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Consultant: Firms must be proactive, not reactive, with stubborn 'myths'

By Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn+

Last updated on 09-May-2014 at 14:59 GMT2014-05-09T14:59:24Z

How should food firms manage the discourse around their products in the age of internet communities and wildfire myths?
How should food firms manage the discourse around their products in the age of internet communities and wildfire myths?

Food firms must be proactive, not reactive, when managing the conversation around their products, according to a food and nutrition marketing expert.

Jeff Hilton, partner and chief marketing officer for Brand Hive, told FoodNavigator that the Millennial generation is a savvy, Googling generation, but for food firms this holds risks in communication management.

Digitally, just keeping track of what people are saying about you and being part of that conversation has complicated marketing for companies. Traditionally it was all about ‘you buy advertising, you get public relations’, well now it’s a 24-7 news cycle and I think a lot of companies don’t quite know how to approach that,” he told us at the nutraceutical event Vitafoods in Geneva this week.

He said it was “critical” companies were proactive in their approach, discussing examples such as the sweetener industry whereby opinions on the safety of artificial sugar replacements like aspartame circulate regularly on blogs and nutrition forums.

“You can just wait and react if a conversation’s happening in the market place, you can ignore it until it’s at a level and it’s a crisis. Or you can just be proactive in putting out correct information – pieces, stories, leading people back to your website. I think proactive all the way,” he said.

Spreading like wildfire

Hilton said the way in which people get their information now means myths can “spread like wildfire”.

“The way things spread, especially among the millennial group, they all talk to each other and their most valued content is content and recommendations they get from their peers so managing your voice in the market place and information and your image is a full time job,” he said.

Communicating science?

He said this could well come down to making science more accessible. “You’ve got to make your science more available,” he said.

He added that both Baby Boomers and Millennials were increasingly interested in scientific findings, but that this was not always presented in a way that was accessible to the average consumer.

The consumer today – this goes for Millennials and Baby Boomers – is much more savvy about looking up a study, going on Pub Med.”

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