When it comes to food branding, many organizations make the mistake of shooting in the dark without a clear, comprehensive, and intentional brand strategy.
On average, it takes between 5-7 impressions before a potential customer will remember your brand. Will yours be remembered for looking nice, or for looking nice and deeply connecting with your audience?
It’s easy to get hung up on pretty colors and a snappy brand voice. But a successful food brand identity transcends the decoration to convey a deeper purpose, speaking to each member of your audience on a personal level. If you were building a house, you’d want to think about the foundation and layout before thinking about appliances and countertops, right?
Implementing a thoughtful and consistent food brand identity will ultimately make all of your marketing communication endeavors more effective, resulting in an impressive ROI over time. Research says that a consistent brand across multiple touchpoints can increased revenue by 23%.
So, how do you develop an effective food branding strategy? Building a brand is no easy task. The key is to take it one step at a time. Use this brand strategy framework to guide your process.
Step 1: Research and Audit Your Existing Food Branding
Before you build (or rebuild) your house, survey the land. An in-depth research and audit process lays the groundwork for all future branding efforts. The purpose is to identify where your brand is today, so you have a clearer view of where it needs to be tomorrow.
To gain a historical perspective and a better understanding of your brand equity, you should begin by analyzing all of your current marketing materials. These can include:
- Packaging Design
- Mission statement
- Value proposition
- Organization chart
- Business plan
- Marketing plan
- Annual reports
- Existing market research
- Employee surveys
- CEO speeches
- Press releases
- News stories
- Current website
When reviewing these materials, note what you like, don’t like, specific language used, and all opportunities for improvement.
In addition, it’s beneficial to hear directly from internal stakeholders and external customers, whether through conducting surveys, interviews, or reading product reviews. The goal is to document the existing perception of your brand or, if you’re launching a new brand, the perception of your niche and/or existing competitors. Be open to surprise (like when a mischievous goat ultimately influenced the brand design we created for Carversville Farm).
While gaining this input, it’s also wise to begin documenting your customers segments and what compels them to purchase your food brand. These “brand drivers” are a list of benefits that consumers receive through using your product/service. Here is an example template you can use to help identify these drivers:
During this phase, look at the brands of your competitors as well. A key part of this discovery phase is the uncovering of your strengths, weaknesses, and (most importantly) opportunities in the market. After all, effective brand differentiation begins with finding out why your brand is, well, different.
Step 2: Define Your Food Brand Identity
Once you’ve loaded your brain with upfront research, it’s time to put pen to paper.
To begin defining your brand, start with establishing your brand architecture: Is your company a house of brands like Nestle, or maybe a single entity like our work with Love Beets? Making sense of your brand architecture is as much a business strategy question as it is a brand strategy one. Nailing this down first will allow you to create a brand that reflects both how your business operates, and how your customers should understand it.
Next, drill down to the “guts” of your brand. These are the elements your audience may or may not see, but which dictate almost all decisions you’ll make on behalf of your brand. These are:
- Brand values – typically 4-5 words or phrases that describe the things your brand stands for.
- Mission – your “raison d’être,” a statement that dictates what your ultimate aim is as a business.
- Vision – a statement that communicates the long-term impact of your work. While the mission may evolve over time, the company’s vision is unchanging.
- Brand story – a written narrative that describes where you’ve come from and where you are going. It’s usually conversational, and is rooted in purpose to inspire an emotional connection.
Finally, before rushing into revising packaging designs, you should first position your brand within the mind of the consumer and opportunity in the market.
Step 3: Position Your Food Brand
All of your backend research can finally begin to pay off: it’s time to bring your food brand to life.
The following outlines the basic elements you’ll need to think about during this phase. Structure and alignment here will make it so that when your audience does interface with your brand, they’ll have a consistent and valuable experience no matter whether they’re engaging with it at a grocery store, online, or somewhere else entirely.
BRAND NAME & TAGLINE
Maybe you started this process with a name already established. That can provide a great jumping off point. If not, you’ll want to define one before moving any further. An effective brand name is easy to spell, easy to pronounce, intriguing, and reflective of your brand’s core values. If you’re in need of some inspiration, here are some effective naming strategies to help.
By now, we should be on the same page: A logo is not a brand. However, it’s an immensely important element of one. A well designed logo will reflect your brand’s personality and effectively become the face of the brand. Because of the impact a logo is meant to provide, it’s undeniably prudent to work with a professional design team to get it right.
Done well, an effective typography system looks simple from the outside. That’s because choosing the right typefaces is a careful balance between style and usability. When considering typography, you should ask yourself: Do these fonts reflect my brand’s image? Are they aesthetically pleasing? Will customers be able to read them printed on our packaging and/or website?
Colors have a deep psychological effect on how we interact with our favorite brands. Colors can trigger both direct associations (sky blue, green grass) and indirect associations (passion, creativity, authority), adding an important layer of depth to your brand’s identity. Furthermore, colors do no stand by themselves. They work in harmony with supporting colors as a complete palette. It’s important that when landing on colors (as well as fonts), you continue to reference your market research to understand how your brand can and will attract your audience amongst other brands. Choose wisely, and choose intentionally.
As a food or beverage brand, a beautiful and effective package design might be the most important marketing strategy you have. How will your brand translate across different products and mediums? Is a particular package shape or material important to your brand? Is it cost feasible to produce? Package design is often where you can make a first impression, and answering these questions will help you in providing something attractive that connects with customers.
VOICE AND TONE
What’s your brand’s attitude? Your voice expresses who you are as a brand (your perspective), and your tone expresses how you say it (your inflection). Together, your voice and tone define how you communicate with your audience. If possible, boil these down to 3-5 descriptive words that cover what your brand sounds like.
Once you’ve you’ve determined the sound of your voice and tone, it’s time to outline out what you’re saying and to whom. Write out the key messages for each of your audiences and support them with 3-5 proof points (Tip: The brand drivers exercise you did earlier will come in handy here).
Step 4: Brand Awareness
Your branding efforts will be for naught if nobody knows or understands your new brand. All of your research, positioning statements, visual assets, and messaging should be combined into one comprehensive brand book (commonly referred to as a Style Guide).
When done properly, this book will ensure consistency. Don’t overlook the importance of consistency. Learn it. Live it. And in the case of this seltzer brand we developed, Mend it.
Then, it’s time for launch. You will need to develop several assets to ensure a smooth unveiling (or seamless transition) for your new brand. These might include:
- Store displays
- Social media graphics
- Packaging kits
- Banner ads
- Promo videos
Phase 5: Brand Measurement
Building your brand takes significant time, research and resources. Once your brand is established, you can’t just let go and forget it. A brand needs to be monitored and measured on a consistent basis.
Measuring internal and external performance can include speaking with your staff, customers, and even monitoring conversation online via social listening tools. Ask your team if they understand the target audience, customer insights, and brand drivers. Ask your customers if they recognize your logo, know what your brand stands for, and feel a sense of loyalty to your brand.
It’s no surprise that emotion is most often the driving force behind a customer’s decision to give you their business. When the right emotional chord is struck, the groundwork for a relationship is laid. An effective food brand strategy should consider all the above parts and dictate the desired experience through all touch points consistently and clearly. If done right, a solid brand strategy will fuel all future marketing efforts, boost customer loyalty, and provide a significant return on investment over time.