Working in partnership with the business consultancy Healthy Marketing Team (HMT), applied cultural analysis masters students from Lund University (Audrey Savage, Jessica Bratulina, Joseph Panama, Malik Dehbi Talbot and Talia Velez) have created a flexible framework to help brands understand how they can maintain their strong relationship with customers as they grow from 'lifestyle' to 'early mass market' stakeholder.
The report, named ‘Food That Talks’, is the result of a series of one-on-one interviews, focus groups, online research and coffee shop observations across Sweden, Canada and Ireland analysing how people perceive different food and drink products and why.
Talbot told NutraIngredients: “The idea behind this report is that by understanding the themes between people, food, and the broader social context, brands can position themselves and find out what is the right thing to say about their product in order to foster an effective connection with the client. Essentially, by saying the right thing, the product will talk to the consumer.”
Breaking down opinions
Based on their data, the analysts broke consumers' perceptions into three main trajectories - spatial, temporal and ethical - which are shaped by the six Global Game Changers identified by HMT: people, resources, production, science, technology, and food.
Brands can use the trajectories to chart where they want their brand to sit in consumers’ minds and understand what elements of their brand they should emphasise in order to do this therefore helping them maintain a connection with their target audience.
The spatial trajectory is a scale from ‘local’ to ‘global’. The analysts explain that a brand that is local might connect with consumers as they want to support local businesses or are aware of the air miles and environmental impact associated with global brands.
But, equally, a product imported from a foreign country might like to emphasise it's 'global' appeal to customers who like knowing the product is authentic, or perhaps the country of origin makes the product seem more trendy or high quality.
The ethical scale has ‘aversion’ at one end and ‘indulgence’ at the other. This consideration can mean different things to different consumers as everyone holds their own ethical considerations whether it be environmental impacts, animal welfare, production chains or other.
The analysts explain that the indulgence side tends to be considered a positive for consumers who are celebrating or treating themselves and certainly indulgent foods tend to be more readily consumed in the company of other people.
The temporal trajectory is a scale of slow to fast. For example, a brand that’s offering fast and convenient food can emphasise this aspect of their brand to appeal to people on the go, whereas a brand that’s all about slow, relaxed, at-home cooking from scratch might want to emphasise this element of their brand.
Panama explains that there's no 'good' or 'bad' side for any of the trajectories.
“There’s not a right or a wrong end to the scales. This is about what works for that brand and for their audience. It’s all about identifying where you fit into that ecosystem and seeing how a brand can talk to consumers.”
Of course, a brand can have a range of products which sit at different points on the trajectories but the important thing is for the brand to know what elements they are emphasising for each product.
Talbot adds that the big benefit of this model is that it is flexible so can be used even as consumer trends change.
“It’s important to have something flexible enough to capture the inherent dynamic of cultural change. Right now, people want locally produced products but this may change in the future.”
Panama: “The idea is for the brand to see where their consumers are and not to go chasing after everyone but to build a strong identity which will give it a more effective connection with people than those trying to do everything for everyone.”
Too transparent to tell tales
Malik adds: “Nowadays you can’t make shallow marketing claims because people have access to a lot of information and want information that’s meaningful.
“Your brand has to say something in relation to of the three trajectories in order to be attractive to consumers. This is a way for them to simply work out what their position is.
“Consumers don’t want to be told about themselves or what they should be buying. They want brands to speak for themselves and allow the shopper to decide for themselves if that fits into their lifestyle.”
Panama adds that their research also shows that consumers have become very wise to brands putting un-realistically small serving sizes on their products to make their nutritional credentials look better.