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How can FMCG connect with consumers in 2019 and beyond?

By Steve Looney, Research director



The Drum Network article

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May 31, 2019 | 5 min read

The demands on FMCG are changing fast. We know it. You know it.

Opinium's research director provides three key topics to combat the changing demands of FMCG.

Opinium's research director provides three key topics to combat the changing demands of FMCG.

It’s been the subject of multiple articles, press releases and blogs, but on May 8 Opinium chaired a panel discussion with Kraft Heinz, Kellogg’s and Next – some of the many household names in the UK’s ‘100 Most Connected Brands Index’ - to discuss how brands and businesses could continue to connect with consumers in this increasingly fragmented landscape.

Three really clear and common themes were apparent during the discussion, regardless of whether you were responsible for getting more people to eat beans, share a post about their cereal or head to the high street. So, what were they?

1. Heritage is a distinctive and rewarding brand strength, if kept fresh

There is no question that building a strong connection between any brand and their audience requires consistency and most importantly, time. Heinz and Kellogg’s are just two examples of several household names in the top 100 most connected brands that have been working on establishing their connection for many decades. They have been present in so many ‘little moments’ in people’s lives that they hold a level of emotion which many of their customers don’t always consciously comprehend.

And many brands know this is a strength, with this year alone seeing several spending behind celebratory campaigns to mark key milestones – Sainsbury’s at 150 years, Tesco and British Airways at 100 years, New Look at a mere 50 years in comparison to others, but still using this to its advantage. To celebrate 150 years of Heinz, the brand has taken it back to where it all began with a store takeover at Fortnum and Mason, celebrating the roots of the business.

But relying on this long-standing heritage alone hasn’t been what drives these brands forward and in fact for many, it threatens to be the element that holds them back. For example, the Kellogg’s brand for a long while was best known for its diet, a fantastic marketing campaign that had customers relying on bowls of cereal for weight loss – however this is something that is now very outdated and so it was crucial they looked elsewhere to maintain their reputation as a trusted cereal brand.

Fresh consistency is key. Understanding the needs of consumers as time changes and using this to find a new and relevant spin on your long-standing brand strengths and credentials, is how to deepen any existing connection.

2. Innovation is permission to experiment, look to expand the brands horizons

One way of ensuring this fresh consistency in the world of FMCG, is through relevant and disrupting product innovation. Brands in this market have the permission from consumers to be more daring in their variants, in order to meet new needs and recruit new customers. This is not something that many other markets have the ability to use to their advantage - so make the most of it!

Product launches such as Pringles Mystery Flavour invites consumers to be part of the process and takes the innovation from not only increased sales but deepened brand conversation and connection. Whereas, launches such as ‘Mayochup’ allow brands to expand having grown in confidence in already established core product areas, such as Mayo and Ketchup.

Innovation shouldn’t be looked at with concern or doubt, embracing the opportunities it can provide will only help to expand your brand connection beyond its core.

3. Optimal marketing impact is in a relevant 360 approach, don’t get lost in the new and exciting

As the digital landscape continues to revolutionise how consumers shop and how brands can communicate with their audience, there is always the temptation to focus marketing budgets and resource on those areas of growth and excitement.

Though is this always the best way to build a strong connection? Not necessarily in the eyes of our panel. Any strong campaign should start with what the brand is trying to say and utilise a mix of channels to speak the brand’s voice in a relevant and consistent way. This could be just as relevant through use of the latest social platform development as it is through good old out of home.

The online shopping experience is still relatively new to customers and needs to continue to be explored and developed, but the in-store experience remains a vital channel to deliver a memorable experience. Consumers have gone out of their way to physically experience the brand – are we meeting expectations and focussing on bringing the brand to life in ways that will drive a connection in-store?

Traditional is not always boring. Each channel should have its place in building a connection and that place needs careful consideration in order to tell a consistent story, and to truly engage and excite.

Steve Looney is the research director at Opinium.


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