Foodservice Marketing Agency - MCA Marketing in Foodservice Conference 2016As a leading foodservice agency we make it our business to stay informed of the challenges that our clients face in the market and endeavour to provide them with solutions.  We were therefore delighted to attend the MCA Marketing in Foodservice Conference 2016 which brought together senior marketing professionals from across the foodservice sector to discuss the current challenges faced and how they are dealing with them.

Given the wealth of information presented throughout the day, we’ve provided our top ten take outs.

1. Get to know your market – with the ever changing challenges we face in the foodservice sector, insight into our audience is invaluable for understanding the complexities of reaching these consumers, providing us with the answers as to why it is changing and how it is changing.

2. Adapting to consumer focus drives the business – it takes a brave company to admit that they have lost momentum and change direction, but that is exactly what Stuart Wright, Head of Insight at Wagamama explained they did, and achieved two years of double digit growth as a result.  Through comprehensive insight, Wagamama evaluated the market and changed the business from being operationally led to consumer led, re-engaging with the consumer and evolving their proposition. Wagamama identified that customers now don’t just buy food but they buy experiences and therefore have to have an emotional connection with a brand.

3. Be authentic and share your story – with consumers now buying an experience and not just food, non-conformist James Douglas, Co-Founder of Red’s True Barbecue, felt that authenticity was just as important as the food itself. Red’s business goal has changed over time and now its focus is not to be the biggest but the best.  In order to be the best, annual pilgrimages are taken to the US.  The trips allow James and his partner Scott Munro to refine their menu offering and each dish comes with a story.  Customer engagement is positively encouraged with each road trip being featured online allowing their customers to participate and vote for which dishes from the trip should be featured on the menu.

4. A sound strategy is built on insight – the power of accurate and well executed consumer insight and foresight have proven to be invaluable to not only Wagamama but also to Mitchells & Butlers as explained by Ditte Meynert, Director of Insight. The role of the pub has to change if it is to survive, and performing multi-methodology insight allowed them to identify several courses of action in order to regenerate their pubs and allow them to evolve.

5. Millennials will engage with a brand – in an instant! – currently Millennials make up the majority of adults, so are a significant audience.  As a generation they are very ‘me-centric’ and are brands in their own right, self-promoting every minute of every day.  They want your brand to help them promote ‘their’ brand. The main platforms to grab their attention are Snapchat, WhatsApp and Instagram. However, Facebook isn’t dead, 88% of Millennials get news from Facebook.   They are constantly thinking of their next social media moment, so it’s all about creating ambience and atmosphere and making them want to broadcast that moment. 70% are more likely to share something they respect. They are not afraid to engage with a brand. Money has to be invested into digital marketing.

6. Millennials respond to Influencer Marketing – as Millennials see themselves as being unique, blanket marketing doesn’t work with this audience, instead they respond to the power of one – the influencer.  To this audience it is all about one-upmanship and being individual.  Therefore, an influencer is hugely powerful.  Having a product endorsed by this 1-2% can have a large impact.

7. Consumer communication is usually driven by emotion – our brains are made up of three parts: primal, emotional & rational. The primal part is the reptilian part that focuses on our basic needs of food, sex and safety. The emotional part of the brain makes up 95% of our decisions and the rational parts taking up 5% of our decisions. Therefore, there is no point trying to communicate to the rational part of the brain as we respond far better from emotive stories. Customers are more likely to share videos with a positive emotion and find it easier to communicate with an emoji. We need to explore different ways we can build on the emotional.

8. Consumers want to believe in a brand and will support them if they do  – throughout the conference it was apparent that consumer engagement is paramount and one way to facilitate this is to have a compelling narrative.  Simon Coley’s company have that with Karma Kola, a Fairtrade cola drink from Sierra Leone, giving a small amount of each sale back to the community. They don’t have a huge amount of customers but those they have, engage with the product, resulting in a strong social presence and following.  Customers identify with the ethos of the product and their transparency. In the competitive market we are in, the consumer is more interested in a company’s story and whether that brand resonates with them and their values.

9. Use the resources you have – whilst Karma Kola and Red’s True Barbecue have the benefit of a compelling narrative, larger companies which are more complex and multi-faceted have a more difficult task to communicate to customers and tell a story on a one-to-one.  Instead they can use data and context to understand their customer. A powerful way to gather accurate data is to enable consumers to connect through an establishment’s secure network, especially if they connect through their social network as demonstrated by Julian Ross from Wireless Social.

10. Be prepared – we can all work hard on engaging our consumers and delivering a good story but in a crisis we have to make sure that staff are equipped to respond to it. It has to be fast, factual and appropriate. Mark Stretton from Fleet Street communications highlighted several companies who had responded well namely Greggs, Dominos and Merlin Entertainment. One which clearly didn’t was BP, whose CEO didn’t survive. In today’s age of social media, if a story is already on Twitter the media does not need to wait for it to be verified before it reacts. Therefore, it pays for your staff to be prepared.

In conclusion the common thread was that today’s brand has to be customer focused not product focused. Consumers are now not just buying the product but also the experience. It is fundamental that your customer is engaged and emotionally connected with your brand.

To find out more about MCA and their work visit their website.

Jellybean Creative is a leading foodservice marketing agency. We help top brands with food service pr, food service marketing, digital and design. If you feel we could help you with your marcomms, strategy, public relations, creative or digital then drop us a line today.