How Reality Can Save Retail

Have you ever searched for “consumer packaged goods” images? What comes up is myriad endless, blurry, retail aisles, often in dully lit, outdated grocery or drug stores. (Needless to say, I don’t suspect anyone is posting them with #blessed.)

This isn’t an attack on Google images, but I think it’s time for us, as an industry, to redefine, rethink and reinvent what we think of as CPG. 

The CPG industry has been searching for growth these past few years due to what everyone says is a challenging economy and and conservative consumer spending. Is this really true? What about all of the reports saying consumer confidence is higher than we expected it to be? Where are people spending that confidence?

Probably not in the dully lit, outdated grocery aisles. 

According to Mintel, vacations and dining out will each experience a 27% increase over the next five years. That’s a ton of confidence going toward those categories. So why are the luxurious “feel good” categories cashing in, but the necessities losing out?



With the economy suffering just a few years back, higher-priced goods needed to find a greater purpose for people — or risk oblivion — so they leveraged different ways to represent their product. Hotels and fashion/leisure brands created a more holistic approach to why someone must purchase, giving people reasons above and beyond value for the money to part with their precious savings. 

So how do we elevate everyday goods to that level and where can the CPG industry find inspiration?

While some people think we should blame reality television for the decline of American culture, I think it can serve as an inspiration for global business, and for this problem specifically. I realize as I type that, it’s a monster leap, but stay with me. The dramatic effect is worth it!

Look at Bethenny Frankel, arguably the queen of CPG today. Her innovative and expansive go-to-market strategy will likely be a case study for some time to come. Here are three key things she did with her Skinny Girl brand that can inspire a different approach.

Connect with Your Customer Before They Know They Need You

Before Bethenny, Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise was only a launching ground for extreme behavior. Bethenny invented a new launch strategy, leveraging her appearance on the show to put her product in front of her target market at a time they were being entertained and were open to receiving the information. It was overt, not hidden like its predecessor, product placement, and didn’t try to be something it wasn’t (like its cousin, branded entertainment). It was honest and raw and her audience responded. They weren’t expecting it, and because of that, they were sold immediately on Skinny Girl. This is the exact opposite approach of traditional CPG tactics (i.e., shelf talkers, coupon pulls and end caps), because it builds a need that likely can’t be satiated or forgotten without actually purchasing the product.

Be Willing To Be The Brand

CPG companies must know who is representing their brand beyond just the marketing. Today’s consumers are digging far deeper into products, makeup, what the company and outlet who sells them stands for and so on. Transparency isn’t new and it isn’t going away. But how can companies use it to their advantage? They need to clearly connect key parts of their company to the brand, so that when consumers want to start peeling back the layers, they find the consistency they are looking for.

Go All In

One look at Bethenny Frankel’s Snapchat, Instagram, blog, appearances, licensing deals, promotions partners, etc., and you know that she will never stop pushing and, therefore, believing in Skinny Girl. The end result is that her consumers feel confident when they evangelize the product or make it a mainstay in their buying cycle because they aren’t going at it alone. 

It sounds so easy, right? Get a t-shirt or a car with your logo on it, have your friends and colleagues shill. Except it takes significantly more effort than the simple “schwag bag.” If you want to have an impact in today’s world, you have to create content on a daily basis. Whether it’s toothpaste or face cream, consumers expect brands to stay relevant and topical — in your lane, of course — because if you’re not invested in them, there’s little reason why they should invest in you.

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