Brand Building: Finding the Sweet Spot

IMG_9030 - DA at NAMI

Danette takes a selfie with attendees of her Brand Building presentation at NAMI’s Meat Industry Management Conference, April 5, 2016

Anyone who sells anything for a living has heard the old adage, “The customer is always right.”  This little nugget is more relevant than ever in today’s customer-centric economy.  Now that consumers have only to click a button to get products from kayaks to kazoos delivered to their door within hours, businesses that don’t focus on the buyer’s needs can’t survive or thrive.

Keeping your attention on the target consumer is critical, but it’s only part of the equation when it comes to another key factor in business success:  branding.   We all consume hundreds of brands every day:  Did you grab a coffee at Starbucks this morning?  Are you reading this blog on an Apple iSomething?  Will you drive home in a VW or a BMW?  In today’s uber-branded world, the challenge to brand effectively is daunting.  How do you tell your product’s story so that it stands out from others?

Even the meat industry is moving from commodity products to branded products.  And it brings very special challenges, because we aren’t selling coffee or computers.  We are dealing with a highly perishable, temperature-sensitive product for which we don’t control supply, input costs and, more often than not, the way it’s sold.

By its very nature, our product dictates that the meat industry has to tackle branding differently.

While widget companies might be able to adapt nimbly to new branding specs, meat packers and processors have production capabilities already in place, with heavy investments in capital, facilities, equipment and people.  The opportunity to upend your plant to produce a new branded meat product is slim (but if you are thinking about it…let’s talk!).

But those darn consumers…their needs are constantly changing, so you have to consider what they want and assess what you can produce profitably.  Where the overlap lies is your area of opportunity – your “sweet spot.”  It doesn’t matter if you develop an awesome brand that syncs with every desire of your target consumer if you can’t produce it in the black.

While overlaying consumer needs with a company’s core competencies might sound fairly simple, in reality it’s pretty messy.  You also have to determine your overall business strategy, evaluate the competition, develop brand positioning and create the visual language for the brand.  It’s not a linear process; you are constantly re-evaluating, revisiting and tweaking.

But the time and energy spent assessing where your customer needs intersect with what you can consistently produce will help you identify your “sweet spot.” When you do, set your sights on it with a laser focus, because it’s the foundation of a profitable brand.

Check out a new brand we recently helped a client build and launch.

If you would like to talk about building your meat brand and finding your “sweet spot,” give me a call at 704.664.MEAT or email me at d.amstein @midanmarketing.com.

7 Things to Consider for 2016 Planning

It’s that time of year again:  college football season!  And while I am all about watching my beloved K-State Wildcats, this season also signals a key period for meat industry professionals:  planning time.  That means careful analysis of historical sales data along with a watchful eye on emerging consumer trends.  To help you think about where the industry is headed as you plan for 2016, we’ve put together seven tips that address the trends we think will have greatest impact on the coming year:

  1. Promote meat as the ultimate protein: Hello meat leaders, we need to be shouting this from the rooftops, on all packaging and POS and in every B2C ad!  Until we make a concerted effort to spell this message out to consumers, those pesky center-of-the store items boasting added protein will continue to steal our thunder. 2016 has to be the year when consumers can’t miss the message that meat is the best source for protein.  Learn more.
  1. Sell meat as an ingredient: While we in the industry like to think that thick steaks or chops still rule the center of the plate, today’s consumers think differently.  We have entered a new era where consumers are choosing cuts that can be mixed with other ingredients for convenience, flavor and budget reasons.  If you want to reach consumers where they are right now, provide meat in more ingredient-friendly ways.  Learn more.
  1. Focus on what your brand does best: Branded meat must fill a niche.  If your brand is trying to be everything to everyone, you dilute your message and end up with mediocre results.  Identify your target and put a laser focus on them.  It‘s okay to say “no” to a potential customer that wants you to change something about your brand.  In 2016, keep your brand messaging focused, engage your customers and consumers who fit your target and don’t detour.

2016 blog photo

  1. Explain what you do and why: Lately, it seems like everything we do in production agriculture is called into question. To counteract this, the meat industry must be transparent.  Consumers want the opportunity to understand why you do you what you do.  For years, we haven’t taken the time to explain our practices and by not doing so, we appear guilty of hiding something from the public.  If you want to silence our very-vocal critics, make 2016 the year that your back story is prominently featured on your website and promoted on your social media channels.
  1. Reconsider your packaging: The Boomers have fewer people to feed each night and the Millennials rarely sit down at the table.  This creates a conundrum with our conventional packaging.  We need case-ready single portion steaks and chops to meet the needs of both groups. Demographics don’t lie:  the make-up of our population is changing, and your packaging must change to reflect this. Take a hard look at your packaging in 2016 and make it more consumer-friendly.
  1. Give consumers the convenience they crave: Boomers are busy filling their new-found free time outside the kitchen and most Millennials don’t know how to cook if it doesn’t go into the microwave.  We have to make the end goal of a great-tasting meal easier.  As your plan for 2016, include R&D dollars to find more value-added options to meet this consumer need.
  1. Explore your export potential: If you are not getting serious about the export potential for your branded meat programs, you are missing the boat (yep, pun intended here).  The global middle class is growing by leaps and bounds, with most of the growth taking place in Asia.  With discretionary spending comes the desire for premium offerings.  In 2016, create opportunities for your branded programs outside the U.S. by telling your story and engaging these quality-hungry consumers.

Agree? Disagree?  Leave me a comment or email me your thoughts.  I always enjoy hearing from you!

I hope your planning season is wrapped up well ahead of the college football bowl games.  I plan to be planted on the couch, wearing purple and cheering on my Wildcats!

UPDATE:  2017 Planning Blog now available

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