BY JAMES ROLES,
SALES AND MARKETING DIRECTOR – FIVE BY FIVE
Can counter-intuitive launch marketing strategies pay dividends? Dairy businesses are moving into plant-based milks. Coca-Cola’s courting the alcohol sector. As markets fluctuate, becoming more regulated and more competitive; as consumer sentiment flutters in all manner of unusual new directions, brands are now breaking the mould when it comes to their NPD strategies.
And sometimes, those plans seem directly at odds with their original values.
Counter-intuitive launches should be seen as the gold standard, the barometer for how far you can push the gravy boat out in terms of testing consumers.
Because, in most cases, the old adage ‘who dares wins’ does apply – as cheesy as that is.
In February, Canadian butcher Greenfield Natural Meat Co. launched a Meatless Monday campaign – trailing a video, removing meat from its website on the first day of the week, and offering obliging customers a $2 coupon.
It seems radical, doesn’t it? A butcher telling you not to buy meat. Sounds like Greenfield wants to be out of business by the Tuesday.
But, just like fast-food outlets offering meat-free options, this is a drive to prolong the business’ life span. During its Meatless Monday campaign, Greenfield explains how the production of meat just isn’t sustainable at the current rate. Sure, the North American meat industry isn’t in danger as of now, but Greenfield has taken the opportunity to lead the discourse, to be seen as a responsible brand with sustainability and its customers’ wellbeing at its heart. Its counter-intuitive approach has given its brand a renewed relevance and longevity, allowing it to explore and launch into other areas of the food market in the future.
And if ten, 20, 50 or 100 years down the line, meat is outlawed? Greenfield’s in a prime position. It’s the butcher that warned us all, that urged us to cut down.
All of this is to do with the future. With staying ahead of the game, planning for disaster well before it hits. Look at Starbucks. The iconic coffeehouse recently launched its NextGen Cup Challenge, asking people outside the company and its contractors to create a fully recyclable, compostable cup for its chain.
You could look at that and snear, basking in Starbucks’ failure – because it’s obviously tried to make such an item. It just hasn’t figured out how to yet.
Instead of abandoning it, instead of accepting failure, Starbucks has opened the floor. That takes guts, for a company as huge as Starbucks to basically raise its hand and say, “Er, I need help.”
And when it does get the help it needs, when it does get the cup right, then it will be in a situation above similar outlets that are ditching plastic straws, offering discounts if you bring your own cup and so on. By delivering a compostable cup, Starbucks will not only be seen as a leader in its market – it may well be seen as a frontrunner in conservation.
Buyers now care more about the environmental impact their consumption entails. More food and drinks brands must acknowledge this and act on it, rather than just offer a token gesture. For example, PepsiCo’s Drinkfinity pods seem like a sustainable option, but are negated by the fact that you have to fiddle about and send them back to a central recycling hub. It’s not convenient, it doesn’t fit into everyday life and, to be honest, you might find yourself throwing them in the regular recycling bin by accident.
And this message doesn’t just apply to big brands, nor solely to food and drinks purveyors. Perfume house Etat Libre d’Orange is launching a scent this autumn that’s made of organic waste. Again, that’s a stark contradiction of the glamour and elegance the fragrance industry stands for. But again, it’s linked to sustainability: it’s addressing issues bigger than the industry.
Because, when you think about it, what’s acceptable to launch now now might be considered environmentally obscene in a decade.
The moves outlined in this piece can be assessed, reappropriated and redelivered by everyone. Start-ups can use these tactics to make a splash, while scale-ups can apply them to cement their offering, or even pivot where needed to survive and stand out.
As long as the offering is solid and the message is pertinent, a counter-intuitive change in strategy can mean the difference between life and death for a food or drinks brand in such lightning-fast markets.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020