As one of the largest industries in the U.S., the consumer goods industry is estimated to be valued at over $25 billion by 2030. With new brands debuting every day in the category, it’s never been more important for consumer goods brands to develop a compelling and integrated communications strategy that stands apart from the crowd, builds connections with their audiences, and demonstrates the value they bring to the marketplace and consumers.
With one in ten businesses planning to switch to DTC in 2023, DTC and e-commerce are not slowing down, and consumer products are more accessible than ever, making the competition steep and the market crowded. To stand out in a heavily saturated market, a strategic approach to communications is key to ensure a brand and its products not only connect with consumers, but also stand the test of time.
Cultivating a brand narrative
A strategic communications plan starts with the brand narrative, which should be at the core of all brand communications to demonstrate cohesion and integration across every channel. While a brand may have a strong and authentic mission behind it, the inability to properly communicate and convey that mission to the appropriate audiences will hurt brand perception and therefore prevent conversion with consumers. The brand narrative should build connection between the brand and its audience, demonstrating authenticity, which, for Gen Z, the generation representing a third of the world’s population, is the most important quality of any brand messaging.
To craft an authentic narrative, brands should start from their core, or their “why,” and build their messaging outward. Understanding the mission behind the brand and how to articulate it effectively will be the foundation for any messaging. After solidifying this foundation, brands should evaluate their offerings to the market—asking questions such as, “What problem are we solving?” and “What needs do we fulfill?” It’s also important for brands to consider the market landscape to determine their niche, as this could also impact messaging. Key factors for this assessment should include top competitors, target audiences, key differentiators, public and media sentiment in the category and more. These factors can provide further guidance and direction as a brand builds its narrative.
Through this process of conceptualizing the brand narrative, it’s important to remember the core of the narrative should remain unchanged, while the additional layers of the narrative, such as product messaging, can be adjusted and adapted based on changes in consumer behavior, market shifts, the specific audience and more.
Integrating the brand narrative
After developing the brand narrative, it’s time to integrate it into the communications strategy. While it’s easy to shout it from the rooftops (and there may be a time for that), an impactful communications strategy requires a thoughtful and targeted approach, with integrated and personalized messaging for every audience and platform. Whether it’s via media, social content, marketing collateral, trade shows or public events, effectively communicating a brand’s narrative to its different audiences is critical to a brand’s overall success.
A recent study from Quantilope found that personalization will be a top consumer trend in 2023, as consumers look for brands that are building strong relationships with their customers, creating more engaging and personalized content. The study also recognized this focus on personalization can provide further value to brands by offering an in-depth look into consumer behavior trends, expectations, audience demographics and more.
For a more personalized approach, consumer brands should evaluate all the communication channels at their fingertips and determine those that will resonate the most with their target audiences, both in their ability to convey the message and to drive conversions in purchases and brand loyalty. To start, an online presence is essential for a brand. In addition to an optimized website, social media is a critical channel for consumer brands to be active on. A recent study from Sprout Social found that not only were 71 percent of all consumers on social media platforms in 2021, but also 1 and 3 consumers said that social media was their preferred channel to learn about brands.
In addition to the educational opportunities that social media platforms provide, the study found that commerce sales from social media platforms are expected to more than double from 2020 to 2023, reaching over $56 billion, demonstrating that an online presence across multiple social media platforms is required for consumer brands.
While owned channels like social media are valuable for developing a brand’s online presence, it’s also essential for brands to capitalize on earned channels, such as media, within their communications strategy. Third-party credibility can drive consumer decision making, acting as an unbiased recommendation or promotion. Consumers are more aware of advertising and promotions than ever before, and third-party credibility via media outlets allows consumers to cut through the noise to learn more about a brand and its products from an unbiased source.
Knowing the value of this credibility, brands should implement a media relations strategy with customized media-facing messaging that aligns with the core brand narrative. Media coverage can then be incorporated into the brand’s owned channels, such as social media, to further amplify third-party credibility and communicate it directly to their audiences on those channels.
Evaluating the data
As brands evaluate each channel available, in addition to those mentioned above, it’s important to develop a deep understanding of the different audiences that each channel reaches and how to effectively communicate the core brand narrative through each channel. This is where data and analytics can guide the strategy further, empowering a brand to make data-driven decisions every step of the way.
Every communications strategy must rely on data, as this information will convey how the brand narrative resonates with its audience. After identifying the top channels for communicating to the target audiences, brands must leverage data-driven insights in order to develop the proper messaging and continue to evolve it. Insights such as channel demographics, engagement, reach and conversions should all be considered when initially starting to communicate through a specific channel.
From there, the data should continue to drive decision-making, as brands test and learn from the performance of different types of messaging to see what resonates with the audience. As brands learn from this ongoing analysis, messaging and its delivery should continuously be evaluated, tweaked and refined to personalize the messaging and drive deeper connection and engagement with the audience.
Playing the long game of brand building
As brands continue to refine their communications strategy by learning and implementing changes from data and third-party feedback, it’s important to keep in mind that brand building is a long game. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and frankly, neither are brands. To successfully build a lasting consumer brand with a dedicated following, it requires ongoing experimenting, learning, evaluation and most importantly, creativity. There will likely never be a day that a brand can say, “I’m done! It’s built.” Consumers are constantly evolving, wanting something more, new and different from the brands they follow, and brands should want that constant evolution and improvement to stay relevant.
A compelling and data-driven communications strategy will stay ahead of those wants and continue to form new connections as the consumer evolves, adjusting their strategy and approach for each channel in order to demonstrate how consumers remain at the forefront of the brand’s strategy. As consumer brands adapt to consumer shifts, it’s important they remain steadfast to the core brand narrative that captures their mission and who they are, while showcasing how their brand can evolve and stand the test of time in the competitive consumer brand landscape.