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Navigating Hot Topic Terminology

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What’s in a name? Or should I say, what’s in a claim?

These days, American consumers are bringing a less-is-more attitude to the brands they engage with. Whether it’s an ingredient, term, claim, or process, we as humans are more cognizant about the environmental, bodily and (gasp!) marketing implications of our favorite products.

People don’t have (or want) to take the time to research what triethanolamine (amino acid in cosmetics) or polytetrafluoroethylene (compound in makeup) are. They roll their eyes when we say 100% NATURAL. They scoff at “environmentally friendly.”

They don’t trust terminology anymore.

But what happens if you represent a client that does have these ingredients in their products? Or does make claims that are controversial today?

Here I take some of the hot button issues and offer suggestions for ways to navigate them:

  • 100% Natural: Gourmet Retailer EIC Anna Wolfe says natural “has become commonplace, and arguably overused and misused.” The hottest and most contested term in personal care and food marketing has no meaning. Literally. So your client wants to push 100% natural… what now? You define it. You explain it. You give your customers…
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Brewing Crisis: When Craft Beer Hits the Big Time

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DB beers

Photo: Heidi Crandall

On April 12, Devils Backbone, an independent brewery located in Nelson County, Virginia, announced they were being purchased by the biggest name in big beer, Anheuser-Busch InBev.

And then, the universe exploded.

Well, maybe not the entire universe. But if you follow craft beer, especially Virginia craft beer, you likely experienced an eruption of opinion across your news and social media feeds. Though the tone ranged from repulsed (“this is disgusting…a cancer in the bloodstream of good beer”) to resigned (“you will be much missed”), the largest, or at least the loudest, reaction from craft beer enthusiasts was that this was not a good thing, and would signal the decline of a quality craft product.

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AB InBev’s recent acquisitions include Blue Point, Elysian, 10 Barrel, and Goose Island Breweries, among others. photo: Eric Helgas for Bloomberg Businessweek

What’s going on:

Devils Backbone is the eighth independent brewery that AB InBev (primarily known for not-so-craft beers like Budweiser, Corona, and Bud Light Lime-a-rita) has acquired since 2011. While their strategy is clearly…

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Lessons from the Grand Poobah of PR at Ben & Jerry’s

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If you weren’t already a fan of Ben and Jerry, you will be after this reading this. Reader’s note: this post is best enjoyed with a spoon in one hand and a pint of your favorite flavor in the other.

Ben and Jerry Flavors

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a visiting innovators lecture with guest speaker Sean Greenwood, Grand Poobah of Public Relations (yes that’s his real title) for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. It was a night well spent and one of the most interesting and inspiring lectures I have ever attended. From a guy who started as a factory tour guide and worked his way up to grand poobah, the story of Ben & Jerry’s social activism could not have had a better storyteller.

They call themselves an “aspiring social justice company” that happens to sell ice cream – REALLY good ice cream. The company, also known for partnerships with the likes of Jimmy Fallon and Sir Elton John, had very humble beginnings starting with a $12,000 investment and one local scoop shop in a renovated gas station. They built themselves on two principles:

  • If it’s…
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    April Fools’ Day 2016: The Best and Worst Brand Pranks

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    Well, today is April Fools’ Day. People’s reaction to that news is mixed, depending on whether they are usually the fooler or fooled.

    One thing remains constant, however: This is the day consumer brands spend a lot of time, money and creativity to generate fake news, products and headline-grabbing PR stunts. And over the past decade, each April Fools’ Day gets bigger and bigger, sometimes to the holiday’s detriment.

    Don’t get me wrong, when these pranks are well-executed they attract a lot of social engagement and media attention for brands. Do you remember Wiffi’s Wi-Fi You Can Smell prank this past year? I would love to be able to sniff out the greatest Wi-Fi connection. Genius!

    It’s certainly not easy for brands to be human and successfully pull off a prank. There’s a fine line for brands to play, especially when a poorly executed prank could potentially lead their consumers to distrust them.

    If you’re planning to make an April Fools’ Day recommendation for your client, or you would rather prank a few of your PR colleagues, there are few things you’ll want to keep in mind to be successful: Be playful and mischievous but avoid alienating your core consumer.…

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    Combatting Consumer Skepticism of Food

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    tomdwyer.com

    A recent Bernstein survey revealed that 55% of consumers are becoming more distrustful of the food system, a 15% increase from 2013. While it has a way to go before reaching distrust in government levels that have fueled a raucous presidential primary season, it continues a trend that manufacturers (and investors) large and small have noticed.

    Concerns over food safety, GMO foods, and antibiotic use in animals were all up in the survey. One of the big drivers of this I believe is transparency, or lack thereof. Earlier this month, the state of Washington won a lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) for not disclosing donations from major food companies to defeat a labeling proposition.

    The GMO labeling debate reached a tipping point resulting in Kellogg, General Mills, Mars and Campbell Soup announcing they will begin to identify products that contain genetically modified foods. This followed the failure of a Senate bill that would have blocked state GMO labeling requirements like the one about to go in effect in Vermont.  I expect this to lead to national…

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    How Millennials Are Shaping the Alcoholic Beverage Industry

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    New Year’s Day 2016 rang in a new era for booze marketers: On January 1, all millennials were of legal drinking age.

    Millennials are now between 21 and 38 years old and 79 million strong. Even without the last stragglers reaching 21, millennials consumed 159.6 million cases of wine in 2015, according to a recent report on U.S. wine drinkers from the Wine Market Council (WMC). That represents 42 percent of all the wine consumed in this country last year, more than any other age group (Baby Boomers came in second with 114.1 cases).

    Last month, I wrote about WMC’s presentation on marketing to women wine drinkers. Wine Spectator’s Ben O’Donnell produced an excellent summary of the WMC millennial data specific to wine in his post here. Building on those metrics, here are my three “a-ha” moments and key takeaways for marketers seeking to reach millennial drinkers:

    1. There are two types of millennials

    Segmenting millennials into older (30 to 38 years old) and younger (21 to 29 years old) groups reveals substantive behavior differences when looking at wine consumption behavior. Millennials inhabit two significantly different life stages: Younger millennials…

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    3 Reasons Why Content Marketing is the Right Approach on Social

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    Consumers see 3,000 to 20,000 ads and brand messages per day, resulting in 86% typically ignoring online advertisements. This banner blindness phenomenon signifies how most of us are able to effectively tune out the bombardment of web ads. The truth of the matter is, nobody really cares about your marketing. So how do you get the attention of your target audiences, or perhaps more importantly, how do you resonate with them? In a world that’s oversaturated with marketing content, you should serve as a guiding beacon for your consumers. As Forbes contributor, Brian Sutter, aptly put it, “Teach, don’t sell.”

    Below are three reasons why content marketing is effective in engaging your brand’s fans and followers.

  • It’s informative versus abrasive. Eclipse consumers’ marketing blinders by offering them something honestly valuable. To do this, you must know your audience, what they’re looking for, and how you can help them. Consumers aren’t scrolling through social platforms looking for things to buy – they’re there to connect with friends, family, and coworkers. They want to share and interact. So give them something useful and relevant that they’ll want to interact with, and maybe even…
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    Super Bowl 2016: The tale of underwhelming QBs and Ad spots

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    Super Bowl 50, a tale of two defenses. If you weren’t watching to see Peyton Manning’s last rodeo, or Cam Newton’s dance moves, and you weren’t a fan of either team, you were likely there to watch what we refer to in the communications industry as the Ad Bowl. This is the night when more than 100 milllion consumers are glued to the TV, brands blow their marketing budgets sky high (spending more than $5 million dollars for a 30-second spot) and we all watch to see what they’ve come up with. So how did they do? We turned to our resident brand and creative experts to get their take on who had the strongest Super Bowl ad game of 2016.

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    Kelly O’Keefe
    Chief Creative Strategy Officer

    Rooting for: Broncos
    Currently snacking on: Homemade chili and fresh fruit
    Office location: Richmond, Va.

     

    Q. What brand did you think would have the strongest Super Bowl ad game?

    A. I was expecting a lot from Budweiser and Chrysler’s Jeep brand. Both have dominated past years, but this year neither brought their A…

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    Women and Wine: What does this segmentation really tell us?

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    I’m skeptical of old-fashioned segmentation: women, age groups, income levels. With so many data streams accessible and the ability to glean extensive information about consumers, we have an opportunity to reassess how we categorize affinity groups. Emerging fields like ethnography and neuroscience add layers of intelligence and new ways of approaching segments that can guide brand managers and marketers. I wrote about this in 2013 following a conference that I co-created to explore marketing themes in the wine industry, The Exchange. One example: analyzing how mothers and daughters shop together, a prevalent occasion in the Latina community, can enhance how beverage alcohol brands market to this group of potential consumers. That segment can’t be explored by broadly looking at women and wine.

    Is simply halving the population enough of a segment to shed light on how to go to market? Can we glean any actionable information from this? The short answer is that it depends.

    Last week, I attended a Wine Market Council research conference. The Wine Market Council has been tracking annual wine consumer attitudes and behaviors for two…