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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Building a cut-through brand


Richard Medley, Isabel Lydall, Brett Goldhawk and Gareth Turner have collectively helped hundreds of F&B companies stand out from the crowd. Here, they dissect the crucial killer components that deliver brand success

The essential challenge with trade show exhibitions is finding ways to stand out from the crowd and noise, without just adding more clutter into the mix. No one needs more of that, but after 10,000+ daily steps for the average visitor weaving through the aisles, most brands will start to blur into the smorgasbord of ‘look at me’ perkiness.

And it’s a challenge accentuated for any exhibitor or brand that hasn’t found its wider world cut through for marketing, branding, communications, or audience understanding. Selling without those killer components in place is just pushing water (or juice, or bubble tea, or CBD infusions…) up a hill.

It’s the topic at the heart of a panel debate being held on the Trends and Innovation stage at IFE 2024.

Not just around the importance of these themes, but around their deliverability for brands that don’t have bottomless money wells to mine. A reality the four speakers on the panel recognise, problem solve and advise upon.

Richard Medley (below), who runs PR and Comms consultancy Turning the Page, has worked with global brands such as Tilda, Highland Spring and Diageo and feisty challengers, including ManiLife, NcNean, and Gin Mare. He champions the art of storytelling at the core of any brand’s ambitions.

“Smart PR always flows from strong storytelling. And the best stories are often about people, not just a product. Focusing on the latter alone risks tipping into the functional.  But telling a founder story, bringing your team to life for the parts they have played, or talking around your audience and how you help them, lands the understanding you will need over and above awareness for stand out. On social channels, across your website, and through news media, you need to showcase who you are, and what you think.”

“That people energy helps avoid the so-what trap around what you have to say. Being too functional in your PR and brand messaging gets you forgotten too quickly. So, share opinions and insights. Don’t be afraid of adding personality and attitude. And bring your audience along with you, because they aren’t sitting there waiting for you to talk unless you engage and give them reason to listen.”

“I’ve yet to work with a brand that doesn’t have a human story to tell, it’s just a question of finding it, shaping it and helping it find a beginning, a middle…and a cliff-hanger of what might happen next to keep audiences interested.”

Brett Goldhawk (below), a brand consultant with 25 years’+ experience in building household brands in the food and drinks sectors, including Patak’s, New York Bakery Co, Zizzi, and Greene King, believes brands must adapt and show resolve to thrive in today’s tough surroundings and to help navigate the many twists and turns.

“Standing out matters. Being unique from those around you and being clear on who you are and what you do, is what creates cut-through for brands”.

“God loves a tryer (and never more so than a plucky start-up looking to break into the big time) but the fight against the goliaths and the increasing dominance of Own Label means you can be left literally fighting for scraps and circling round and round in a death spiral. Those that escape that, and breakthrough, all have at least one thing in common, that stands out above the rest. Investment in packaging design.”

“Visit any trade show and you’ll see great products, enthusiastic founders, and maybe some sales data that drives optimism. But the packaging design is way too often non-existent or poorly executed. The crown jewel of your brand that’ll end up in the consumers hand isn’t remotely fit for purpose. As founder of DesignHawk, I take this sh*t seriously. I’ve given 25 years of my life to differentiating people’s businesses through packaging design and shopper marketing. To me, standing out matters. Not in a difference for difference’s sake but in a way that gives you a fighting chance to be one of the lucky few to hit the big time, rather than play around in copycat territory”.

Marketing heavyweight Gareth Turner (below) has over 25 years’ experience in global food and drinks, and he’s headed up the marketing for all kinds of household name brands including John Smith’s, Bulmers, Lurpak, Arla and Weetabix.

Since leaving Weetabix, he has worked with challenger brands like The Sauce Shop, Mighty Drinks and Spoon Cereals to bring structure to their marketing and get their efforts pointed in the right direction as part of his ‘Big Black Door’ consultancy.

“A wise man once told me, measure twice and cut once. This is as true for a brand’s marketing as it is for building a kitchen cupboard.  Whether that’s a huge global brand like Arla or a scaling brand like Spoon Cereals. It’s important that you know where your brand will play, who it will be talking to and what it is you need to say and do to win. And that involves investing the right amount of time up front to make your marketing efficient and effective. Ensuring that every penny of spend and every minute of effort is pulling your brand in the right direction. That time is not inertia or a distraction from your day to day, it’s sharpening your chances of success with the right plan.”

“Marketing is not advertising. It’s bigger than that. It’s a growth strategy. It’s a deep understanding of your business, your brand, your ambition, your target audience, and their needs. It’s a strategic approach to where to play and what to say. And it’s a set of channel agnostic tactics to making your brand easy to think of, find and buy.”

Isabel Lydall (below) has spent many years leading brand marketing and consumer insight for some of the UK’s favourite brands including Jammie Dodgers, Maryland and Aptamil, before setting up consumer insight agency, Curious to Clear. A model that has seen her work with brands such as Capsicana, Divine Chocolate, Simply Roasted and Little Dish, to help them research their customers, define their strategy, and test their future plans.

“The most successful brands look lucky from the outside. As if magically, they’ve hit on exactly what people need with a product, message, and brand to ride the trend. Time and time again.

“But it’s not luck at all – it’s a laser focus on finding out what their target audience needs and values – and then giving it to them. It’s having a deep curiosity about people, their behaviour and what will work for the brand – observing and exploring options and checking assumptions.

“When they see how people really use and shop a category – and how they respond to ideas – marketers or founders are often surprised by what they find, what opportunities they see, and how quickly they can act on that.

“It can feel uncomfortable, especially if their brand is their ‘baby’ – but it’s the most liberating and sanity-saving and idea-generating thing to do. Less sleepless nights or going around in circles worrying around product market fit, key decision making, or spending precious marketing money on the wrong thing. Because they aren’t doing things they think will work, but things they know will work.”

The common thread across all four themes is listening, reviewing what you think you know, and being fully audience aware. None of these threads of shaping success are about standing still or comfort zones. Nor thankfully about bottomless budgets. But all are about ‘active’ management, and recognising the thinking and planning time you put in is directly linked to the success you will see. The panel event may see some sparky debate, but also some very firm lines of agreement.

Panel details: IFE 2024, ExCeL London, 25th March. The Four Killer Components To Making Your Brand A Success. Trends & Innovation Platform (13.45 – 14.30)

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