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After a year as unprecedented as 2020, it’s easy to see your branding and messaging strategy slip to the back of your to-do list. But, as this year has also shown, consumer habits are shifting and shoppers are increasingly seeking out brands that align with their ideals and ethics.
This creates a prime opportunity for independent producers to reconsider how their brand can better tell their story. “The competition among brands is increasingly fierce, and a strong brand story can help cut through and build following,” explains Mallika Basu, food communications consultant and co-founder of SIZL Spices.
Read on for four ways that SME food makers can rethink their brand story for the new year.
1. Integrate video and sound
Adam Faulkner of CreativeAF, which designs bespoke video and sound for brands, says that video has fast become an invaluable marketing tool, with 53% of consumers engaging with a brand after viewing a video on social media.
“With something as process-driven as food, there’re so many options to shine a light on the incredible food producers out there and how they make and put everything together,” Adam says.
Online platforms and social media act as “windows into the worlds of more and more brands” he says, so it’s more important than ever to break through the noise and get your message across effectively.
“When advertising food, it simply has to look mouthwatering to draw us in. Video does this incredibly well and also shows the process of how the food is made,” Adam explains.
Sound also has a role to play. “Music is emotive, it makes us feel and delivers an emotional connection with consumers,” Adam says. “We remember the soundtracks from famous films and television, why can’t it be the same for brands?”
What should brands consider when choosing their look and sound? “Every brand has a story and it’s digging into that that delivers both a look and a sound. Elements such as history, geography and, of course, a brand’s target audience are massively important,” Adam says. “The aim is to create a relationship with the brand through the look and sound.”
2. Rethink your packaging
Chris Tymon, creative director at the food and drink brand consultancy Toast Food, says that today, integrating sustainable packaging straight into your brand story is “absolutely key”. While brands that make vague or exaggerated claims can be hit with greenwashing accusations, those that show that they have taken sustainability issues seriously can stand out from the crowd.
According to data cited by the British Retail Consortium in its Climate Action Roadmap, 79% of customers are changing their preferences based on the social responsibility, inclusiveness or environmental impact of their purchases, and 88% of customers want brands to help them live sustainably.
“I think building that into your brand stories is really vital,” Chris says. Plastic-free icons are now nearly as effective as Great Taste Award badges at making a sale, he added. “As well as having a great tasting product, it’s vital that you consider how it’s packaged and what message you’re getting across by what type of packaging you use, and small guys can do that a little bit easier now than some of the larger ones.”
3 Don’t be afraid of collaboration
With Covid-19 bringing an end to the big shows and events that so many independent brands rely on for exposure, Mallika says she’s seen a shift towards online campaigns, where like-minded brands and influencers seek to boost one anothers’ followings by working together.
“I’m seeing a lot of brands collaborating with each other and creating ‘tribes’ to tap into each other’s following and fans. In the absence of demos, events and tastings this year, the shift has been to clever digital marketing campaigns,” she says.
“Doing smaller sample sizes for the meal kits market, for instance, or being stocked in online pantries of upcoming food delivery and takeaway brands is a great way to widen brand awareness and channels.”
Collaboration is certainly on the minds of regional food and drink makers. Speciality Food recently looked into the trend of producers joining forces to create local Christmas hampers. By working together and giving consumers a simpler way to support a number of local businesses, brands can maximise sales.
4. Tap into your brand’s authenticity
Where indie brands have historically excelled at showing the authenticity of their brand story on their packaging, Chris says this method has been “ambushed by the likes of the bigger supermarkets”.
“There are a lot of own brands now that are made to look like an artisan food producer,” Chris said. “That’s what the small guy did really well for years, showing that family photo and that real story on [the packaging].
“I think there can be quite a lot of mistrust in that now.” Instead, Chris suggests brands point customers towards their social media channels. “Engaging with them that way, and showing those real videos of your produce being made or where you source the ingredients from or whatever it might be, is key.”
According to Mallika, showing “a human and personal face” is the biggest advantage that SMEs have over larger competitors. “In a digital world, people increasingly buy from people. Behind the scenes updates, stories of daily struggles and successes, everyday wins, these are all big areas of difference independent SMEs can use as part of their storytelling to drive growth,” she says.
“There’s so much that goes into a brand,” adds Adam. “Of course there’s the final product or products, but there’s also the people behind it, where it comes from and how it is made. When you take all this into account, there’s a rich and fascinating story to be told for each and every brand.”
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