A Marketer's Lens By Danette Amstein
Danette Amstein is a managing principal for Midan Marketing - a full-service agency that solely focuses on supporting the meat industry.

News Flash: You are not your target audience

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

If you are a packer/processor, when is the last time you did a store check through the eyes of the consumer? I am talking about standing in front of a retail meat case and really looking at your branded items — not from your perspective of everything that goes into them, but rather from a consumer’s vantage point. 

What pops? How does your branded package stand out against your competitors?

How you show up in the case can make or break all your other marketing efforts to get your sought-after customers to actually pick up your product and put it in the cart.

It is not uncommon for a prospective client to tell me their branding is on point and working well for them. I often follow up by asking the same question I started this blog with. I also ask what has changed since they established their current brand messaging, look and feel. The answer is typically summed up with two words: A LOT.

If it has been more than three years since you evaluated how your consumers perceive your branding, it is time to conduct a brand review. This is the time to think about the essence of your brand: What is your on-pack messaging? Does it still resonate with your target? Has your target changed? How have your targets’ values evolved?

(Note: Branding does not mean your logo. Yes, your logo is part of your branding and yes, logos do need to be refreshed from time to time but that is not the purpose of this blog. My focus here is to ensure that you are maximizing the valuable real estate that surrounds your logo.)

Here are six key questions to help guide your brand assessment:

1. What’s your story? Every brand has a story and if you don’t have one or are not telling it well, you are missing a critical link that consumers now expect. Some meat brands are tied directly to a specific farm or ranch or breed, while others are linked to an area of the country or a philosophy or a practice. Consumers love a good story. If your unique story isn’t clearly articulated for consumers, they may be reaching past your package to your competitor’s.

2. Who is your target? It is imperative to know what your target values. Consumers are constantly evolving and what is important to them is always shifting. Low fat used to be a key driver, but now protein is. Not that long ago consumers never asked where their meat came from, but now more and more shoppers want to know. Has your target shifted to be more urban or more rural? It is crucial to have a clear picture of your target’s attitudes, motivations and behaviors so you can invest those finite marketing dollars wisely (see #6 below).

3. What is your value proposition? What do you stand for? What one word would your most loyal consumers use to describe what your brand offers? Quality? Versatility? Convenience? Flavor? Sustainability? Stop trying to be everything to everyone; it is the fastest way to decrease margins and become commoditized.

4. Do your story, your target and your value prop align? If so, it’s time to charge ahead! If not, this is where you must pause and get in alignment; otherwise, you are confusing the consumer and negatively impacting your sales potential.

5. How do your external communications stack up? Does your current outbound messaging (website, social media channels, digital advertising, etc.) accurately communicate the above? If you would give it an “A” - kudos! If not, it is time to adjust how you talk about your brand outside the meat case so that it syncs up with how you position your brand in the meat case.

6. Is your marketing reaching your target? Once you have a lock on your target customer’s behavior and have nailed your messaging, it is much easier to develop the tactics and placements to meet them where they are in order to capture their attention.

And please, for the love of market share, stop assuming you know the answers to these questions without actually asking consumers. Why? Because you are NOT your target. Some of you don’t do the grocery shopping. Some of you don’t do the cooking. While your “opinion” is important, it shouldn’t have the final say. Let the research do that.

Here’s a real-life example from a client: We were working on value proposition and message testing with consumers. Before we went into the final test, I asked each of the five leadership team members to share which concept they thought the research would reveal as the winner and why. Four picked the same concept, with all saying it was their favorite. That concept came in dead last in our testing ... like, not even close. The fifth person was in marketing and tried to guess what he thought consumers would say. His selection came in a distant second, as there was a clear winner.

Takeaway: The people in your boardroom (including you) are not your target. Whether you are spending $100, $100,000 or $100 million (we can all dream, right?) in marketing, the chances of getting the results you want and thus the highest return on investment significantly diminishes if you don’t use these kinds of questions to evaluate your brand and test with real-life consumers.


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