First we had Horsegate.
Now we’ve got a survey suggesting that mothers don’t cook from scratch any more.
You’ve got to wonder why the food industry is wasting its best opportunity for decades to change consumer behaviour – and I’ve got to ask: Where are the marketers in all of this?
Let me being with one very basic, and slightly sideline, point.
Today is International Women’s Day. I find it depressingly interesting that the survey into British cooking habits conducted by Change4Life and reported in the Telegraph (plus other outlets) looks at mother’s cooking habits.
I thought that we’d maybe moved on as a nation to a point where men not only knew what a saucepan was, but how to use it as well.
Are we thus to assume from this report that a mother’s place is in the home, wedded to the stove? Are we still in the 1950s?
I leave you to draw your own conclusions. On with the main show.
The food industry is facing unparalleled turmoil.
Horsegate (which I covered here) has left many people unnerved by the prospect that their food not only contains something that they wouldn’t choose to eat, but by the fact that they can’t trust the packing promise any more either.
In fact, the whole food contamination issue has seen consumers changing their habits and heading to the vegetarian alternative aisle.
This means one thing. And I’m going to use a bloody great big font to underline the point.
Consumers are open to changing their behaviour
Marketing is all about creating behavioural change.
I talk about behavioural change a lot on this blog. Check out this post about why moving my kitchen bin reveals a deeply hidden marketing truth.
Here’s another post about marketing as behavioural change in the trust economy.
I shall stop being so self-referential. You get my point.
Marketers work hard to create the conditions for behavioural change, for overcoming barriers, to changing patterns of thought and action.
It’s what we do.
With the Horsegate scandal, consumers are changing their behaviour – with no prompting from us.
All of the normal barriers we’re faced with, habit, perception etc, are being washed away in a flood of damaging, negative press.
So why is no-one capitalising on this?
If the consumer cognitive momentum is already moving in favour of alternative food stuffs and alternative sources of that food, why is there no work nudging them in the direction that they’re already moving?
It is easier to push a car that’s already moving than try to deflect one that’s rolling towards you. Trust me, I’ve tried.
Now we’re told that children are being fed prepackaged, processed, food because mothers lack confidence and time.
To brands, this should send a clear signal.
Forget acting as the purveyor of food stuffs.
Start acting as the enabler of great food.
Teach, if that’s what it takes.
Combat perceptions, show alternatives. Push knowledge, content, engagement.
Understand the mindset of the customer, understand why they don’t feel confident or enabled, then take steps to remedy that.
Which brings me to my last point:
Where are the marketers?
As much as marketing’s all about data, creative, audience insight and cool stuff, it’s also about getting out of the ivory tower, taking a gut-feel pulse of what’s going on around the brand and then acting on that.
Marketers should be taking the understandings of horsegate, low confidence and high time pressures and devising flexible, agile solutions that cut right to the heart of consumer behaviour.
But, you know what? I don’t see any of this happening.
All I see as a shopper is the same old same. Hawking of product. BOGOF. Nothing inspirational.
Why are marketers not giving their brands the greatest service possible and positioning them to make a real difference to the lives of their consumers?
If you can answer that, let me know. Because I can’t.
All I smell is conservative fear – which I can’t understand.
An opportunity like this won’t come again.
Three things the UK food industry needs to do today:
1) Grow some balls and push back against Horsegate with finely honed, customer focussed creative which positions new opportunities and capitalises on the behaviour change that’s already happening.
2) Act now to become an enabler brand, helping your customers (be they mothers, fathers, care-givers or just harassed DINKYs) to eat cheaply and well.
3) If you don’t know how to do the above, get in contact with me. Because I have the ideas and I’ll be happy to consult for you.
So there we have it.
The UK is primed for a food revolution, and savvy marketers should be leading the way.
But the opportunity is being wasted.
And anyone who cares about what they eat, and cares as deeply as I do about the marketing industry, should be up in arms about it.
Neil Hopkins is a Marketing and Branding Theorist at heart, and a Marketing Communications Manager by day. His blog – interacter – is the primary location he shares insight and information relating to marketing, branding and advertising strategy.
You can follow Neil on Twitter, circle him (like an escaped bull) on Google+ or track him down in any number of other ways.
Feature image from RoadsidePictures on Flickr.