Your Guide to Avoiding the Top Three Marketing Mistakes of Food & Beverage CPG Brands
Hi there! I'm Christie, founder of Nourishing Food Marketing. Over the past 13 years, I've worked with over a dozen emerging packaged food brands to help them build their brand and grow their business.
In this guide, I'm going to share the mistakes that I've seen brands make time and time again so you don't make the same mistakes. 90% of food brands fail, not because their product isn't delicious, but because they don't get their sales and marketing strategy and execution right.
Here are the Top Three Marketing Mistakes that I see brands make all the time and how you can avoid them:
Marketing Mistake #1
Your creative assets aren't consistent.
Your brand is more than your products - it's your packaging, your website, your social media, your e-mail newsletter, your digital marketing ads, and how your customer support team picks up the phone. All of these creative assets need to show up CONSISTENTLY to build your brand equity and communicate what you stand for.
Each of your creative assets needs to reinforce each other to communicate your brand. What are the one or two things you want a consumer to know about your brand? If your creative assets are inconsistent, then your consumers won't know why your brand and your products are so special and unique.
Food brands spend lots of time and money developing creative assets. And more often than not, I see them spending more valuable time and money redoing their packaging and websites because they didn't get their messaging right the first time. Creating your brand and product positioning and communication hierarchy up-front will help you save this headache down the road. Sometimes, this is a necessary and natural iteration of learning about how and why consumers like your product. But most of the time, this is a mistake that can absolutely be avoided.
If you're like me, you struggle to remember the name of your friend's partner or child if you don't see them regularly. You try to remember, but sometimes it just slips your mind. If we can't remember something we're trying to remember, think about how difficult it will be for your everyday consumer to remember who you are.
When I worked on Kingsford Charcoal and conducted focus groups, consumers would always say, "I buy the blue bag of charcoal." That's right, consumers do not remember the brand name of a 100 year old brand that sells almost a billion dollars of product each year with a multi-million dollar marketing budget.
If our packaging talked about high protein and our website talked about clean ingredients, we would miss out on a key opportunity to reinforce our brand so consumers remember know who we are. This weak consumer understanding of your brand can be the difference between success and failure in the tough CPG space of split-second purchasing decisions.
Pick 1-2 benefits to communicate in every asset, either through imagery or text, that your consumer absolutely must know.
Consumers are busy and don't remember a lot. Your brand needs to communicate clearly and consistently to overcome this hurdle.
Brands say nothing at all when they try to communicate too much or communicate different messages in all the various places your brand needs to show up. Consumers are thumbing through their Instagram feeds at lightning speed, picking a product to buy in-store in 4-6 seconds, and spending less than two minutes on your website. They just won't remember everything you want them to.
You might be saying to yourself, all of my product benefits together is what makes my product so special! If that's you, please indulge me in this Brand Exercise.
Pick your three favorite brands and think about why you love them. Can you describe your favorite brands in ten words or less?
My Brand Exercise results are:
Oatly: plant-based alternative that's actually milk-like
Petit Pot: creamy traditional French puddings
Hodo Soy: nuttier tasting tofu that's organic
If you did the Brand Exercise, you saw that saying less is saying more. It's so hard to capture everything that makes your brand special in just a few words, but you must be so clear about who you are so your consumers know why your brand is special, too.
And of course you can share everything else about your brand in what I call the "double click." When a consumer is two clicks in to your website or signs up for your newsletter, you can use that space to tell your full story. This allows you to keep your "one click" assets on message.
Have one person be the decision maker and manage development for all of your creative assets.
This one person is responsible for fastidiously checking and approving every brand asset to make sure it matches your brand's look and feel and communicates exactly what you want it to.
The other reason why brands have inconsistent creative assets is because of too many cooks in the kitchen.
There are so many people who are responsible for bringing your brand to life - graphic designers, web developers, copywriters, social media interns - and they typically aren't full-time employees that live and breathe your brand every day.
It's critical that each of your creative partners understands what your brand stands for and what each asset should communicate before starting a project. The most common tool to do this is with a creative brief.
Avoid this mistake and expensive creative asset redesigns by spending time upfront to understand why your consumers love your products and consistently executing on that communication in your assets.
Marketing Mistake #2
You assume what your consumer needs and wants.
Your consumers are the most important stakeholders in your business. Your customers (retailers), investors, and employees won't exist for long if your consumer doesn't love your product.
So, why do I see brands make decisions without asking their consumers what they think all the time? Ask them about why they buy your product, how they talk about your product, what they think about your new products, and what new flavors they want. Ask them who they are so you can can build your target consumer profile. Ask them, what does this packaging communicate to you, is my website easy to navigate, and what social media content do you love seeing?
You can avoid costly surprises down the line by incorporating your consumer's voice into your business decisions. When 70% of new product launches fail, you need to use every weapon in your arsenal to make sure your new product succeeds at market.
Ask your consumers what they think. People enjoy being asked for their opinion, especially if they love your brand!
Feedback from your consumer will help you make important business decisions and communicate to other stakeholders why you made those decisions.
Let me be clear: I don't want you running around and asking people what they think, and avoiding making important business decisions. Don't let perfection paralyze you.
Always ask yourself what business decision you will make differently based on your consumer's feedback and how it will impact your business. Don't spend time and energy asking a question if the answer won't change your decision. To be completely unbiased, I like to map out my hypothesis and what my actions will be for each possible outcome of the consumer research.
Today, it is very easy and affordable to find out what your consumer is thinking. Here are a few free or mostly-free ways that you can ask consumers what they think:
Your social media channels, such as Instagram and Facebook. For your devoted consumers, you can also create a private Facebook group to build close long-term relationships with and incorporate their input into your business.
Best for quick multiple choice questions. Use the Instagram Story poll feature for two-choice questions or ask your consumers to put their response in the comment.
Your newsletter subscribers are some of your most devoted consumers. You can send them a survey once per quarter and expect a 25-50% response rate with a chance to win a $100 gift certificate incentive. In your survey, you can also ask them to opt-in to a special Feedback Forum that you can contact more frequently.
Best for longer, more in-depth questions. Be sure to ask questions that will help you look at the data in helpful ways (eg, where consumers shop, demographics, and purchasing behavior).
Pay consumers to respond to your survey. My favorite way to do this is through SurveyMonkey Audience Panel, where you can purchase a response for $1-5, depending on a number of factors. You can also recruit consumers for your survey through Facebook (eg, local mom groups or advertising).
Best for questions where you need unbiased answers. For example, you're going into a new channel or retailer and want to understand how to position your product. Or, you
Note: some questions aren't a good fit for online consumer research because you're creating something completely new. This typically isn't the case for food and beverage companies.
Avoid missteps by incorporating your consumers' voice into your important business decisions.
Marketing Mistake #3
You don't define, measure, and compare your marketing metrics
Marketing is a long-term investment that is notoriously hard to measure. Some results just can't be measured or they cost a lot of money to measure, such as how much demos are driving in-store sales lift and how much your digital advertising is leading to increased sales in-store.
However, it's clear that marketing drives awareness and trial for emerging brands, which are critical for moving product off shelves.
The idiom "You measure what you manage" is true. Brands that don't keep track of their marketing metrics don't have a clear picture of what they've tried from a marketing perspective, what has worked, and what they should continue doing.
In your Marketing Strategy, include Business Goals, Marketing Goals, Marketing Tactics, and Metrics.
It can be difficult to understand exactly how marketing is contributing to your business goals so it's critical that you define what success for your marketing looks like.
You can understand what success looks like for you by taking the time to define, measure, and compare your marketing metrics:
- You can define success through your own improvements over time. Is your community growing week-by-week? Are your costs to drive awareness going down month-over-month as you get clearer about your target consumer? Are your velocities in store growing year-by-year?
- You can define success by comparing your different marketing tactics to each other. Which driver of awareness costs you the least? Is running a coupon at Sprouts better than a coupon at Ibotta? What about in comparison with Moms Meets?
- You can define success by using industry benchmarks to understand how your brand's results stack up against the rest of the food & drink category (eg, here's a good guide of Facebook benchmarks for the Food & Drink industry)
Plus, brands that don't have marketing metric tracking in place will have a tougher time scaling their marketing function as they grow and managing their marketing function when there's turnover.
Avoid marketing efforts with unclear results by using metrics to define your success.