As a brand consultant I spend a lot of time working on many of the kitchen table brands that will be familiar to all. Perhaps unsurprisingly these brands have many of the same issues. Recently however the world of food and drink branding has taken on some new players and challenges in the form of ingredient companies.
There has been a surge in interest in branding from ingredient companies who havenít historically used or indeed needed the dark arts of branding. Those close to the ingredients industry will probably have noticed the change as well. Certainly if you have come across marketing activity from the big ingredient companies or attended the food ingredients exhibition in Paris last year, you would have seen how strongly brand orientated many now are. This of course is a far cry from the tradition of selling ingredients, as commodities with names sounding like an affliction or a complex algebra equation.
The development of ingredient branding has three strands to it; the branding of ingredients for 'industrialí customers, creating consumer facing ingredient brands in the area of added value food/drink functionality and the development of nutritional labelling. Of course these worlds are not mutually exclusive. In fact it has been the coming together of B2B marketing propositions from ingredient companies, with a consumer orientation that has been most noticeable. There have been comparatively few B2C launches, although I think we will see this change. For example a functional ingredient brand can be launched to a relatively niche target audience using below the line media such as web and PR rather than expensive mass market media like TV. Couple this with changing consumer demand and it becomes more advantageous for brand owners to host ingredient brands.
Food manufacturers are effectively passing on the competitive pressures they are under driven by huge consumer choice and a shift towards healthier more natural ingredients. They are turning to ingredient companies and demanding more added value. This often takes the form of ingredient innovations driven out of deeper consumer understanding and insight. This insight can then be developed into 'branded propositions' or products bundled into platforms supported by big consumer need territories such as 'more naturalí or 'wholesomeí. Creating ingredient brands for consumers has of course been very challenging; most have failed either through too low awareness or the very real danger of being seen as an artificial additive with no intrinsic reason for being there (in the host product). However market conditions are changing and increasingly ingredient companies are finding there is a role for them to be talking directly to the consumer. Functional ingredients that bring an added consumer benefit to the host product have been driving considerable value growth in food and drink sectors and they definitely have the potential to be developed as direct propositions to consumers from ingredients companies. Our research with clients has shown that consumers who are aware of the potential for enhanced functional value/benefits in their food or drink look for signs or signals of those properties on food or drink packaging. Indeed food and drink packaging in increasingly covered by branded symbols for the latest celebrity ingredient or symbol representing nutritional value There are clearly a number of factors driving the appeal of a 'brandedí approach; not least the advantages ingredient companies derive right across the value chain: To ingredient companies
To food producers
- Provides a focus within their organisation in terms of what the marketing and sales teams are trying to achieve
- Helps the ingredient company show to food manufacturers they understand and have insight on the end consumer
- Makes it easier to market the product in terms of having more inherent media value, PR value and evidence for the inclusion of the ingredient brand
- Potentially can lock food manufacturers into exclusive supplier relationships
- Can leverage perceived competencies across a range of products
- You are more able to manage the long term potential of the ingredient
- Can address earlier any ingredient attributes which will make it unattractive to the end user
- Provides more innovation potential around the ingredient and guidance for manufacturers on how best to use it - it becomes a bigger idea with its value clearly rooted in its consumer potential rather than its technological application
- Can differentiate a product on factors more than price to food companies
- Adds specialness/premium
- Is a way to defend margins
- Can differentiate a product on factors more than price to consumers
- Adds specialness/premium
- Is a way to defend margins
- Creates more demand for their products via market pull through
- Can give them a unique functional benefit claim
- Provides a 'Quick winí platform for innovation
- Helps them to identify how best to use an ingredient
- Helps them to explain and communicate benefits is a targeted way
- Can provide a strong rationale to the trade for stocking the product
- Potentially allows them to reposition their product adding in new credentials
- Gives them a way of exploiting new trends from existing product vehicles
- Adds value to the category
- Will often provide a way to bolster own brand offers via partnership
- Provides a useful navigational tool around a fixture
- Itís something they can recognise and look for
- Can offer certain guarantees or benefits not historically included within host product
Our thinking on creating great brands has proved applicable to both B2B and B2C audiences. The process usually involves three steps. Scoping the opportunity, defining the brand solution and then bringing the brand alive.
The first step
gathers insight around consumer and manufacturer needs, the competition and the potential strengths or weaknesses of the product. Essentially this comes down to understanding how to overcome barriers and exploit opportunities for adoption by both consumers and manufacturers. Dragon would typically develop a number of hypotheses for how best to position the ingredient. These hypotheses can then be researched with potential consumers and customers. This allows us to explore the ingredient in the context of real life products and usage scenarios that probe the ingredientís benefits. During this process Dragon will assess each positioning of the ingredient using our proprietary framework of brand belief. This model asks if the brand ideas connect emotionally (is it liked), does it add value beyond the category norms (inspiring), is it credible and believable (trusted) and is there a compelling reason to use it over alternatives (importance). As appropriate alternative ingredient names, language, logos and pack designs are explored. The second step
involves pinning down all the different elements from step one, to define the optimum brand positioning. A brand model is used covering all the variables including benefits, look and feel.
The third step
is then to bring the brand alive and create a brand expression which really captures and communicates the brand positioning in a way that engages consumers and customers but also those working to sell the ingredient, with a real passion for what it stands for.
So to summarise, branding is as powerful a tool in the ingredient world as it is elsewhere. Indeed brands often prove to be the most valuable asset a business has at a corporate and product level. To create a strong ingredient brand involves asking is my ingredient, 'Likedí, 'Trustedí, 'Importantí and 'Inspiringí.
Chris Grantham is a consultant at Dragon. Dragon is a brand consultancy that works with a number of leading ingredient companies. For further information telephone 020 7262 4488.