In our continuous quest to find out what makes the supermarket shopper tick, we often rely on the go-to folks on this topic: consumer affairs directors (or CADs, as we call them).
These are often the unheralded, way-back-in-the-corner office, female (mostly nutritionists or dietitians) at most major supermarket chains. While category managers and buyers are great for telling you about what’s good for their chain, CADs will tell you what’s good for their customers.
We find CADs are like the school nurse: she knows her patients well and can spot an epidemic before anyone else. She can also tell when you’re faking it.
That’s because shoppers, like schoolchildren, lie. Our experience has shown us that shoppers tend to tell researchers what they think they want to hear, such as: “Yes, we’re eating much healthier now!” But the scanner data reveals a different picture…until now.
One CAD at a regional chain has seen scanner data that shows the tide has shifted. Shoppers today are really into “good-for-me” items, she explains:
“We believe it’s the cumulative affect of the new healthcare initiative, more active lifestyles, concerns about the environment, and the phenomenal growth of natural and organic foods. They’re leaning so much more on social media now, and are just more aware of these issues.”
This viewpoint is echoed by the explosive growth of chains such as Whole Foods, Sprouts, etc., with new banners (i.e. Mariano’s) popping up, joining long-time purveyors like Stew Leonard’s and others that serve up retailtainment alongside the kale.
Even mass-marketers like WalMart see the sea change. CEO Bill Simon noted in a recent report by PlanetRetail: “Customers needs and expectations are changing…and we are transforming our business to meet their expectations.”
And transforming they are. Along withTarget, and Dollar General chains, Walmart is leading the march toward new, smaller-format stores featuring trendier, healthier SKUs. Drugstores chains like CVS are also revamping, creating health-hubs where shoppers can consult with care and nutrition experts.
The question our clients are asking now is: “Is good for them good for me, too?” Several seem convinced, and are now focused on launching products and marketing communications that reflect goodness.
While corporate sustainability and social responsibility initiatives are almost old hat by now, there are some cornerstones for building a “good-for-you” campaign worth remembering:
- Tell a story. The magic of corporate story-telling is not to be underestimated, even if the narrative doesn’t directly relate to health and wellness. Find compelling and heartwarming info about your family and/or company’s history to tout: “rags to riches” anecdotes, key challenges surmounted, etc., and watch the “halo” effect take hold.
- Stand for something. Ideally, the storytelling should include a unique positioning, ideology, philosophy that sets you apart from those without a mission. Everyone knows you’re in business to make money: there ought to be something more.
- Put your money where your mouth is. Even a humble effort toward some form of social conscience, such as Fair Trade certification, a corporate foundation, or community-giving program allows you to say you’re involved.
- Beware of “natural”. It’s become a cliché, in fact, has lost its meaning. We’ve also blogged about that type of labeling coming under fire by the regulators. Surely there are other, more creative terms for identifying your product attributes…
Remember: “good for me” is a fairly open concept. It doesn’t have to an actual product attribute but can merely be a corporate attitude that’s communicated passionately and creatively.