Consumers making food and beverage purchases usually make these purchase decisions based on products’ nutritional or functional characteristics, and brands can fulfil these needs by making better products – but in today’s COVID-19-endemic world, brands will need to do more to survive long-term, and this includes appealing and satisfying consumers’ emotional needs to capture their attention as well.
“As most people know, the main difference in terms of brand and product marketing today versus pre-COVID-19 has been the rise of [digital platforms] such as social commerce and the strengthening of e-commerce, [so much so] that there has been a almost-mandatory move for all food and beverage brands towards digital,” branding and integration agency Mashwire Co-Founder Jeff Ng told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“A lot of this has to do with the modern consumer’s short attention span – they need constant reminders if they are to remember a particular brand or product, and any one type of media is not enough, so an integrated approach involving both [digital marketing and] traditional elements such as television are needed.
“We’ve seen this happen even for the most well-known of brands, such as beverage firm Yeo’s which is familiar to most in the region. They launched low-sugar and no-sugar versions of their chrysanthemum tea this year, and when working on that campaign we saw that it was very easy to convert consumers when doing samplings at the supermarkets – but as soon as the samplings stopped after about a week, awareness of the new products dropped.
“Digital marketing is a solution to remind consumers of new products, but nowadays it is usually not enough to just push out a new product and advertise the message for it as simply being ‘new’ or having a certain benefit or function – brands need to look beyond the functional needs and also focus on consumers’ emotional needs to appeal to them.”
Mashwire has worked with multiple major food and beverage brands including Yeo’s, Nestle, Strongbow cider, Pokka and many more, and has seen the importance of appealing to consumers’ emotions to make products memorable time and time again.
“For example, Yeo’s utilised Singapore’s National Day Parade as part of their campaign as a shout-out for locals to support local, and appealed to Singaporeans emotionally by contributing the drinks to local hawkers that were suffering due to the pandemic to pair these with the food – the digital campaign promoted this and allowed for distribution to people, reminding them of the product and letting them try it without doing the traditional sampling in stores,” he added.
“The firm also worked with local musicians struggling due to a lack of gigs to create a mashup of National Day songs for Tik Tok, as well as an AR filter for Instagram with karaoke functionalities so people could sing along.
“The aim here was to inject that celebratory mood amidst the COVID-19 doom and gloom, and positively associate Yeo’s with happy, celebratory moments while doing that – so in effect Yeo’s can now ‘own’ that celebration occasion, and extend this to other celebrations such as Christmas or Chinese New Year.”
Although no one can doubt the importance of digital marketing in today’s market, Mashwire believes that simply making the transition to have digital components to a business is not enough to ensure success.
“It’s not a recipe for overnight success just to have entered the digital space,” Mashwire Co-Founder Teo Hon Wui told us.
“Take livestreaming for example – many consumers are now receptive to this mode of transaction and it is definitely trending with many brands jumping on board, but many fail to realise that it is not as simple as just having someone in front of the camera and throwing discounts.
“It can be very easy to make purchases during a livestream, maybe even just with a comment, but many fail to look closely at the overall journey and fulfilment after that – if the fulfilment is not done well, all livestreaming is is a way to gain popularity fast but lose consumers just as quickly, so brands need to ensure they [balance up the livestream with fulfilment efficiency].”
With the pandemic causing inflation all over the world, many companies are considering or have already implemented price hikes for their products. When asked how digital marketing can be used to pull in consumers, particularly in price-sensitive markets, Ng stressed that this came back to emotional fulfilment and understanding their needs.
“Here, this needs to be met in terms of understanding how consumers see the value in a product – there’s of course the dollar value which needs to be considered, but there’s also the value in terms of what the product can bring into their lives,” he said.
“For example, we’ve also worked with Nestle on their NAN milk formula, and this campaign was based on ‘selling’ assurance to parents that the best-quality product is being given to their kids as opposed to it just having the best or optimal amount of nutrition.
“They opted to work with mum influencers and created a Spotify playlist of children’s stories, associating these with feeding time when the formula comes into play, and appealed to consumers’ emotions by assuring them that Nestle understood their journey, not just during feeding but also before and after with story time.”
“Here, the understanding is that testimonials are really important to parents and mums trust other mums the most – so it’s not just about the brand, even for a big brand like Nestle. The value came in the assurance the consumers received.”
Teo added that any brand looking to charge higher prices than their competitors would need to be able to justify this, and the success of this justification lies in again appealing to consumers’ emotional needs.
“Justifying the cost of 2-ply versus 3-ply toilet paper is straightforward, but if both items have the same physical and functional qualities, that is where the emotional aspect is important,” he said.
“So beyond reasons such as simply being a bigger and more credible brand, reasons such as a product being more sustainable could appeal to certain crowds such as Gen Z consumers – it is of utmost importance for a brand to give reasons for its higher price if it wants that attention.
“All in all, it is crucial for F&B brands to understand the consumer journey and put out the right content that really speaks to them at different stages of that - because if their needs are not met, they’re not spending their money on you even if they know your brand well.”