Campbell’s Rewrites Its Recipe for Success

Few products are more iconic and nostalgia-evoking than the red-and-white can of Campbell’s chicken soup. How many American consumers associate that brand with cozy occasions, whether the comfort it brought on a sick day home from school or just simply as a quick and easy way to warm up on a rainy day?

But in what seems like an act of sacrilege to some, the Campbell’s Soup Company recently announced a change to the product formulation. The New York Times reported in November that “…the new version of its chicken noodle soup contains 20 ingredients, most of which can be found in the average home kitchen, compared with 30 in its previous incarnation…” Campbell’s CEO Denise M. Morrison said, “We’re closing the gap between the kitchen and our plants.”

As marketers, we give Campbell’s props. This is quite a bold move, messing around with a beloved brand. And one certainly not made haphazardly. With purchase and consumption of canned soup on the decline, and consumers seeking healthier alternatives to heavily processed foods (check out our Healthy whitepaper), Campbell’s clearly recognized the white space and emerging differentiation opportunities. Canny marketers (see what we did there?) turn to Attitude & Usage studies to uncover if in fact consumer behaviors are changing, and if so, then why and how.   What’s important when buying chicken soup? How do consumers decide what to buy or who do they purchase for? What do they use most often and why?

Campbell’s appears to have done just that, looking at current products and adjacent categories to grow share. According to the New York Times article, “…the company is banishing ingredients that today’s consumers don’t like and using advertising and social media to have a conversation with consumers about what it is doing. Acquisitions have also given Campbell toeholds in new markets and brought new ideas to the organization.”

In fact, just at the time of this blog post’s writing, the company announced that it was starting a venture capital fund to invest in food startups, hinting at opportunities inspired by farm-to-table, fresh food prep/delivery and healthy eating trends disrupting the big food industry. This comes shortly after the company announced that it was reversing its opposition to the labeling of GMO ingredients.

The risk of course is making sure that any innovation stays true to the brand consumers have grown to love. In our recent exploration of what Authenticity means to consumers, respondents told us that they are more likely to be loyal to companies they believe are authentic. Words and images associated with this conveyed ideas like “hand crafted” “simple” “pure” “natural” “trustworthy”.  Simplifying their soup is in line with these consumer expectations, and Campbell’s seems to be on sure footing. Taking the time to really understand consumer attitudes and usage can not only point to where a brand can go in familiar territory, but also how far it can push into new directions.

Got a Premium Brand? Here’s How to Win Over Consumers in China.

National Geographic’s 2014 Greendex found that consumer attitudes about sustainability and the urgency of climate change are shifting, although rather slowly. The 2014 study finds half of consumers surveyed are anxious about climate change’s negative impact. Chinese consumers were among a group (along with Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and India) that displayed greater willingness to modify habits that affect the environment – while those from more affluent countries didn’t appear to feel as threatened by the impact of a changing climate.

It might sound strange, but could this yearning to do better in terms of sustainability and the environment represent a marketing opportunity for brands in China? We think so.

Interestingly, in our recent, unrelated global study on Premium positioning, we discovered some unique associations that Chinese consumers had with the Premium theme. Using our creative verbalization and visualization techniques, Chinese consumers were the only ones who associated environmentally-friendly, natural and healthy with Premium.

DOWNLOAD NOW!   'Wooing The Premium Consumer' White Paper


What comes to mind when Chinese consumers think about Premium? Unlike obvious associations such as ‘special reward’ or ‘VIP treatment’ in the other markets, in China we saw strong visual associations around  natural, simple, health, good for them, and environmentally friendly. Using our engaging eCollageTM technique to express their Premium associations pictorially, Chinese consumers more frequently chose images that represented nature. And while gold and silk were among the top materials that signal premium across all markets, the Chinese were more likely to associate other materials found in nature like wood, cotton and diamonds.

Top words that are similar to Premium according to Chinese consumers include environmentally-friendly, natural, safe and dependable. Safe and dependable were notable word choices, considering recent food and product safety stories in the news.

To learn more about how Premium played out in China, and across the other markets in our study, or to learn about specific brands associated with Premium by category, download our Wooing The Premium Consumer white paper now.

More Delight. Less Disappointment.

Zappos. Warby Parker. Lumoid. Casper Mattresses. What do these companies have in common? A celebrated try-before-you-buy policy. These brands are pretty confident their products and services will be winners with consumers. After all, Casper claims to be “one perfect mattress.” That’s quite a high bar. Or a costly brag if they have to send a truck out to reclaim a mattress from an unsatisfied buyer.

This strategy is timely given increasingly sophisticated consumers who demand brands deliver on expectations. But it’s one that could be riddled with risk for companies that don’t test product positioning and even packaging.  Because consumers are more empowered, informed, and connected than ever, it’s critical for companies to clearly communicate the brand promise and have a firm grasp of the actual user experience with their product. Whether a $1 candy bar or an $800 mattress, customers don’t want unhappy surprises with their purchase – just delight.

How can brands ensure that the experience that they’re promising is fulfilling expectations? Usage testing is a wonderfully effective way to make sure what a company thinks they’re selling is in fact what the consumer is experiencing.

One shelf-stable food brand asked us to learn whether the positioning and messaging that they had developed matched what consumers were experiencing at home. We set out to determine which messaging elements worked and why – how well the product delivered on the promise being made. What communication facets needed to change? Our visual and verbal techniques – online projectives – are ideal for helping consumers articulate the experience and benefits of the product (including sensorial and tactile). Through in home product usage, we revealed the phrases and words that could be adopted or incorporated into copy. This helped craft an authentic message that was faithful to the experience.

This approach can be included further upstream when developing product concepts, and even later when testing packaging – all in effort to ensure each part of the consumer journey meets and exceeds expectations. This was the case with a beverage company who needed consumers to evaluate packaging. While consumers had previously raved about the product, they hated the proposed packaging – a delightful product could have been torpedoed by a disastrous container. We were able to identify specific packaging requirements that would be equally appealing as the product inside.

So, is your brand promising perfection? Fun? Luxury? Whatever the essence you believe it telegraphs – make sure it’s one grounded in the reality of the consumer usage experience.

Wooing The Premium Consumer White Paper

Request a copy of our global study on what Premium means to consumers. Stake out your Premium brand territory by telegraphing the most evocative visual, verbal and emotional consumer signals:

  • Functional and emotional consumer associations with Premium
  • Attributes that differentiate premium products
  • The lexicon, imagery, color palette, and sensory stimuli that convey Premium to consumers
  • Specific brands associated with Premium across various product categories

Get in touch with us below to request a copy of BuzzBack’s Premium white paper now.

Building Brand Love With Feeling

This month in New York, SheKnows Media presented the first annual Femvertising Awards at the BlogHer social media conference. According to SheKnows, the awards are intended to acknowledge brands that are “challenging gender norms by building stereotype-busting, pro-female messages and images into ads that target women.” A CNN article covering the event said that the ads are “selling good ideas… good values….”  I would add selling good feelings to that list.

The inaugural award winners were brands/campaigns Hello Flo (First Moon Party), Dove (Speak Beautiful), Ram Trucks (Courage Inside) and Always (Like a Girl). What these campaigns have done is connect with deep emotions, memories, and experiences – whether positive, hurtful, embarrassing, maybe ones that need reconciling, righting, acknowledging and celebrating. Each is an ideal example of how mining emotions can spark, ignite and foster brand love into a warm, ongoing fire. These brands got brand love right:

 

 

As important as the Femvertising movement is, giving someone “the feels” isn’t just in the realm of women. Brands are tapping emotions to get through the hunky crusts of men to inspire brand love. Often, fatherhood is the easiest and more obvious door to emotional connection. Over Father’s Day, there was the highly-effective First Fatherhood Moments campaign by Dove. And before that Toyota scored big during the Super Bowl with the My Bold Dad campaign. I know, I know – just listening to the music on that one gets me going.

But before embarking on memorable campaign creation, there’s serious work to be done first to get at authentic emotions, then to get at other cues that telegraph your brand. Brands that leverage insights techniques that capture visceral, irrational, nonverbal, visual along with contextual language are in a better position to create the optimal positioning and messaging foundation that will inspire enduring –and viral – brand love. At BuzzBack, we are grounded in the belief that because emotions are the common bond of humanity, the brands that weave emotional insights into their narrative will stand the test of time.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to better connect consumers to your brand on a profound level, we’ve got a webinar on the subject of brand love. Click here to learn more.

All Aboard the Healthy Train

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.

Is IleX On Your Bucket List? It Should Be.

Just before the July 4th holiday here, I had the pleasure to attend the Insight lnnovation Exchange North American conference with a terrific group of BuzzBack clients and peers. The conference was a worthwhile gathering that focused on the future of insights technology. If you haven’t attended this industry event, I suggest adding it to your professional development bucket list. I left the conference energized and excited about where our industry is headed.

Many presentations debated whether traditional MR is dead. Speakers discussed what companies can do to better connect with consumers as traditional approaches evolve and new brand engagement opportunities emerge. These of course are the 64 thousand dollar questions when it comes to that coveted and endlessly fascinating consumer, The Millenial, who interact with brands differently than age groups before them. Jean Enloe of 3M described the challenge when talking about Scotchgard’s mission to get Millennials to use their sponges.

Other standout presentations included Ford’s Nicholas McCracken (who spoke about how understanding the customer brand experience fuels innovation) and Millward Brown’s session titled Consumer Theater: Using the Power of Improv to Unearth Big Ideas. In this memorable presentation, Ellen Fenwick shared the stage with Second City to demonstrate how applying improv as a ‘methodology’ can help consumers open up about experiences… yes, real improv!

So many big ideas discussed. So many refreshing takes on presentation format. The event gave me lots to think about as I headed home. Where do we as a company stand in the ‘Traditional MR is Dead’ debate? Do we believe this too? I have to emphatically say no – at BuzzBack we think it’s quite the opposite. If anything, this conference illustrates that there’s newfound energy around insights, and the rallying cry is about ‘putting people first’ when building the brand (something we hear Unilever say often when discussing the need to connect with consumers).

In fact, we had a great interactive session at IleX around how companies can ignite and stoke brand love in their consumers. Watch this space to learn how you can build brand love too when we present our latest webinar on the subject…

Whole Foods is Betting on the Conscious Consumers’ Values

Now that more mainstream grocery stores and big box retailers like Walmart and Target have expanded their organic offering, Whole Foods has pumped money into a new brand campaign to remind people that they stand for more than organics, homeopathics and new age thinking. And because consumers now have more access to lower cost organic food, Whole Foods has much work to do to overcome the perception of being an overpriced, exclusive, luxe grocery store to the wealthy (perhaps you’ve heard the store referred to by the tongue-in-cheek moniker Whole Wallet). In some cases, they will have to justify why their prices are higher for certain items. This is where the campaign’s focus on corporate values comes in.

Whole Foods is placing a hefty bet on the Conscious Consumer trend. According to a study by the Hartman Group, Gen X (the often overlooked middle child of generation-focused marketing) holds much purchase power when it comes to grocery shopping, and have strong opinions about the food they buy. And let’s not forget that most coveted group of consumers, Millennials – who in 2013 represented 20% of US spending. According to a 2013 Boston Consulting Group study, up to 10% of Millennials are Clean-and-Green Millennials who make purchases because they are cause-driven or environmentally-minded. But the largest classification of Millennials – 29% – are Hip-ennials who “…seriously believe one can have a positive impact on the world.” Our own study about Sustainability and generational opinion revealed that Millennials felt personally responsibility for driving environmental changes, while also believing  in sharing responsibility with others. They also want to have their voices/opinions heard in terms of influencing companies’ Sustainability efforts.

If Whole Foods can capture the minds, hearts and wallets of these consumers, the investment on this latest brand campaign will be money well spent.

For more information on our Sustainability study, click here.

That Word Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means…

Have you seen the post about the 25 Common Words That You’ve Got Wrong? It’s been showing up all over my social news feed lately. Basically, it’s a list of words that people have repeatedly used incorrectly over time. Some of the words might surprise you! For some of these words, the confusion was understandable – they sound like another word or the definition was close to another word.  However, reading through this list serves as a gentle reminder to those of us in our industry. The need to understand what consumers think and how they perceive certain words or ideas is imperative to a brand’s overall communication efforts. This goes to show that you can’t simply rely on what the dictionary says.

And, going beyond played back definitions, we’ve found through our own research on research that even surface level associations don’t oftentimes match what consumers feel about certain words. It’s often difficult to understand what motivates consumers and how they feel about a brand and why. So how do you extract the deeper feelings about a brand or a concept? Well, research has shown that 80% of human expression is non-verbal, with most decision-making happening in the subconscious.* This indicates a need for evolved market research methods that go beyond reporting what consumers say, and to provide understanding around what they are feeling. One of the ways that we are able to get at the deeper meaning is through eCollage™ which uses pictures and images as catalysts, to elicit emotions more effectively. This type of technique allows for deeper and more personal self-expression. Want to see how it works? Click the image below to go ahead and give it a try.

Click for a demo
Click to try eCollage™

*Zaltman, 1995 et al

Millennials + Sustainability

These days, it seems like everyone’s jumped onto the ‘going green’ bandwagon. Fast fashion retailer H&M is offering its customers a coupon for 15% off their next purchase every time they bring in a bag of used clothing to any store. In Sweden, McDonald’s launched a campaign in which you receive a free burger or cheeseburger for every 10 empty beer cans you bring in; 40 cans gets you a Big Mac. In further promotion of the campaign, McDonald’s has even installed billboards that double as trash bags for those walking by to easily pull off and fill with all their cans. What do these campaigns and earth-friendly initiatives have in common? They’re all aimed at Millennials.

Having recently become the largest generation group in the country, Millennials are the ones shopping at fast fashion stores and they used to be McDonald’s key customer base, until recently. This month, McDonald’s reported their biggest decline since 2003 and also found that diners between the ages of 19 to 21 have gone down by 12.9% since the start of 2011. The fast food chain has admitted that its latest campaign was an attempt to reach out to the Millennial generation, specifically the young music festival attendees in Sweden.

But, the question remains: are these efforts to appeal to the Millennial generation through green initiatives working? Millennials may say that they place a high value on issues such as social responsibility and sustainability, but are they actually following through on that? Or maybe it’s the campaigns that need to change – are companies able to effectively communicate their green initiatives to their Millennial consumers? When it comes to these topics, what are their perceptions? When it comes down to making a purchase, do they really care about companies being committed to sustainability?

We will be exploring several of these questions in our upcoming webinar in which we do a deep dive comparing Millennial, Boomer and Gen X perceptions on the word Sustainability. If your brand is tackling the challenge of increasing the connection consumers have with sustainability, check out our latest webinar.