Ah, the pursuit of healthier eating… What interesting bedfellows this trend continues to make! The latest marriage is between Hormel Foods, the makers of SPAM (hold the Monty Python jokes), and Applegate Farms, the natural and organic prepared meat company. The dowry? $775 million.
Many see this as shrewd move by Hormel, capitalizing on the consumer’s quest for the ‘better for you’ alternatives offered by smaller, independent brands. Like the General Mills + Annie’s union before it, this latest mash up is a signal that the natural, healthy and organic food trend is not a fad. Larger food companies understand the imperative to adapt through evolution and acquisition or be left behind.
Our most recent study of Healthy confirmed the growing importance of better nutrition to consumers. Respondents see that eating right is a key component to the prescription for health. For consumers in the US & UK, healthy is connected with nature – things that are natural, clean, organic, and specific products associated with fresh and organic. Interestingly, in a previous study on the concept of Natural, consumers most often associated the word Organic with it. Layer in what respondents told us in a third study on Sustainability, and brands that stand for organic generate positive associations.
And that’s what Applegate Farms has going for it. Healthy. Natural. Sustainable. The brand with its simple tagline of ‘Natural & Organic Meats’ probably represents the best of these words to its fans. So it’s no surprise that many took to social media and other outlets to express their disappointment over the acquisition. As always for both companies in these pairings, the challenge will be authenticity. Will the big food company be able to convince consumers that they’re committed to the noble goals of their acquisition, and will the takeover target be able to stay believably true to their brand essence? Only time will tell.
But a word – or three – of encouragement to Applegate’s fan base and to Hormel: Ben & Jerry’s. Despite being acquired by global giant Unilever, the beloved ice cream maker has survived and thrived with unwavering commitment to its socially – and environmentally – responsible brand reputation. Sometimes unlikely marriages are the biggest success stories.
For more information on our Healthy, Natural or Sustainability studies, click here.
Earlier this month, Coca Cola unveiled its latest innovation. No, not a new beverage formulation. But a novel vessel for its products – a fully recyclable plastic bottle made entirely from renewable plant materials. Chalk one up for Planet Earth, as the “PlantBottle™” is a move away from petroleum based materials. Using a patented method that turns natural plant sugars into plastic bottle ingredients, Coca-Cola launched an earlier version in 2009 that was 30% plant-based – this 2015 edition is 100% bioplastic. According to a profile in Plastics Today, Coca Cola believes PlantBottle™ packaging is “estimated to have helped save the equivalent annual emissions of more than 315,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.”
Coca Cola’s move is just the latest by an iconic brand looking to embrace more sustainable packaging. Other recent “green” newsmakers have included Method, Hershey and Clorox. But are these just good, practical business tactics or are companies making changes in response to a growing consumer trend? Is sustainability becoming a concern among everyday consumers? Is it increasingly something that companies should consider when exploring brand extensions, new product development, and packaging design?
According to our study on the subject, the answer is yes. While U.S. & U.K. consumers conveyed a basic understanding of sustainability, there were strong associations around the idea of preserving the environment for future generations. Our insights suggest that products with a sustainability label have a higher likelihood of success, as 80% of consumers said they would be more likely to purchase clearly-marked environmentally-responsible products.
In our study, we asked consumers to both verbalize and visualize their personal associations with sustainability. Brands looking to capture the hearts and minds of eco-aware consumers may want to take note. Positive words that came to mind include renewable, green and recycle. Negative ones included pollution, waste and greed. Visualization of sustainability resulted in imagery around preserving the environment and health (interestingly, in another study we recently led to learn what Healthy means to consumers, participants mentioned that taking care of the environment was a dimension of Healthy). While consumers may not have a full grasp of specific corporate sustainability initiatives, they did have definite ideas about what values they associate with sustainable brands: integrity, trust and authenticity.
As companies seek to help consumers navigate an ever overcrowded sea of choices toward their product line, sustainability can be an important competitive differentiator on shelf – as long as it can be communicated in a meaningful manner. Consumers expressed willingness to buy products from companies that align with their personal values. This creates an opportunity for brands to become a functionally and emotionally relevant solution at purchase
For more information on BuzzBack’s Sustainability study (or the one on Healthy), click here.
There’s been a lot of talk about Millennials lately, and with good reason. Millennials currently make up the country’s largest living generation, and by extension, the country’s largest consumer group with $200 billion in annual buying power. This has not gone unnoticed, especially among big name brands. These days it seems that everyone is changing their marketing strategy to appeal to the Millennial consumer – a few months ago, we talked about TGIFridays removing the appetizer choice limits on their Endless Appetizer deal. Now, within the last month, we’ve heard about changes even more companies are making specifically focused on winning over Millennials.
First, marketers noticed the trend that Millennials have been moving away from beer, and choosing wine and spirits as their drink of choice. Frantically, beer companies have tried other tactics in order to win back the Millennial consumer with Anheuser-Busch releasing a spoof on classic cocktails including Bud Light Mixxtails and Bud Light Ritas. So far the canned cocktails have been a hit among Millennials, but only time will tell whether or not Millennials continue this trend or move on to drinking actual cocktails.
Then came the news that Target would be shifting its shelf marketing towards products that Millennials are more likely to buy. Consumers in general are starting to become more health-conscious and focused on buying natural or organic products. So in hopes of appealing to the “urban Millennial” Target is shifting the focus on their processed shelf staples to other items like Greek yogurt and granola. While this doesn’t mean that canned soup and boxed cereal will be completely removed from shelves, Target will be placing the spotlight on these products that today’s Millennial is more likely to buy.
However, the most surprising news was that Whole Foods (or as it’s more commonly called, Whole Paycheck) plans on launching a chain of lower-cost stores geared towards Millennials. While Whole Foods rose in popularity due to its early entrance into the organic grocery store scene, today healthy products can be found at almost any grocery store and at a much cheaper price. So while the demand for natural and organic products has increased, Millennials are still cash-strapped and price-conscious shoppers. The high cost of food at Whole Foods stores has generally been a turn-off for Millennials, but Whole Foods is hoping to gain their market share while at the same time being careful to not break the brand they have built up of “premium prices and premium products.” The stores, which will feature “a modern streamlined design, innovative technology and a curated selection,” are expected to start opening next year. And if prices are actually as reasonable as they are expected to be, you can be sure that this Millennial will definitely be shopping there.
The issue of Millennials being a younger generation and generally being less wealthy than the Boomer Generation is one that should be of particular interest to marketers. Affordability might just be the key to winning over the Millennial food shopper. Not every company can afford to just up and make a whole new chain of stores dedicated to winning over Millennials, however that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to lower the cost of food shopping. In our recent study on Millennials + Food & Nutrition, we briefly discussed how Millennials use a variety of sources for discounts and how over 90% of Millennial shopper use coupons (see clip below). This is something that not only applies to grocery stores, but also restaurants and product companies who also have the ability to control coupon deals. So, while Millennials do keep an eye out on the quality and freshness of goods they are buying, they are also aware of the limits placed on their food budget, and it’s up to marketers to find that balanced sweet spot.
For more information on our Millennials & Nutrition study, get in touch with us below.
Fat. Carbs. High Fructose Corn Syrup. And now sugar. All nutritional villains in the consumers’ eyes. In response to this mounting concern, food manufacturers and grocers are taking steps to decrease the amount of sugar in their products.
Some soda manufacturers, having already replaced high fructose corn syrup with regular sugar in some brands, are now vowing to reduce overall sugar content in others. Some are experimenting with sugar and stevia combinations. Supermarket chain Wegman’s is taking steps to reduce added sugar in its store brand products including yogurts, sauces and bakery items. Most recently, General Mills announced it was cutting sugar content by reformulating its Yoplait line of presweetened yogurts.
Why the scramble? Are consumers that concerned about their sugar intake? And what are the acceptable sweetener alternatives? According to our latest Buzzpoll it seems that consumers do care about what goes into their body – 65% specifically mentioned their concern about their sugar intake. Nine out of 10 said they read nutrition labels, with over half reporting that it’s to learn about sugar content. The majority are willing to use artificial sweeteners or to try natural alternatives to sugar. Over a third are concerned about artificial sweeteners in their beverages. And a large majority said they’d have a positive opinion of a brand that used natural sweeteners rather than an artificial one.
It seems like everyone, almost everywhere kicked this holiday season into high gear over the weekend. My social news feed was splattered with trees, lights, decorations and even a few pictures of kids with that ole jolly fellow.
Meanwhile, my inbox has been filled with messages alerting me to all the best deals taking place from now through Black Friday and into Cyber Monday.
Last year, we saw a slight increase by 2.3% when combining Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales at brick-and-mortar stores for a total of $12.3 billion. However, Cyber Monday sales increased by 18% from 2012 to 2013, making it the biggest online spending day in history with total sales reaching $1.735 billion.
Since we carved out our little corner of the internet many years ago, and because we work with many retailers and CPG companies, this definitely got our attention. Every year, more and more people are shopping online. This year, we’ve already seen an increase in the amount of retailers extending the discounts beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Deals are now being offered early and often. With this in mind, we decided to take a look at what consumers were planning and plotting this time around for the biggest shopping event of the year. Our most recent study explores where, what, when and how much they’ll spend. Check out our latest infographic below.
A few weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised to come across my name on a bottle of coke next to the name of a friend’s (both part of the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign). Of course I then had to purchase the Coke with my name on it, but only after texting a picture of the bottles in the vending machine to my friend. As I looked at my name written in the iconic Coke font, I felt a strong emotional connection between myself and a brand I’ve been familiar with most of my life. Talk about breaking through the clutter and convincing me to reach for another Coke the next time I’m craving a soda.
The ‘Share a Coke’ campaign has truly proven successful in helping Coke develop their brand loyalty. The 2014 marketing initiative was adapted from the 2011 Australian campaign of the same name, specifically targeting the millennial generation, and has gained a lot of positive attention throughout the summer, increasing traction on social media platforms in the US. According to Networked Insights, 95% of consumers had positive/neutral reactions to ‘Share a Coke’ and Coke reported over 125,000 posts across all digital channels at the start of August. Now as the campaign comes to an end, here’s a closer look at why Coke’s campaign stood out this summer…
One probable psychological explanation as to why the campaign was received so positively by consumers is the Name-Letter Effect. Unsurprisingly, research by social psychologists suggests we associate positive emotions with our names, and generally prefer our initials over other letters in the alphabet. Furthermore, studies show that the Name-Letter Effect causes us to select products and services that share our initials (not to mention our full names). Applying the Name-Letter Effect to my experience, it becomes obvious why I strongly identified and connected with the brand when I saw my name on the bottle in the vending machine.
It is important to note the positive influence high levels of personal identification within consumers can have on brand loyalty when viewing a campaign. I think it is safe to say that all companies want their brands to not only be purchased, but loved and valued above all others in their category amongst consumers. In an ideal world, companies want consumers to connect with their brands on such an individual level that they conceptualize the branded products as an extension of them as a person. Any brand an individual deeply associates with then becomes a means of self-definition, as well as a way to outwardly express themselves to others. This is commonly known as Self-Brand Connection, and describes the ultimate ideation of brand-loyalty.
The key takeaway here is that companies should strive to develop clever marketing strategies that cause consumers to view brands as an important facet of their life, and not just a simple, impersonal product. Reflecting on this as it relates to the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign, I don’t think there is a better way to build Self-Brand Connection than replacing the name of a product with those of its’ consumers.
A few months ago, we talked about Food Lion’s contest to have customers help come up with names for their private label sodas. Since then, it seems like more and more brands are turning to their customers for input on names, flavors or even products themselves. Just last week, Lays was handing out bags of potato chips right outside our office so the public could try 4 new flavors other consumers had previously created. Now that the final four fan-made flavors have made it this far it’s time for everyone to vote for their favorite (We tried the wasabi ginger and cappuccino – guess which one got our vote). Then this week, I read an article about McDonald’s creating a “burger builder” website where consumers can select from different bun, meat and topping combinations to create their own burgers and submit them into a competition in the UK where the winning burger will be served in over 1,200 restaurants.
Crowd-sourcing can be a great starting point for idea generation, and I think that’s an important point to remember, especially when it comes to something as influential as your product name. Names can mean a lot to consumers and it’s still very important to understand everything it may communicate – on both overt and subconscious levels. However, when it comes to a limited edition product meant to create attention for the brand, I think crowd-sourcing can definitely be the right fit for generating buzz. By engaging and involving customers in this way, brands gain a lot of publicity and create the opportunity to have their contest go viral (Searching #DoUsAFlavor on Twitter brings up countless tweets surrounding the new Lays flavors). Not only that, but brands are also able to build up a strong connection and relationship with their consumers as they feel personally invested in the product, and may be more likely to buy the winning product once it makes it to production. It’s important for customers to feel that they have a voice, and being able to create something that might actually make it to market is just too fun of an opportunity to pass up.
Research by John Hopkins found that Monday’s are the best day of the week for positive health behaviors like working out. Why? People tend to look at the first day of the work week as a fresh start. So, John Hopkins, Columbia and Syracuse universities have teamed up to make Monday’s the healthiest day of the week, or as they call it, “The day all health breaks loose.”
Since people seem to be more concerned with getting in shape for the summer months, we decided to find out how consumers plan to slay those extra calories. Our latest study focuses on how and why people work out, their favorite apparel, where they shop, what they spend and the food & beverages they choose to keep them energized. Check out our latest infographic below and let us know, are you getting your workout in today?
With the official start of summer just around the corner, it seems like the importance of wearing sunscreen is being mentioned more and more. We previously talked about the new June bracelet that measures your sun exposure a few months ago, but now Neutrogena is introducing a “new” product, or as some have pointed out, a product they’ve been selling for years but with a new name – Cloudscreen, complete with a picture of a cloud on the bottle. Steve Hall of Ad Rants claims that this is just the “repackaging of sunscreen for idiots”, but I think it’s actually an ingenious marketing idea. Everyone knows that clouds don’t block UV rays, but most won’t bother to put on sunscreen, let alone even on sunny days. I learned my lesson this past week…I went to the beach on a partly cloudy day, didn’t put on any sunscreen and ended up with the worst sunburn I’ve ever had.
So why do we ignore these warnings? Do we really need a literal symbol on a bottle of sunscreen to convince us that we need to put it on every day, including the cloudy ones? Clearly, we do.
Being the visually-driven consumer that I am, I know that seeing a bottle of Cloudscreen would definitely pique my interest. The cloud acts as a great visual reminder that yes, sunscreen is necessary even on those cloudy beach days, especially for those like me who have a bad habit of forgetting to put it on.
Last year, we conducted a global Healthy Skin Exploratory in which we found that US and UK respondents seemingly understood the importance of protecting their skin from the sun, but many also stated that they had age spots which are blemishes on parts of the body that are commonly exposed to the sun. This goes to show that even though we know that the sun’s rays are harmful, we may not be fully aware of how much damage they are capable of on a day-to-day basis. We have a long way to go before regular sun protection becomes a daily habit for the majority of the population, but hopefully more products like the June bracelet and Neutrogena’s Cloudscreen will help us get there.