If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: If you are looking for loyalty, your ideal customers first need to see themselves reflected in your company and its messaging. How do you embody and reflect your target customer’s values and identity if you do not know who they are?
When it comes to brand loyalty and lifetime customer value, it all starts with getting to know your customers well, and with what you provide your customers, not what you expect them to give you in return.
If you are unsure about how best to define your ideal target customer, perhaps just take a good look in the mirror. How do you define yourself and your company’s values? It is likely (and hopeful) that you and your ideal customers share those values. So be authentic and transparent about who you are as a company and your institutionalized values. This is especially important for companies that grow and sell the food we all eat.
Social issues are more important to today’s consumer, especially millennials and younger generations. Most of these consumers claim that their loyalty is earned by companies that share their social, economic and environmental values. If you grow green and clean, and use sustainable practices and packaging, make sure this information is front and center. If you support specific charitable causes, do company volunteer work or offer in-house career training, do not keep quiet about it.
That said, make sure any information about such practices or causes get telegraphed to consumers in a totally authentic way. Do not green-wash or exaggerate your actions for marketing purposes. Just be real.
When it comes to fresh produce, we know that consistency is challenging. But consistency is expected if you are going to earn customer loyalty. When it comes to food, consumers want certainty of consistent safety, quality and taste. They are not going to give you many (or any) chances to fail. But consumers also want to see consistency when it comes to your marketing and messaging. On both fronts, you can never take your foot off the gas.
Branding is nothing new in the world of commerce, but it is still on the young side in the fresh produce market. When it comes to your brand, do you have a plan?
If you are not sure where to start, a good place is to ask yourself what you want your company and produce to be known for. And what kind of relationships and experiences do you want your customers to have with you and your products? Answering these questions will guide you on the foundational messaging for your brand, differentiate you from other competitors and help customers understand the value and pricing of your products.
While well-designed logos, shipping labels, websites and other visual branding tools are also important for good brand recognition, these visuals are not really your brand. Your brand is how your customers feel about you and your products, and what they say about you and your products to their family and friends. If you are speaking directly to them and intuiting their wants and needs with your branding, you have a much better chance at harvesting the right new lifetime customers.
Your brand is how your customers feel about you and your products, and what they say about you and your products to their family and friends.
Your core company values may not need to change, but how and where you talk to consumers must evolve with the times and technology. Let me give you a little example from my own experience, as I was writing this column. You too may have suddenly seen social media promotions popping up about a new pink pineapple variety. The funny conversations and comments on social media about the pink pineapple (“Hey, that looks like ham!”) made me smile and got me engaged with the content.
Many of the images featured chopped pineapple and that is what visually stuck in my mind. I did not really pay attention to the company that was serving the ads, but the next day I did go searching for it online. But I searched for “Dole Pink Pineapple”. Why? Probably because Dole has done such a good job of embedding their brand into our consciousnesses as providers of packaged chopped fruits; especially for Gen Xers like me (think Dole fruit bowls).
Turns out, it is a Del Monte introduction called Pinkglow and it’s darn pretty. (See it at pinkglowpineapple.com.) Add to that the new Petit Pinkglow and they have got me swooning. Del Monte even put together a savvy website with promotions for the new variety release. Lucky for me, the Petit Pinkglow is currently only for sale in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I am totally going to order some.
Make new connections
Honestly, I just never thought of “Del Monte” when I searched for the product. Clearly, Del Monte knows they need to develop new products to gain competitive market share, and they have clearly invested deeply in the branding and exposure on this release. It is visually modern, the website has a very Instagram-ish look and the copywriting obviously targets younger tech-savvy consumers. They are clearly seeking new relationships with a specific target consumer. It sure worked on me, and has left me with a new association of “new and fresh” in relation to their branding. I see some pink piña coladas in my near future — and you will probably see them show up on my Instagram feed.
Often, when I talk to industry members about customer loyalty, most want answers as to how to get more from their customers upfront. That is just not how it works, in my experience. Brand loyalty is ultimately about your loyalty to your customers. So I challenge you to think about how you can be more and connect in more meaningful ways with your customers so you can earn their interest, engagement and investment for a lifetime.