When people buy your product, they are not just buying your product; they are buying your brand. And your brand is made up of who your people are, what you value, and how you produce your products.
Branding is largely about creating affinity for who you are and what you do. Social media offers an outstanding opportunity for brands to connect with consumers, learn more about them, and build a real relationship, unlike in the past when brands were more removed from the consumer population.
Before social media, brand communication with customers was mostly a one-way street.
CPG social marketing must have a strong intellectual element, such as brand identity, strategy, value, and quality, but it must also have an emotional component. Social media allows you to put forth both of those things effectively. There are also risks, of course. Social marketing gaffes can go just as viral as social marketing successes. Following are some of the “rules of the road” for CPG social marketing in the food industry.
Develop Your Brand’s Visual “Voice”
Some product categories lend themselves especially well to visual social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. Fortunately, food is one of those categories. Food brands with a highly successful Instagram presence, for example, have something very important in common. They have developed their own visual style that consumers come to associate with their brand over time. This does not necessarily require expensive “food stylists,” but it does require knowing what works with your particular food product.
Oreo, for example, is partial to clean lines, bright colors, and whimsical placements. Chobani posts plenty of recipes along with simple, aesthetically pleasing shots of the end product. Belle Chevre goat cheese also posts lots of recipe photos, but mixes them in with “warm and fuzzy” images, like those of their goats dressed for the season.
Consider Creative Activities and Contests
CPG social marketing is not just a soapbox with wide reach. It is ultimately a conversation that goes both ways, and this means interacting with and listening to consumers. Some brands do it better than others, and it works best when brands’ conversations are based on their particular reputation.
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is about fun, but the company is also about social responsibility; their social media campaigns reflect that. Several years ago, the company had a promotion where Twitter followers would “donate” their unused Twitter characters that would then be used to create messages to raise awareness for World Fair Trade Day. This not only allowed the company to spread its message effectively, it also did it in the context of two-way communication with its customers.
Communicate Brand Values via Social Media
Brand values that resonate address who customers are and who they aspire to be.
Communicating essential brand values is a critical component of CPG social marketing. Branding is in many ways an exercise in making customers feel better about themselves. By sharing brand values on social media, brands give customers something to hang their hat on. Company ethics and responsibility are very much on consumers’ minds today, and brands that not only communicate values that resonate with customers, but also demonstrate those values through their sourcing, policies, and corporate culture will make the strongest connections.
Flip the Script on Customer Expectations
For much of its existence, Twitter has been a platform on which consumers broadcast their experiences with customer service, and the airline industry has had to develop strategies for coping with an influx of angry tweets when problems arise. Royal Dutch Airlines decided to embrace the tweet as a customer service vehicle by committing to answering each and every one of them. Not only that, they keep a running estimated response time right in their Twitter header photo so customers can gauge how long they will wait for a response.
Likewise, when CPG social marketing demonstrates through its actions that it understands why customers do what they do (like complaining on Twitter or Facebook) and commits to engaging with them in a timely, professional, and courteous manner, they effectively disarm dissatisfied customers and make their brand look better in the eyes of others who follow the brand on social media.
Successful CPG social marketing requires that brands develop a recognizable visual style, interact with customers in positive, sometimes playful ways, share their core brand values regularly, and commit to engaging consumers, even when those consumers are dissatisfied and posting or tweeting about it. It is not easy, but the long-term results bear out the importance of CPG brands having a smart, well-rounded social media strategy.