As part of Vitafoods Europe 2021, Gillian Fish, CEO at The 6AM Agency will share her expertise on the topic of ‘Leveraging 'Corpsumer communication' for brand leadership’. Ahead of her presentation, she joined us and commented on:
- The socio-cultural trends are impacting health and nutritional product categories in this pandemic era; and how these trends are influencing marketing and communications strategies for raw material and finished goods brands
- What is a ‘Corpsumer communication’ strategy and how has it been influenced by thought leadership? And what are the foundational strategies and tactics for a successful Corpsumer communications strategy?
- The tools brands need to get started with a Corpsumer communications approach
- ESOV and measurement metrics to assess ROI
For more information on the value of Corpsumer communications, check out Gillian’s article here. For further information, make sure to tune in for Gillian’s keynote presentation as part of our Vitafoods Europe this September 27.
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Welcome to the Vitafoods Insights podcast. Join us as we explore the latest science innovation, helping the global health and nutrition industry connect, develop and progress. Today's host is Natalia Franca Rocha, content producer.
Hello, and welcome to another Vitafoods Insights podcast episode. I'm delighted to be joined today by Gillian Fish who is the CEO at The 6AM Agency. Gillian is also a member of the Vitafoods Insights content advisory board. Thanks for joining me today, Gillian.
Thank you for having me Natalia.
Gillian is presenting a Vitafoods Europe this year where she will be talking about 'Leveraging corpsumer communication for brands leadership'. Ahead of her talk, she's joining us today to give our listeners an idea of what to expect from her presentation. So to start us off, Gillian, can you tell us what social cultural trends are impacting health and nutritional products categories in this pandemic era?
Yes, indeed, Natalia, what a very interesting time to be talking about this, as we move through the time of COVID. During this time, of course, many people have lost their loved ones, loved jobs, and been in lockdown as we have been in Australia for months on end, which is mean that we're doing work from home, we're doing home schooling; we are living through any period of intense change, particularly what's happening in our lives at home. And with that, we've seen increased levels of anxiety, we've seen huge disruption across the board. So what does that mean then? The top trends that we're seeing, approximately six of them that we refer to in our work all the time, are trends, which are really influencing the ways brands be there brand holders, finished products, oral materials suppliers, talk with their consumers, during this time as audience needs have changed. So the first shift that we've seen, number one, is the evolution of what we call from business to consumer, to business to humans. And why do we say that? If you take our homes for example, as I said, we're now working from home, we're homeschooling, we're doing so much more in our home, and the lines have been blurred between what we're doing at home and at work. And therefore we need to see the consumer, as a holistic person, not as a consumer, not as a member of a sports club, but as a whole human who has a personal life, a professional life, a family life and all of those responsibilities. And we are therefore empowered, and it is responsible of us to look at them in a more holistic way when we're talking with them. Secondly, is around what we call the trust factor. Trust has eroded overall, we've seen trust, we don't know what's going to be happening tomorrow. Our governments are leading us, we're not sure about, some of us are not sure about the vaccines, some of us are not sure about what the future holds. And with that comes the need for us to all be focusing towards people, towards brands, towards organisations that we can actually trust. We're looking for information that empowers us and empowers our health, we're wanting credible, unbiased information that can really lead us through this time. The third cultural shift that we're seeing is that around empowered well being. An informed consumer, as most of us are now, we've been searching on the internet, to find out more about our health, about how to build our immune systems, and so forth. An informed consumer really is already making choices, to be healthier, to be stronger, to have a stronger immune system. And therefore they are empowered in the searches that they doing, in the information that they're seeking, in the education that they want. And therein lies an opportunity and a key moment for brands to evolve. We need to as brand holders give them a reason to believe, we need to give them a context that is deeper than just a product sale, because our audiences are now seeking information from leaders in the category. And those are the brands that they're going to be leaning towards. The next cultural shift that we're seeing is those of a seeking value. Value that comes not only from the products and the ingredients that we use, the efficacy, the convenience, affordability, and importantly the accessibility; but also the education which empowers us. So anything that gives us additional value, when the brand that we connect with, that we relate to, is going to put us in a pole position where an audience, a consumer is going to lean more towards us, brand A, versus, brand B, if they feel that is, there is a deep sense of value exchange. Another cultural shift is this: is the importance about making meaning, we call it purpose in our brands, because we all now are seeking more meaning and purpose in our lives. For let's face it, a year and a half ago, when the pandemic started, we were all catapulted into a moment where we had to say ourselves, are we going to survive? How are we going to get through this? it was all about the unknown. And many of us have therefore, taken a step back, slowed down and say to ourselves, what legacy do we want to leave? What is our real purpose? What do we want to focus on? Now more than ever, and what that means is, is that as brand holders, what we need to be doing, is acknowledging that; being aware that audiences, consumers are looking for more than just product sales, they're looking for an engagement, which gives them meaning. And last, but not least of one of the key trends that we're seeing is we're living obviously in an age of uncertainty, with thrown into snap lockdown, certainly in Australia and around the world, as infections rise, and so forth. We are needing to be in supermarkets for far shorter time. We are pressurised at home because we've got homeschooling, as we've said, we've got work from home and so forth. And therefore what that means in an age of uncertainty, it means we want shorter, sharper, more convenient experiences, rather than long term investments. We, for example, don't know when we're going to be going on holiday. Yes, we're coming out of lockdown, apparently, October 18. But what will happen then? So in this age of uncertainty, what, as brand holders, we need to do, is we need to make sure when we're communicating with our audiences, that we keep that in view. A shorter term approach to things obviously, from a health and well being, we want to build long term immunity. But certainly when we're looking at foods and experiences, it is that age of uncertainty, which is making those shorter, sharp experiences, but they all must be supported by trust, be authentic, and be transparent. So I think that that really summarises the top trends that are influencing our audience behaviour.
This is so interesting, thanks for sharing, Gillian. But tell me, how are these trends influencing marketing and communications strategies for raw material and finished goods brands?
Well, I think the number one point that we need to keep in view is evolution from business to consumer, to business to human. We need to know, as marketers, on brand holders or raw material suppliers that we need to deal with and we need to understand better their state of health, of well being, of a whole human. So for example, if we used to be targeting sports people, those sports people now with energy supplements, for example, or natural anti inflammatories, for joint health, right? In the past, we used to focus of them on them as runners. Now we need to understand them as a whole human; they are at home, they are living with their families in close quarters. As I said, I repeat it again, likely have their children if they're in lockdown, they are expending extended time at home. The exercise is slightly different. We've just seen with the Tokyo Olympics, that we couldn't even have spectators. So what has happened to the way they are running the duration of their run? So we shouldn't only from a natural anti inflammatory perspective, if we are looking at a supplement, for example, or an energy product, consider them only as a sports person; we need to consider them as a father or mother, as a sister, as a guardian and so forth, and take the change in their lifestyle. Be they're doing shorter runs, less marathons, because there are limitations as to how far we can go from our homes, for example, as we have now in Australia. All of those things need to be taken into account. And we need to re-engineer our marketing. Now that is a short term focus. So we need to keep our finger on the pulse as how things are evolving. The second thing is we need to make sure that the way we interact with audiences is different. We are spending at least 50% of our time online. So if traditionally we were in magazines and taking ads in magazines, it is unlikely that people are going out to buy those, particularly if they're living in a lockdown situation. We need to make sure that our digital ecosystem is absolutely 100% waterproof. We need to make sure that our digital ecosystems are 100% solid. So that when our audiences are coming in to find out more information about an ingredient, or about a product when they are landing on our page, we satisfy them, remember with they want to be empowered with the right information. We need to make sure that we sharp in the channels that they are playing in, at the right time, in the right way. And importantly, through all of this, we must make sure that we are positioning the brand in a leadership perspective, be it an ingredient, albeit the brand overarching, that we always show that we have quality, that we've got trust, and that we are giving them content that they regularly consume, whilst they're quarantining, or whatever they're doing. And hearing comes the topic of the evolution of what we call traditionally thought leadership that has now evolved into what we call, in our agency, corpsumer communications, which we'll talk about a little bit in depth later.
Yes, corpsumer communications is actually the topic of your presentation for Vitafoods Europe 2021. So now diving into a little bit more into this topic, can you explain to us what is corpsumer communication strategy? And how has it been influenced by thought leadership?
Great question and something that we are very, very passionate about in our agency. Thought Leadership in itself has often been considered the domain of business to business communications, of organisations at a higher corporate level. But the reality is, is that thought leadership is an opportunity for all types of organisations, including communications to business to consumer, and what are the hallmarks of those? The hallmarks of those is that we come in with our communication from the corpsumer way, is to be delivered with the stature and the intent to build trust and leadership, just like we have dealt with it when we have been doing business to business communications. So what it does from a corpsumer perspective is, it extends from strategic differentiation, using a proof point that demonstrates a differentiator, that for consumers, not only talking to business to business stakeholders. So those principles are now increasingly being included within the consumer communication. So essentially, aptly named corpsumer, that is the marriage of corporate communications, with consumer communications, uses the pillars of stature, that build trust and reputation for an informed consumer in the way we used to talk to business to business. So we know that the days of excess time, excess dollars to spend are over, right? Audiences, consumers are seeking far more for less, and it needs to be more valuable, it needs to be trusted, needs to be reliable. And again, those are all principles of traditional thought leadership or business to business communications that are now being used as the hallmark of excellent communications in a time where we want to empower consumer that are seeking knowledge in a time of disruption, and they want to build to rely on brand holders. And that is really what corpsumer communications are about.
And what are the foundational strategies and tactics for a successful corpsumer communication strategy?
Well, I'll outline about 8 or 9 for you very, very quickly. And these are the fundamentals of the consumer campaign, which is delivered successfully. So firstly, and foremost, we have to find for the brand, the ingredient or the brand holder, the finished goods brand holder, a distinctive narrative. And what does that mean? It means we need to find a clear gap, or clear air space for a story that they can own. That is not something that is owned by a competitor or being used elsewhere. It is a narrative that can be owned and it is deliverable; it must be able to be delivered. So we can't have a story that the business actually can't deliver on. And if we find that distinctive narrative, that gap in all the plethora of communications that are out there, it will deliver prominence for the brand, and that really is how cult products and cult brands are born; it's to find that distinctive gap in the marketplace of storytelling to take to the audience, to consumers. Secondly, we need to understand our audience's needs. We need to ensure that we understand what matters to our audience because there's no point in us sharing a story that doesn't matter to audiences, right? Audiences are under huge pressure, I don't need to repeat the lives that we're living at the moment, enormous change and prioritisation of things which are important to us. So once we understand that need, we then need to come up with a communication set that is relevant, it's appropriate, and it delivers a value exchange because remember, what we want to do is we want to help in our industry, empower people to achieve optimal health. So we need to sell health empowerment ideas within that, not specific product benefits in the first instance. And if our information is valuable, that is relevant for our audience needs, our buyers will ultimately come to us. The third foundational strategy and tactic is the evidence of trust, which I think I've spoken about quite a bit before. And one of the great tools that we have in this industry is scientific evidence, right? When we've got a great clinical study or meta analysis or something, that is the most powerful proof point for building trust. But remember that trust needs to be layered into all aspects of the brand, right from what we do internally, within our own businesses, as brand holders, we need to have trust within our businesses, within our employees and all of our suppliers and stakeholders. And it needs to then evolve to trust within the manufacturing process and across the entire supply chain. Now, I always say, you know, trust is built over many, many years, but it can be destroyed in minutes, so we must guard it as our most precious asset. But if we can build trust in corpsumer communications, we will have our audiences for a long time, quality and engaging and so our businesses will grow. Then another tactic, tactic number four, is addressing a specific need. And what do we need for that? We want to focus in corpsumer communications be single minded. Remember, we've wanted to develop that distinctive narrative, we want to go for an opportunity where there's clear air space, and in addressing a specific need, if the product or ingredient is proven to support sleep, for example, we need to focus on that narrative and repeat it over and over again, in multiple different ways with the same key messaging across many channels, until it becomes automatically associated with a perception of the brand. So for example, if there is a product that has got andrographis in it, and it is immune supporting and it has been built over years and years and years of being a product or an ingredient that supports immune health, don't go and change that. Stick with that, stick with story and stick with one specific need or two specific needs to be single minded and really ensure that you have a leadership position within that corpsumer communications programme. Number five is earn the respect of key opinion leaders and I cannot stress this enough. One of our secret weapons with all of the work that we do in our corpsumer communications for our clients, is to make sure that we develop quality, long term relationships on behalf of our clients with powerful, highly respected key opinion leaders across the industry. So for example, if we're working with an ingredient that is related to heart health, we've make sure that we've got relationships with two or three of the very best integrative cardiologists that there are to work with, and a pharmacist if we are working in fertility. So for example, if there's an ingredient or a brand or product has got a strong position in fertility, what we do is, we develop accordingly with key opinion leaders in that space, and then we leverage that. We get them speaker opportunities, we get content, opportunities and so forth. Number six is driving recognition with multiple stakeholders. Corpsumer communications are mirror exactly what a traditional thought leadership campaign is about, an inner thought leadership campaign, we call it a thought leadership will. There are multiple stakeholder touch points that we just keep on connecting with every few months to repeat our story. So the first is start within the organisation, make sure your biggest advocates are within your organisation and employee communications programme that knows what the key messages are, that we are going to be sharing with our consumers externally. Because after all, remember, we are now talking business to humans. They are all mothers, they are fathers, they are consumers, etc and they can be your biggest mouthpiece. Secondly, is market your consumer distinctive point of view so that it has an all pervasive narrative with external stakeholders. And who are those? investors, local area government, the media, the media have an insatiable appetite now for quality information that is going to empower their audiences about how to stay healthy, how to help support mental wellbeing, sleep strategies and so forth. Of course, also go out to the local organisations be in our industry, complementary medicines Australia, or consumer health products Australia, make sure that you organise opportunities with the local medical education organisations for each of those drive recognition of your story. And from that comes multiple opportunities. then absolutely critically, and this is dear to my heart. We practice this our own agency from ground zero, we need to show 100% transparency at all times. So we know that trust is built on transparency and we spoken about trust being the backbone of corpsumer communications, as it is with thought leadership. If we look at our industry, we know that traceability is absolutely fundamental. And all brands, raw materials, suppliers, etc, are trying their best, it's a very difficult job, to trace from soil to capsule, for example, or soil to bottle. So, whatever we do, we have to ensure that we have got 100% transparency throughout the supply chain. And remember, if we don't know something, say so openly admitted with sincerity, because in this day and age in any communication, how we talk to our teams, or our suppliers or the media: 100% authenticity, honesty and transparency are inextricably linked. Finally, importantly, we need to commit to making a difference. Brands that lead with purpose that is relevant to their audience, be their raw material suppliers or finished goods brand holders are destined to build stronger relationships with their audiences than those who focus solely on the bottom line. We must all as humans, in business and personal life, focus on helping others make life better, be through committing to the UN sustainability goals or against modern slavery etc. So those then, just to recap, the foundational strategies and tactics for successful corpsumer communications are: develop that distinctive, unique narrative; understand your audience needs; have evidence for trust, scientific evidence is a great tool that we have in this industry to work with; address a specific need; and importantly, earn the respect of key opinion leaders; drive recognition with multiple stakeholders; show 100% authenticity and transparency; and then, of course, commit to making a difference, which we need to do as human beings as we need to do as businesses and brand holders.
Thanks for that, Gillian. Now, with our audience in mind, can you share with us a little bit more if that is one trend to take note of the influences all others, which is that and why?
Natalia, that is a great question. I get asked that often. And my view is this, is if we start with understanding how our audiences evolved, from being described as business to consumer, to business to human, understanding what they are going through as human beings, not just how they are when they purchase our product; how they relate it in their homes? How their lives have changed? Their fears, their hopes, their vision for the future. If we understand all of that, then we'll have a cascade effect of the other pillars of consumer communications, which we need to keep in view. So to answer your question, I believe that it's number one: the evolution from business to consumer, to business to human and our understanding of our audiences' evolution, is the fundamental change that we need to keep in view.
And what tools, exaclty, do brands need to get started with a cop smart communication approach?
I think that number one is working hard to find that distinctive point of view. And how do we do that? We do social listening. We listen to our audiences, we listen to what our customers are saying. We look at where the sciences, we look at the development of new products. And once we research all of that, and we couple it with the trends, then will be able to find that clear airspace as we call it. Secondly, get to grips with your audience don't just go in and say they're going to be interested in X, Y, and Z, when in fact, there are so poles apart. As soon as we get to understand what matters to our audiences as a deeper level, we'll be able to be more successful with that, with the work that we do. Importantly, we also need to understand how to gather that information and what channels to use. We have to have a good understanding, and I'll use an example. Believe it or not, TikTok is taking off big time in the health and wellbeing industry. If you'd asked us 12 months ago, if we thought it was a serious channel to look at, we would have said you likely not you know, it's just flippant, and so forth. So it's about understanding all of the platforms and channels that our audiences playing, and meeting them in those with relevant information.
Now, I'm sure our listeners would be very interested to also know what is ESOV and why does it matter? Can you share more of that with us?
Yes, I can do and thank you for asking that question. ESOV or Essential Share of Voice, as we call it, is absolutely fundamental to commercial success in business, any business, it doesn't matter if we're in cars, or travel, or in our great industry, which is health and well being, nutraceuticals, nutrition, supplements, and so forth. And in our agency we are, I can actually say, obsessed with making sure that we deliver a genuine commercial impact from our work. So communication is not just about getting share voice, which is a traditional marketing term. But it is that essential, an extra share of voice that gives any work that we do, that extra push to be successful for the client. So it needs to cut through what we call the hyper connected, multi channel noise that consumers navigate today. I'm sure all of our audiences, myself included, know that we look at hundreds and hundreds of pieces of content; we wake up in the morning, we might look at Instagram, we read the newspaper, we look at LinkedIn, we're looking at it emails, etc., right? So it literally is an overflow and a hyper connected experience that we have. So what we've got to do, that essential or extra share a voice, is about stimulating a person to act or feel something that makes him feel they've got an affinity with your brand. And when they've got the affinity, then what they will do is you will ultimately find if it's delivered through the right channels, you'll start to live it and feel that extra share of voice and you'll start to feel the communications and the corpsumer communications really start to snowball, and accelerate.
And what measurement metrics can we use to access return of investments (ROI)?
I think that this is actually one of the most critical questions because when a brand holder be at a raw material supplier, or a finished goods brand holder invests, they've got to be able to see that return on investment. And the only way to do that is to have a benchmark of measurement metrics. So obviously, it stands to reason you've got to start to see an increase in awareness. It's important in corpsumer communications to make sure that the measurement metrics are in place. So that the brand holder be they finished goods or raw material supplier actually gets a return on investment. It stands to reason that awareness will definitely increase if the job has been done well. But also with corpsumer communications, we measure through an increase in reputation, through respect, and through recognition of the brand across multiple channels and stakeholders that we start to see the performance of those campaigns and those communication strategy rarely delivering results. We also need to measure it through trust, as I said, effective share of voice, traffic to website is absolutely critical, impressions when we are looking at it from a social perspective and also when we're looking at from a media outreach perspective. So which media are taking up the story? Or publishing the story in whichever way we presented to them? And how many impressions do they have? Are their tier one media? Are they tier two media? Lead Generation, of course, is important. How are we driving sales? How are we driving engagement? Of course, importantly, is it number of times that a customer comes back to buy a product, so retained customers. Deepening of existing shareholder relationships are absolutely key. And last but not least, a simple one: key message retention; if we all have created that distinctive, unique story, and we've got key message around it, how many times do we have to repeat that and to people know and start to remember that that is the proposition of the product? And that's what we call key message retention. So those are really the key measurement metrics that we use in order to define if a corpsumer communications campaign is successful. What I would like to say is, it doesn't happen overnight. It needs investment, and it needs repetition. Every few months, we repeat the cycle, we pull all the levers of corpsumer communication programme, so that we keep on repeating and eventually that message gets through.
Thanks for sharing more with us today. Gillian, I'm sure you will unpack many more important insights during a presentation at vitafoods Europe. For our listeners interested in tuning in for Gillian's talk. Her presentation will become available on demand on the 27th of September 2021 at 1pm Central European summer time (CEST). If you're interested in registering for this and other sessions, please visit vitafoods.eu.com where you can learn more about the event and register for free. The link is also available in the show notes. So once you've registered as a visitor, you'll be able to explore the full programme and tune into Gillian's session. Well, Gillian, thank you so much for joining me today. It's been a pleasure having you on the show, and I'm really looking forward to your presentation later this month.
Thank you Natalia. And thank you to your audience, too.