The craft food space is becoming increasingly crowded, and if your only marketing message is promoting organic, locally-sourced, hand-crafted products, you aren’t doing enough to guide shoppers to your spot on the shelf.
Influencers like Jamie Oliver and Chipotle have made their mark on the food industry, and public pressure for better food choices is making it’s way to corporate C-Suite decisions. The future we envisioned with grade school Earth Day tree plantings is finally making sense to big business. In March 2016, General Mills announced a three-year plan to reach a quarter-million acres of organic crops by 2019. One of the most basic, high volume, low-dollar, middle-America food products, Kraft Mac and Cheese, has dropped all artificial flavoring and additives.
It’s exciting when Fortune 500 companies embrace healthy practices, but it does change the future of food marketing, particularly in the craft food industry. Whole Foods got their start as a market disruptor, but their success paved the way for competition. Every major retailer has an organics section now, and Whole Foods is struggling to redefine their position. Organic, preservative-free is becoming less of a differentiator. Do not mistake that statement as a caution to remove those words from your brand strategy. Locally, sustainably-sourced, quality ingredients are vital to a small brand platform, but the industry is reaching a point where that product segment is pretty crowded.
When Kraft Foods made their product changes, they dropped a marketing bombshell by doing the unthinkable, changing the recipe of a pantry staple without telling their customers. As a marketing strategy, it was a beautiful example of knowing your market and understanding shopper psychology. When you violate your brand identity by inserting, “New!,” “Improved!,” or even, “New Packaging, Same Great Taste!” you are setting an expectation with your customer that “something is different here.” Existing customers may approach favorite products with skepticism. Kraft bypassed all that anxiety by changing their recipe, and then announcing it later.
Shoppers weren’t reaching for the blue box because they wanted the healthiest choice in the market. Mac and Cheese represents comfort food, memories of childhood, and an easy, reliable product. In the craft segment, customers are already looking for natural products. In short, you are preaching to the choir now. So how are you going to stand out against the marketing power of corporate brands? By seeing your product through your customer’s eyes, and shaping your marketing strategy around your brand attributes. Different from a product description, brand attributes describe what your customer experiences when using your products. Beyond look, ingredients and taste, attributes are the psychology of your brand: the why behind the how.
Here is a short guide to help you work through the key attributes of your product/service through the eyes of your customer:
FORM: Generally describe the style of your product. (creamy, luscious, crunchy, spicy)
FUNCTION: Describe how your product works for your customer. (fast, convenient, comforting, satisfying)
BENEFITS: How does your product add to your customer’s experience? (healthy eating in a hurry, fine dining on a budget, great meals with little planning)
FEELINGS: After using your product, how does your customer feel? (healthy and smart, a trend setter, confident parent)
VALUES: What does your product represent to your customer? (smart shopper, wholesome food, easy to prepare)
METAPHORS: Challenges, life events, lessons, aspirations connected to your product/service. (creating a welcoming table, providing a healthy start to the day, connecting to family)
EXTENSIONS: Describe unexpected or illogical feelings your product/service inspires. (because I feed my family healthy food, I am a great mom; because this food is popular, I throw great parties; because I serve gorgeous food, I’m a gracious host)