Food For Thought: How To Talk About Taste In Advertising

According to Health World, a non-profit dedicated to supporting and promoting comprehensive health and safety education, memories can actually affect taste. Recalling a positive memory about eating a certain food can make a present experience more enjoyable. Since advertising is in the business of building branded memories, demonstrating a product's tastiness is an important component to any food and beverage advertising. But is it enough to just communicate good taste? 

We looked at various claims to taste and how they were measured both verbally (in brand attribute lists) and visually (using an image analysis). What we found is that purchase intent and consumption operate independently as they relate to taste claims. The same type of claim could work for one of these metrics but not the other. To build a strategy around taste, brand advertising needs a two-pronged approach, one type of advertising will get a foot in the door and another one will keep the consumer coming back for more. 



From a verbal perspective, the key insights are:

1. The attributes most strongly correlated to purchase intent center on building taste appeal plus an additional benefit (e.g. experiencing new tastes, taste that my family and friends love).

2. The attributes most strongly linked to increased consumption tend to deal more with health-related or stand-alone quality claims (e.g., great tasting way to lower cholesterol, best taste)

3. What doesn’t work to increase consumption are comparative claims (e.g., tastes better than other brands/products) or the additional benefits that drive purchase. When it comes to usage frequency, simply standing for the best or reducing guilt seems to be the best path to increased usage.

4. Trying to communicate taste by saying only "tastes great" doesn't push perceptions far enough because this is a cost-of-entry in the food category. The consumer needs more behind the taste claim to solidify his/her beliefs about the product.

From a visual perspective, the key insights are:

1. Purchase intent is most strongly correlated with images throughout an execution which evoke the meaning “tasty” followed by “delicious” and then “flavorful.” However, if you identify the highest-scoring individual images, they rank: “flavorful,” “tasty,” and “delicious.” The implication is that meanings such as “delicious” are better illustrated by showing continued enjoyment or "virtual consumption" throughout an execution; on the other hand, "flavorful" can be conveyed with just the right key image. 

2. In terms of consumption, the image meaning linked most strongly to increased usage is "flavorful," followed by "delicious." Demonstrating the flavor of the product can both encourage the belief that the food has an excellent taste and spark interest for how to use it in combination with other main courses or side dishes. In essence, the consumer gets the added intrigue of how they might use the product more and in new ways.

3. Visuals communicating "tastes great" show a negative correlation with purchase intent and consumption. Again, as with the verbal attributes, it’s possible that the cost-of-entry nature of this idea may not give enough for consumers to sink their teeth into (pun intended).

So what are the next steps for the advertiser? 

1. Identify where your brand life cycle is in regards to advertising intent. Does your brand need to grow by introducing new consumers or by tapping further into your current brand fans?

2. Understand the nuances around what make images seem "flavorful," "delicious," or simply "tasty," and focus on these types of visuals in your advertising.

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