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As trust in social platforms erodes, F&N looks to create meaningful DTC relationships

The issues of transparency, return of investments and brand reputation have diminished marketers’ faith in the leading social media channels. The Drum finds out how food and beverage firm Fraser and Neave (F&N) is adapting its social media strategy.

Controversies around hate speech, online bullying, extremist content and fake news have demonstrated time and again that over-reliance on social platforms to reach customers can be dangerous for brand marketers.

These controversies have had a negative impact on trust in some news sources, hurting the reputations of traditional media outlets, search engines, owned media and social media.

The recent Edelman Trust Barometer 2021 found less than one-in-five Singaporeans practice good information hygiene. This is an area of concern – majority of respondents (60%) indicated they were willing to share or forward news items that they found interesting.

As a result, many marketers are shifting to a strategy of owning customer journeys and forging meaningful direct-to-consumer relationships on social media platforms and are immune to the impacts of the next social media controversy.

For Singaporean food and beverage giant Fraser and Neave (F&N), Norman Phua, the brand manager at F&N Foods, explains the company’s goal is to reframe the way drinks are marketed on social media. he wants to do more than harp on about unique selling propositions, and begin injecting the brand into relevant social conversations.

“We use this to position our drinks as part of daily consideration through subliminal inclusion and disrupting feeds by highlighting consumption-based scenarios at the right times. By doing this, we hope to cement and grow our current market share by remaining top of mind when it comes to the consumption of particular drinks,” he explains.

F&N works with Duo Studio to craft messages around different products, brands and target audiences while keeping tabs on trends. He explains this is a team effort in assessing whether it makes sense and is appropriate for the brand to latch on to certain trends or get involved in certain conversations.

Stephanie Phua, the founder of Duo Studio, explains F&N trusts the independent agency’s counsel and is receptive to its suggestions.

“While we do our part in identifying appropriate trends, F&N is also actively sharing what they feel are suitable ideas, thus helping us as an agency better understand both the possibilities and the boundaries we should play within,” she explains.

“Beyond trying to jump on the next hot thing, there are several considerations we make, like how ready a brand is to engage on the platform and if that's the best direction to take with available resources given the business problems we were tasked to solve.”

She adds: “Another consideration would be if the target audience you're trying to reach uses the platform. As an agency, we also like to help our clients assess their ROI, so we also look at the robustness of data reporting available.”

Phua predicts in the post-pandemic, there will be a further acceleration of digitising offline experiences, which has already begun. She says the challenge as marketers is figuring out how they can create the same emotional value online as they can do with offline activations.

“There is also a need to close the loop in integrated communications — if you want to create awareness about a brand, you have to make the sale easy through a few clicks. This has immense implications on the back end of things; from getting the right stockists to managing inventory and fulfillment,” she explains.

“Due to the large number of people moving to social media marketing; there's also a lot more competition in the space: brands need to work harder in creating relevant and value-added content that's fresh and catches attention while inspiring a sale.”

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