Today’s consumer goods industry was built on brand marketing. For decades, the focus was on high-impact campaigns across TV, billboards and radio, with companies seeking to develop slogans and brand narratives that resonated with consumers of all ages and backgrounds.
But the industry is changing fast, and CPG firms that pursue only that traditional, broad-brush approach to brand marketing risk being left behind.
This is because consumers today expect closer, more personalized relationships with CPG firms. Pioneering brands are using digital technologies to create “B2Me” experiences that make their products seem tailor-made — or at least more relevant to — individual consumers. Some are launching online subscription services, through which products are delivered “in a box” to fit around consumers’ busy schedules. Others are building rapport on social media or sharing targeted content, such as fashion or baking blogs, to engage with consumers.
The more that consumers experience this sort of intimacy with brands, the more they will grow to expect it. The expectation is already there to some extent and is spreading fast.
So how can brands get better at building more intimate relationships with consumers?
Make way for the chief customer officer
Leading CPG brands don’t lack ambition; most want to achieve greater intimacy with the market. First, they should get better at understanding their consumers as individuals.
This is no small task. It means using data — purchase history, location data and social media — to build a clearer picture of their customers: who they are, where they live, and what products they will want to buy tomorrow (even if they don’t know it yet).
The first step is to accept that everything starts with their customer; in fact, the CMOs of some forward-thinking brands are even reinventing themselves as “chief customer officers” in recognition of this.
If they run with this reinvention of their role, the possibilities are enormous. Imagine you are a skincare brand and one of your loyal customers, who has downloaded a specific app, is in Rio de Janeiro on holiday. You know where they are through app-enabled location data, so you send them details of a special offer on sunscreen at a local store. The result is much more compelling than a billboard on the Avenida Atlântica.
Move at the speed of a living brand
The intimacy expected by today’s CPG consumers leans heavily on immediacy for its impact; consumers want to feel like brands are listening and reacting to them in real time.
There are more consumer touchpoints than ever before, and interaction can take place at all times. This is why leading brands are learning to operate at “digital speed” rather than “TV speed.” Their creative teams need to be as comfortable creating a quick video for Instagram or YouTube, in response to a rapidly emerging trend or news item, as they are developing a TV commercial over several months.
To get faster, firms are rethinking how they design their marketing organizations. They are exploring how their teams should be structured and what could make them move faster, what a typical working week should involve and what content challenges they will face next. Then they are reshaping their operating models to give them the support they need.
Bring data and analytics in house
Data is nothing new for CPG firms, and many have gathered tens of millions of customer records over the years. Yet that data is rarely of consistently high quality; some are finding that their data sets are missing key values such as the consumer’s age or gender.
This unreliable data, which not only has gaps but is also unstructured and unclassified, is often a result of firms outsourcing their digital marketing to specialist agencies.
Instead, CPG firms need to move the majority of their data-related tasks in-house and take ownership of their information assets. This will mean that they have to supplement their traditional marketing talents with digital skills such as data analytics, machine learning and coding.
Focus on the “return on the individual”
As marketing becomes more personalized, leading CPG companies are recalculating how they forecast and measure success. More and more, they will need to provide a “return on the individual” to measure their customer intimacy — and the value created as a result.
This contrasts with the situation in many firms today, in which the CMO is often required to make a case for a budget but not for a return, and could mean projections like this: “We make $100 per customer each year. It will cost $15 per customer to improve their experience, and with that investment, we expect to make $150 per customer each year.”
The growing demand from consumers for a more intimate relationship with brands has created a huge opportunity for CPG marketers to take a leading role in driving growth. Putting the consumer before anything else and fully exploiting the data that is under their noses will position CPG firms to capitalize on the new era of intimacy.