By Jenny Stanley, MD and Founder, Appetite Creative Soul-utions
It was my pleasure to host an online event with leading digital, communications and PR professionals to explore how brands and agencies are striving to deliver impactful campaigns to engage with more customers in the food and beverage industry.
I have written this report to share the key takeaways from our discussion and for those who were unable to attend the live event you can also catch it on our Youtube channel or Podcast.
On 19th May 2020, two panels of experts discussed the exciting digital trends which will inevitably shape the industry's future.
The first panel kicked off with a focus on scaling digital solutions for brand impact featuring Alessio Schiavone, Digital Solutions Manager for Europe and Central Asia of Tetra Pak and Susanne McKinley, Operational Marketing for Mid Europe of Tetra Pak. Together they are working with partners to make food safe and available, everywhere.
Alessio provided in-depth insights into the complexity of implementing digital innovation into the food and beverage industry. Today, brands of all sizes are scaling their efforts and businesses are planning and implementing digital solutions across the entire value-chain.
Digital solutions which we had already been delivering with Tetra Pak are being explored across research, supply-chain management and product tracking; as well as customer acquisition, experience, referral, loyalty and re-engagement. The goal of all digital solutions is to connect the physical to the digital world. However the reality now is that instead of a nice to have Connected packaging is more a necessity.
“...Now is a reaction to it (Covid19), it's more of a necessity - now we can see the overall advance that this can have for us. We really see that from more of a marketing driven angle that we could link back to operation efficiency - take a campaign with the connected packing for example. They don't know when it is in the hands of the consumers. Now the connected packaging solutions we do with Appetite Creative gives us fantastic information on where our production is up to. There is an acceleration in purchasing behaviours, which seemed to be nice to have and now it's becoming much more critical. It helps with better planning. And of course, it increases sales but so much more around the data that we are just exploring now.”
In Germany, e-commerce for the industry has rocketed to 18.1%, exceeding digital predictions for 2025 and is continuing to grow.
Sadly, not every food and beverage business is ahead of the game.
According to Susanne McKinley from Tetrapak, “food and beverage businesses are in one of three modes: freeze mode, flex mode, or fix it mode. Companies in freeze mode are slashing budgets, losing revenue and tend to have bleaker financial outlook. Companies in flex mode are starting to play with new ways of working that are helping them to optimise processes, and save money to re-invest”
Companies who are thriving are those in the fix-it mode. These businesses are seeing success through collaboration, working with digital partners to test solutions with small cohorts of customers, scaling them to meet new demands evidenced by data.
On staying ahead of competitors, Susanne and Alessio discussed the importance of innovating to build customer identities to find new customer groups. Susanne emphasised that now is the time to remind customers of your brand, especially "homefluencers", who make the majority of household purchasing decisions. Solutions like smart packaging and labelling offer a physical channel to communicate with people who are staying safe at home.
With online channels oversaturated and contactless payments considered the new normal, Alessio proposed that the use of QR codes will rise. Susanne agreed, sharing some examples of how Tetra Pak's is assisting partners with bespoke gamified QR codes. The QR codes allow customers to scan and play games, as well as provide valuable data to the brand.
Right now, Tetra Pak is partnering with food and beverage brands who have small scale innovation projects which are ready to scale. Alessio shared some of his experiences of working with industry innovators reporting that companies who have the best results start small, invest, and work with digital partners to share expertise.
The second panel featured Victoria Usher, CEO and Founder of GingerMay PR and Julia Smith, Founder of The Digital Voice for what I can only describe as a jam-packed, value-adding session starting off with the big brand mistakes and "do not" of COVID19.
To avoid big brand mistakes, Julia strongly advised against jumping on the NHS bandwagon. Her other "do nots" included do not hold back authentic and empathetic views and do not be afraid to take risks with new technology such as the very latest in virtual conference platforms. Victoria agreed and added, do not oversell; reporting that she has witnessed many big brands like Ritual getting communication wrong by launching voucher-based campaigns that come across as selfish during the lockdown.
On what brands can do, Victoria focused on the importance of addressing customer needs which are relevant now. Many people are worried and confused and are seeking to engage with content that offers them security and safety. Victoria highlighted brands who are doing things well like Headspace and Audible, who are offering free subscriptions to assist people with mental health and homeschooling. Julia added that companies should also try new digital engagement tools, linked to online events, as well as creating visual and audible content focused on education and thought leadership.
Both Julia and Victoria agreed that now is the time for planning and building content. She warned that existing or new competitions would overtake those brands who fail to build. Julia concluded the session with some strong advice for businesses.
"Be human, be calm, be kind. Do it, and do it right."
I want to take this time to thank my panellists for their time and highly valuable content.
You can find the full webinar on "How do brands and businesses prepare for the bounceback?" on YouTube.