Getting cut-through for your food & drink launch - by Delilah Pollard


What We Learned


We recently held the third and final Kazoo marketing discussion for 2019, at which we welcome leaders in PR and Communications to discuss a particular challenge facing the marketing industry.


On this occasion, we took a deep-dive into the world of food and drink, with speakers from Bol Foods, Tony’s Chocolonely and General Mills helping us to explore how brands can get more cut-through for their launch in an increasingly crowded and digital first market. 


Scarily, 45 new food and drink products are launched every single day, yet in just two years’ time, only five of these will still exist.


So how do you make sure yours is remembered? And how do you continue to evolve and engage new audiences to ensure the longevity of its success?

Here we’ve handpicked our five key takeaways from the morning:


Understand the role you play in consumers’ lives


A lot has been said in recent years around brands needing to have a ‘purpose’, and whether you strongly believe in this, or think it’s just a ‘trend’, what is clear is that a truly successful brand should have a clearly defined role in the lives of your customers - essentially, it needs to stand for something!


For some, this comes in the form of a higher social, ethical or environmental purpose. One of our speakers, Natasha Harden, Head of Marketing Innovation at Bol Foods, described how the brand took a strategic pivot just two years after launching, removing all meat and dairy from their products in July 2018. This came after the founder recognised the damage that the meat and dairy industry was having on the planet and personal wellbeing, and effectively cut their product range in half overnight.


Now, they live and breathe this mentality, enabling them to stand out and differentiate amongst other ready meal brands, although she was keen to stress that they don’t ‘preach’ or pass judgment; something she believes is really important so as not to become isolating.


But what if you’re a brand without a sustainability or social ‘mission’?


Of course, not all brands can have this kind of purpose at the core of their strategy, but what is necessary is to understand where your role sits and ensure that everything from your employees to your communications lives and breathes this.


For example, is your ‘purpose’ to provide an indulgent treat and bring joy to people? In that case, this is what your launch and general communications strategy should do. Think Magnum and their hugely popular Pleasure Stores, or Pukka Pies, who we worked with for years, and who continuously play on their relationship with the world of football with campaigns like this one.


Make sure your launch reflects the role you want to play in your customers’ lives, and clearly reflects your brand’s personality. 



Be consumer and retail first


Ultimately a brand’s end customer is the consumer, so they should always be at the heart of any communications (read the notes from our April 2019 event, Adopting a Consumer-First Comms Strategy for more tips on this!).


Helene Henderson, Brand Manager of Larabar, one of General Mills’ new venture brands, stressed the importance of deeply understanding your customer, where they are, what’s important to them, and their lifestyle choices. As a nutritional health bar, Larabar identified their target customers based on who the product was intended for. And then? They spent a significant amount of time talking to them, building out their personas and understanding what was relevant for driving the breadth of the range. This is something they continue to do, consistently getting out there to speak directly with those who are (and aren’t) buying their product to find out why.


If you aren’t always talking to your customers, you should be, as all of this feedback will be invaluable to planning a launch.


At the same time, it’s important not to forget your trade communications. Brands who are taking a very tailored approach to how they engage retailers are having most success at driving distribution.



Don’t rush building out your audience


Our panelists agreed that you can’t just throw media spend at a launch unless you have a solid foundation.


Part of this is having ensured you’ve ticked off the previous two points, but you should also have built a highly engaged group of advocates before going to full media launch; a process that shouldn’t be rushed.


Helene told us how Larabar had successfully grown their audience through three stages;

Precision targeting - where they focused on building credibility and targeting a specific community. This was mostly through identifying and seeding the product out to key influencers on Instagram, all of whom resonated with the target audience and had an authentic, trusted voice to help champion Larabar as a brand.
Strategic targeting - in which they started to grow the brand further through sampling campaigns and being where their audience was but on a larger scale.
Market targeting - this is where they enlisted other media and communications channels, launching into market with an already solid audience base who’d heard of the brand and could be authentic advocates for it.


Of course, every brand will use different channels, but these are three great stepping stones to ensure your launch has enough backbone to be successful. Just rushing straight out with lots of media and digital spend won’t be enough in the current attention economy.


Get creative with sampling & partnerships


Consumers are often unresponsive to ‘traditional’ means of advertising, due to the cluttered nature of mass media and the distrust of big brands. To be successful with a launch, many brands are now looking to be more inventive and develop organic ways of driving buzz.


Ben Greensmith, UK General Manager at Tony’s Chocolonely, told us how the brand has never spent a penny on mass advertising, despite their cult popularity in the Netherlands and increasingly over here in the UK. Instead, they focus on PR and social media campaigns as well as sampling.


These events create numerous touchpoints, allowing you to connect with your consumers on a deeper level and add a human face to your brand. At the same time, there’s no more powerful channel than word of mouth and peer recommendations.


One of the key points from our panel though is that sampling needs to get more creative. It’s no longer enough to just hand out your product in a train station to get real cut-through. Instead use it as an opportunity to interact with your customers and tell your brand story.


Tony’s Chocolonely did this with their Chocotruck Tour; a branded tour truck that travels round handing out samples and educating people around the company’s important mission - to end slavery in the chocolate industry. This experience is much more likely to stick in the minds of their consumers and encourage them to buy in the future.



Empower your influencers


Influencers are more important than ever when launching products, especially if you are targeting Millennials or the ever elusive Generation Z who aren’t as engaged with traditional media channels.


These influencers can add a huge amount of value to your brand, connecting with your consumers on a relatable and personal level. Due to their importance, brands need to take the time to understand their influencers, making sure they align with their brand values and will present a coherent brand image.


Lucy Mountain, who has over 300k followers on Instagram, gave us a first hand look into how influencers view brands and what they expect from a relationship with them. Brands need to be genuine and transparent with their influencers, taking them on and treating them as an essential part of their communications team.


She also stressed that influencers need to be viewed as co-creators and given the freedom to use their usual tone-of-voice when talking to their community about your brand. Across the board, our panel believed that to get the most out of these partnerships, brands should focus on a few influencers who are truly invested in your brand, rather than try to cover too many bases and have it come across as forced.


To read more about how you can integrate influencers effectively into your campaign, take a look at the takeouts from our June 2019 event, Building Your Brand’s Influencer Strategy, with insights from Gousto, Smeg and Gleam Futures.




Hopefully this has given you some useful tips and inspiration for planning your next product launch!


If you’re interested in hearing more, either about the event or how we work with brands to deliver effective launch campaigns and grow their audiences, just drop an email to who’d be happy to help or you can fill out the form below. Whether you have a particular brief in mind, or just a few challenges that you’d be keen to get some outside perspective on – we’re always open to a chat!


And if you’d like to register your interest for any future events, whether to take part as a speaker/panellist, or just to come along as a guest, leave your details below and we’ll be sure to get in touch when we think it might be relevant!