The following is a guest post from Joel Warady, chief sales and marketing officer of Enjoy Life Foods, and guest speaker for our May 7 webinar, How to Win Back Fickle Customers: Lessons from the War Between Big CPG Companies and Small but Powerful Upstarts.
The consumer packaged goods space is primed for a major disruption. E-commerce, mobile shopping and direct selling are transforming the industry, threatening to render established brands obsolete. At the same time, barriers to entry are lower than ever—and hungry upstarts are desperate to make a dent.
As the chief sales and marketing officer of Enjoy Life Foods, the leading brand in the North American free-from food and beverage market, I know firsthand what it takes to thrive in the complex CPG landscape. Before being acquired by CPG giant Mondelez International in 2015, Enjoy Life Foods experienced three consecutive years of 40 percent year-over-year growth. That growth was not accidental. It’s a result of an understanding of our market and being more nimble than our competitors.
Most large-scale consumer packaged goods companies grossly underestimate the pace of change impacting their industry. Small and nimble CPG companies are taking a big bite out of the market share and revenue of the industry’s largest players. In 2014 alone, small companies grabbed $4 billion in sales from big CPG.
So how can established companies defend their market share? And what do smaller CPGs need to do to continue to gain momentum? Here are three suggestions on how CPG companies today can succeed.
- Create a nimble, responsive culture.
Unless CPGs become leaner and more agile, they will continue to see their revenues and profits decline. Established CPGs must move faster, or market share will continue to shift towards other players.
Companies need to embrace a startup mentality, and execute quickly. That starts with having the right people. CMOs like myself need to hire people who care deeply about the products they’re creating and who care about the people who are buying the products.
Big CPGs also need to be more comfortable with failure—a critical part of the startup culture. Experimentation is part of being more nimble. Companies must keep an eye on what’s happening in industries tech and media, and experiment with innovations and technologies that have worked in those markets. Companies need to figure out how emerging trends in other sectors impact the behavior of their own customers. Engaging with customers regularly can help brands get that insight. Getting closer to the empowered customer can help brands “fail faster” and quickly weed out bad ideas from promising ones.
- Forge an emotional bond with the customer.
Having a great product is no longer enough. CPG companies need to create interesting brands. To do that, they need to create what Saatchi and Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts calls “lovemarks.” You want customers to be emotionally tied to your products and services, to be part of their everyday lives. That’s not necessarily easy to do in the CPG space, where differentiation is hard to achieve.
The most successful CPG companies today are storytellers who find ways to form emotional bonds with their customers. Established companies need to stop seeing themselves as manufactures and start thinking of themselves as publishers. Traditional advertising is dying. People simply don’t trust or believe what brands are saying anymore.
- Focus on customer-centricity.
Not all CPG upstarts succeed. Just like in the tech world, a great majority of new CPG companies fail. But the small companies that disrupt the CPG goliaths are those that really understand consumer needs.
In the case of Enjoy Life Foods, our success is a result of a rethinking of our marketing and go-to-market strategies. The whole company committed to becoming truly consumer-centric. We’re not just concerned about putting products in shelves; there was a mindful shift within the company to put the focus on consumer needs. Consumer engagement was already a priority even before social media became mainstream.
A crucial aspect of Enjoy Life’s success is making sure that our customer engagement approach evolves with the market. Today, we’re looking at things like Snapchat and Periscope to see how they can be a part of our digital strategy. We have a platform-agnostic approach to engagement that puts the consumer in the center.
Consumer-centricity means having a complete picture of your customers. The ironic thing about Big Data today is that, while companies are drowning in data, they’re thirsty for insight. Companies need to filter out what’s unnecessary—to uncover the handful of data that actually matter. The key is to get a more complete picture: to marry demographic, transactional and customer intelligence and gain a better understanding of the consumer.
Disruption in the CPG space is just beginning. Thriving in this world isn’t about having the best products, the best marketing campaigns or the most advanced technologies. It’s not even about having access to the most customer data. It all comes down to building a genuine relationship with today’s empowered consumer and purchaser. Companies can’t fully exploit marketing trends and new technologies without a deep knowledge of the people who buy their products.
To learn more about the new threats facing the CPG industry and discover what it takes to thrive, join me and Vision Critical in How to Win Back Fickle Customers: Lessons from the War Between Big CPG Companies and Small but Powerful Upstarts, a webinar on May 7. Save your spot today.