The pandemic experience has fundamentally changed the way consumers feel, behave and live. New norms such as working from home, grocery shopping online, and wearing a mask when in public, if you dare to venture out, may be here to stay. As we accept these shifts in our day-to-day living, produce brands also must make the changes and prepare to redefine their relationship with consumers.
Branding allows fresh produce companies to build trusted, authentic and informative relationships with consumers— critical components of success as shopper behavior vacillates between in-store, online, and into new channels.
Throughout the purchasing life cycle, a reliable, recognizable brand provides consistency of experience for the consumer.
As the pandemic continues into the new year, produce brands will have to pursue new communication channels to keep consumers engaged. Brands inform consumers with the stories that they seek about the food they purchase. This year, in particular, consumers are focused on developing healthier lifestyles with fresh produce as the main driver, and so, this is the story we need to tell.
Consumers are more informed about the food they eat because they’ve had to be more hands-on this past year, learning to prepare meals at home and bringing new ingredients into the kitchen.
Now that the pandemic’s panic stage has passed, consumers are more mindful of the lifestyle changes they need to make. Healthy eating isn’t only important in preventing chronic disease and addressing pre-existing conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Still, it also helps protect against the worst impact of communicable diseases such as the coronavirus.
The demand for immunity-boosting foods that offer additional nutritional benefits will increase. Produce brands have an opportunity to tout their benefits now more than ever before because consumers are willing to listen and learn.
Changing consumption behavior is not the only change the pandemic has forced into consumers’ homes. Time spent preparing healthy, delicious meals is a luxury further fractured by home school/virtual school demands, family health management, mental health stability, and more. Simple solutions are more likely to be adopted into current kitchen environments, whether that be storage solutions, flavor pairings, or family-friendly preparation tips – anything to make the home cook’s job easier.
This year, people collectively moved their worlds onto their computers. Overnight they went from answering calls on their phone to video conferencing on their computer screen, both for professional and personal connections.
Zoom, Google Hangouts, Teams, and other platforms became lifelines, avenues for concerts, classes, trade shows, and first dates. Innovations in technology will only accelerate, with a focus on connecting people at a human level. This will benefit fresh produce brands as they strengthen relationships with existing consumers and develop new ones.
But consumers are distracted. They spend an average of 5.4 hours a day on their smartphones. According to Streetbees, 37% of consumers worldwide increased their time online and on social media in 2020.
The pandemic has forced us to reevaluate our marketing budgets. We’re spending in different ways and new and other channels. There’s no better time than now to disrupt our comfort zones and add new opportunities to the mix.
Enhancing your website to engage buyers between industry trade shows or developing a new social media presence in a channel you’re not yet in are ways to adopt innovative technology to grow your brand marketing strategies.
A symptom of COVID is the loss of taste and smell, not unlike the restrictions forced on fresh produce when we lost the opportunity for in-store sampling and other tangible marketing opportunities. With people spending far less time outside the home, an added challenge is to find ways to re-connect with consumers. Naturally, online feels like the solution, but out-of-home experiences are not dead; they’re different.
Understanding external occasions, and their drivers, is critical to connecting with the consumer. The fitness industry has exploded during the past year.
Virtual races, school athletics, and the basic human need for sunlight mean consumers are, in fact, willing to cross the threshold for the added benefit of fresh air. The opportunities to keep them engaged, support their lifestyles, and encourage them to try new products will take some supply chain flexibility. In the end, it’s another touchpoint with the consumer, and it’s one more engagement that builds long-term brand loyalty.
Brand marketing success in 2021 will take creativity, flexibility, disruption, and a lot of change. You do not need to think differently; you need to adapt differently.