Various food scandals have tarnished the credibility of the food industry as a whole. A fundamental transformation is occurring, but is giving rise to new challenges in relation to data, and data’s connection to brand strategy.
Ensure data is reliable: a first step
Lack of trust in the food industry is now reflected in increased demand for information. The INCO standard marked the start of the trend. “Traffic light” Labelling which summarizes nutritional information for consumers, reinforced it. Businesses consequently need to be more transparent, and to make data more widely available. It might seem obvious, but ensuring data reliability across the food industry entails a huge amount of work. It’ a real “data chain”!
It becomes important to be able to combat misinformation with trustworthy data and to control your e-reputation. One product equates to 300 product characteristics to be supplied. That data must be reliable. Substantial work is therefore needed to make data available and ensure it is trustworthy. Disseminating false information (incomplete labeling, incorrect product sheets, etc.) will have an impact that is even harder to control than not disseminating information at all.
Fact checking as the sole response to the need for transparency
However, once the trust has gone, consumers want complete information: where the milk was produced, when, by which farmer, and what the animal was fed. Barcode-based apps (GS1 Go Scan, FoodSwitch, FoodMaestro, Spoonguru, Yuka, Coeliac UK, PHE food scanner…) are symptomatic of this trend.
Consumers want to know everything about a product, but this has nonetheless failed to re-establish trust. The provision of ever more data along the supply chain is therefore an endless pursuit. Thinking that providing information, however detailed it is, will restore trust is a misconception. It is necessary, but not sufficient.
Data, the new challenge for brand communication and strategy
Consumers are highly sensitive to consistency between corporate communication, the business, and the product. It is no longer a matter of singing a product’s praises. A business now needs to prove the product’s worth. The challenge for manufacturers is to not only offer quality products, but also to be able to promote them effectively.
It is no longer possible to advertise products as healthy and still try to sell them if they have poor scores on a Barcode-based application. Consumers are not easily fooled. Any inconsistency between the sales pitch and the product’s actual characteristics is directly felt by consumers.
As a result, brand strategy is now inseparable from the decisions made in product design (additives, cost, responsibility, environmental aspects, taste, etc.) and the information that can be provided as a consequence.
Positioning and branding are thus dependant on product data and product characteristics. As a result, product data is a significant component in company communication. Certain under-exploited data can sometimes be used to uncover new areas for communication. The repercussions for manufacturers can include reformulating products, driven by brand strategy imperatives, so as to have consistent data to use in their communication.
Conclusion : Brand strategy is inseparable from product information
The erosion of traditional brands’ impact must not hide the importance of brand strategy and finding a differentiating product positioning. Consistency between positioning (the brand), the context (communication), the packaging and the content (the product) then becomes the bedrock for the rebuilding brand credibility.
More than ever, the sector needs to re-assess itself. Being transparent is far from sufficient. Product information and the reliability of that information absolutely must support the brand strategy and market strategy. Not only can there be no dissonance, but this information must also make those strategies credible, reinforce them, and enable innovation in communication.