelmed by all things marketing - you know you need to do it, but you don't know how

✔️ you feel lost and directionless when you think about your marketing plans so you keep putting it off

✔️ are taking lots of action and spending $$ on your marketing but you just aren't sure if it's growing your business

✔️ you feel uncertainty every time a 'last minute special' lands in your inbox and you spend precious time figuring out if this marketing tactic is worth your while

In the next 8 pages, I'll walk you through my framework for putting together an action-oriented Marketing Strategy that creates clarity around WHY you're doing marketing and HOW you're approaching marketing. I created this framework by adapting the Big Food Marketing Strategies that I learned at Clorox, working on Americana food brands like Hidden Valley Ranch, to a fast-moving and resource-constrained start-up when I started my own brand, Tiny Hero. I've put this Marketing Strategy Framework through its paces as a food founder myself and as a consultant to over a dozen emerging food brands and can't wait for you to get the same clarity in your marketing!

What is a Marketing Strategy and Why Do I Need to Make One?

In this guide, I'm going to condense 13 years of CPG experience into clear steps to help you build a Marketing Strategy. This section is all about the basics to make sure we're on the same page.

What a Marketing Strategy Is and Is Not

First, let’s talk about what a Marketing Strategy is. This is THE strategy, the strategy that puts down on paper how you are going to let your consumers know about your brand and what makes your products special. For example, your plan will most likely include driving consumer awareness and trial.

And here’s what a Marketing Strategy IS NOT – it’s not a complete work plan for your marketing function, whether that be one person, a whole team of people, or a consultant. This strategy is one piece of the thought leadership that you need from your marketing team (not to mention the people leadership, which is critical in a function that works with so many different types of creatives to build a brand). Your typical brand marketer has business training, likely an MBA, so you should also look to her for thought leadership and input on business strategy (building a thriving business), product development (establishing key claims and ingredients), and pricing strategy (understanding the positioning of your competitive set).

Your Marketing Strategy is used to communicate everything that you're doing that is consumer-facing to your entire team, retailers, and creative partners.

A short aside on a couple of terms that may be new to you:

Consumer Awareness:

When your target consumer knows about your brand. Marketers sometimes refer to unaided and aided awareness. Unaided means that a consumer names your brand when asked “When you think of crackers, what brands come to mind?” and aided means that a consumer picks your brand when asked “Which of the following cracker brands have you heard of?” Unaided is better than aided, because this indicates that consumers have a stronger memory of your brand.

Trial:

When your consumer buys and tries your product. Once your target consumer is aware of your brand, it typically takes 5-7 experiences with your brand (eg, advertising, great social media content, seeing your product on-shelf) before they'll buy your product. It's just like getting kids to eat vegetables! The end goal of your consumer trying your product is for it to be SO delicious that your new consumer keeps coming back for more and becomes a life-long consumer.

Download my FREE Guide to Avoiding the Top 3 Marketing Mistakes
that food and beverage CPG brands make

Step One: Start with your Business Objectives and Key Results

The first step in building a kickass Marketing Strategy is writing down your business objectives and key results. Your marketing strategy needs to contribute to these business objectives - after all, why else are you marketing your brand?

What are Business Objectives and Key Results?

You may notice that my Marketing Strategy framework closely mirrors the popular OKR framework. Objectives should be short, inspirational and engaging. An Objective should motivate and challenge the team. Key Results are a set of metrics that measure your progress towards the Objective. For each Objective, you should have a set of 2-5 Key Results.

Here are the Most Common Business Objectives and Key Results for Food and Beverage Consumer Packaged Goods Companies:

  • Business Objective #1: Increase revenue in a specific channel (eg, specific retailer, food service, online). 
    • Key Result #1: Increase velocities (units/store/week)
    • Key result #2: Increase distribution (# of stores that you have placement)
  • Business Objective #2: Increase profitability in a specific channel (eg, specific retailer, food service, online). 
    • Key Result #1: Increase velocities (units/store/week)
    • Key Result #2: Reduce product COGS
    • Key Result #3: Reduce operating costs (eg, distributor or promotional costs)
  • Business Objective #3: Launch a new product
    • Key Result #1: Authorization at target retailers
    • Key Result #2: Consumer purchase intent and feedback
  • Business Objective #4: Launch a line extension (eg, additional SKUs of an existing product line that are a different size or flavor)
    • Key Result #1: Authorization at target retailers
    • Key Result #2: Consumer purchase intent and feedback

For example, I will (objective) increase my revenue at Whole Foods Southern California by (key result) increasing velocities in store by 25%. 

Setting your Business Objectives and Key Results

You'll notice that your business objectives should be very specific so that they are actionable. “Grow my food business to $1 million in revenue” isn’t as useful for planning as “Increase sales at brick & mortar natural retailers by 25% by the end of the year.” I like the SMART framework for goal setting, which recommends goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. 

Once you’ve established 5-10 business objectives for the year, let's talk about what your marketing objectives should be to achieve your business objectives.

Sign-up to receive my FREE bonus content to accelerate your Marketing Strategy creation:
a Marketing Strategy Template, real live Marketing Strategy Examples, and a Marketing Calendar Template.

Step Two: Establish the Marketing Objectives and Tactics that help you Achieve your Business Objectives

Now that you've done the hard work of defining your business objectives, you've built the scaffolding you need to create the most effective and efficient Marketing Strategy for your brand.

You probably know what is going to come next: now it's time to establish your Marketing Objectives and the Tactics to achieve those Objectives! As you're establishing these:

Consider Your Target Consumer

Your target consumer is the ideal person that loves your product so much that they'll buy it over and over and tell all their friends about your amazing food product. You can describe your target consumer by their demographics (age, gender, household income), attitudes (what they believe - organic is the best,  taste is king, gluten-free is a must), and behaviors (favorite retailers, types of foods that they eat).

Consider Where in the Marketing Funnel Your Consumer Is

The marketing funnel is a visual representation of the journey that your target consumer takes to become your consumer. They move further into the funnel as they get to know your brand.

In my marketing funnel, specifically developed food and beverage CPG brands, there are five stages: awareness, consideration, trial, purchase, and brand advocate. As you develop your Marketing Objectives, consider where in the marketing funnel you need to focus to meet your Business Objectives. In each of these stages, you would take different marketing tactics to reach your target consumer. 

Consumer Marketing Funnel Featured Image Logo

Most Common Marketing Objectives and Marketing Tactics for Food and Beverage Manufacturers: 

OK, now that that we've talked about the theory behind how you should think about your Marketing Objectives, let's get to the money list!

    • Marketing Objective #1: Consistently communicate your product positioning and benefits across all creative assets
      • Tactic #1: Consumer research to establish communication hierarchy
      • Tactic #2: Refresh product packaging 
      • Tactic #3: Develop and execute on engaging social media content strategy
    • Marketing Objective #2: Drive awareness of your product at specific retailer to support a new distribution launch
      • Tactic #1: Geo-targeted digital marketing (Google and Facebook Ads)
      • Tactic #2: Geo-targeted influencer campaign
      • Tactic #3: Events (eg, festivals, mom's groups)
    • Marketing Objective #3: Drive trial of an under-performing product at specific retailer so it doesn't get discontinued
      • Tactic #1: Coupons (offered through retailer or coupon app such as Ibotta)
      • Tactic #2: Demos
      • Tactic #3: Money Back Guarantees
    • Marketing Objective #4: Define your target consumer so you can find your first 1000 consumers
    • Tactic #1: Understand your current consumers (demographically, attitudinally, and behaviorally)
    • Tactic #2: Analyze data from Google Analytics, Facebook, and Instagram about who is engaging with your brand
  • Marketing Objective #5: Launch a new product with strong consumer value
    • Tactic #1: Consumer research to establish product positioning, flavors, or pricing
    • Tactic #2: Develop fantastic product packaging
    • Tactic #3: Update website to incorporate new products

Setting Your Marketing Objectives and Tactics

You can't tackle all of your target consumers at every stage in marketing funnel, so where should you focus your energies? Well, that depends on your business and where you have the most opportunity to grow. To have a profitable business, you need enough consumers buying you enough times.

Your brand could have many consumers buying your product once for a special occasion. Then, your Marketing Strategy should focus on the Repeat Purchase stage of the marketing funnel. 

Or, your brand could have a few consumers buying your product every day. Then, your Marketing Strategy should focus on the Brand Advocate and Awareness parts of the marketing funnel.

Using consumer research, figure out what your consumer base looks like and the Marketing Objectives that will help you best achieve your Business Objectives. Then, lay out the tactics that will most effectively and efficiently achieve those Marketing Objectives.

Want examples and tips on consumer research? Listen to my podcast where I discuss my consumer research framework with Alli Ball.

Step Three: Establish Key Metrics for each of your Marketing Tactics

It's critical to set key metrics for each of your marketing tactics. These metrics should be your tactic's budget, timing, and results. These metrics keep you accountable but also give you a tool for planning. They help you: 

  • Compare costs of your different marketing tactics to each other and prioritize tactics appropriately. Which driver of awareness is the most cost effective? Is running a coupon through Sprouts better than using the Ibotta platform? What about in comparison to sending products to influencers?
  • Define success by improving your own metrics over time. Are you gaining more Instagram followers week-over-week? Are your Costs Per Click decreasing month-over-month? Are your in-store velocities increasing year-by-year? 
  • Use industry benchmarks to analyze how you're doing compared to other food and beverage brands

Need help creating an effective and efficient Marketing Strategy? Work with me 1-on-1 to create a thought-through plan that you can't wait to execute on!

Step Four: Execution, Testing, and Learning

Hooray, give yourself a pat on the back - it's a lot of work to put a Marketing Strategy together! It's so worth it to have a clear, focused approach to your marketing efforts. Now, you have to put this glorious plan into action. Here are a few parting thoughts to help set you up for success:

Marketing works. Just look at some of the most iconic brands on the world (McDonald's, Coca Cola). But, marketing that works for your friend's brand may not work for you.

Every brand is different. Your target consumer is different. Your brand equity is different. Your brand positioning is different. Your retailer strategy is different. Your pricing is different. Because your brand and business is different, I can't tell you what the best Business Objective or Marketing Tactic is for your brand. 

You won't get everything right in your first Marketing Strategy. If I were working on your brand, I wouldn't get everything right in your Marketing Strategy, even though I've put together and executed Marketing Strategies for over a dozen brands.   

Marketing is all about testing and learning. Make a plan, have a hypothesis, measure if it's working, and then make it better. 

Imagine this: you're standing at a roulette table. You know the wheel favors some numbers and you want to go to that expensive buffet tonight. How would you figure out which were the winning numbers? You'd place a lot of small bets down and observe a few rounds. Then, you'd go big - put a lot of chips on the number that you think has the best change of winning.

I think marketing is just like roulette. You can build your brand using one well-performing tactic. Impossible built their brand on PR, Dirty Lemon built their brand on digital advertising through social media, KIND built their brand on in-person guerilla sampling, and RightRice built their brand on influencer partnerships. Now, you just need to figure out what works for your brand and continue doing more of these tactics.

marketing is like roulette

Thanks so much for reading my Definitive Guide to Creating a Marketing Strategy for Food and Beverage Brands! If you've read all the way down here, you're thinking about your Marketing Strategy deeply.

Let's build your Marketing Strategy together:

✔️ Expert guidance from a former food founder and Big Food brand marketer that has worked with 12+ emerging CPG brands

✔️ Proven framework for getting clear on your Marketing Objectives and growing your business

from $3000

christie lee headshot picture