Category Archives: Packaging

If you don’t take care of customers, you will get “weeded”

And no, “weeding” in this case doesn’t have anything to do with gardening or the Black Crowes.

In this case, according to Yankelovich MONITOR, it means being “blackballed” for superficiality in favor of substance and accountability.

In today’s world of myriad choices, it’s easier than ever for consumers to walk away from brands, restaurants and retailers that they don’t see as honest. After all, why exert the energy and spend the time when you can walk to the other side of the mall or click to another window and get something better.

It’s remarkable how the wisdom of a cousin in grocery retailing and a five-figure subscription to a consumer trend monitor can overlap. Here’s how Cousin Ron and Yankelovich recommend you improve customer service in order to delight and retain customers:

  1. Hire great people. Restaurants, retailers and manufacturers are all guilty of placing too little emphasis on hiring, training and retaining talented and passionate brand ambassadors. Trust us, your more successful peers and competitors do this. No excuses, now. Fix it.
  2. Remove the word “no” from your vocabulary. You have two choices. Make it happen or be willing to risk the customer moving on to something better.
  3. Don’t wait for them to ask you. If there’s even a slight chance a question might arise, publish an answer to it on your Web site and prepare your people to be able to answer it.
  4. Show caring through customization. Every neighborhood is different. Every market segment is unique. That’s why they’re called neighborhoods and segments-because they’re full of neighbors and segs who want something a little different. Wherever possible and profitable (especially long term), give it to them. It shows you care, and it builds loyalty.

Have a profitable, customer-focused, consumer-friendly day.

Portable + Tasty = Profitable

OK, class, it’s time for equations.

Nature Valley Sweet and Salty Nut Granola Bar + Gatorade G2 = BREAKFAST

Slim Jim + Handi-Snacks Crackers ‘n Cheez + apple = LUNCH

Capri Sun juice pouch + Cheetos snack size bag = AFTERNOON SNACK

There’s no need to get scientific here. If you can make it portable, you’ve just increased your food product’s chances of being relevant to consumers, and thus, purchased by them more often.

We need to make it happen. Especially with food products that are truly commodities. It’s that simple.

There are challenges, though. For example:

  • How do you balance freshness with portability, i.e. how do you make a tasty steak portable?
  • How do you balance “natural” with portability, i.e. how do you cut back on preservatives?

Technology and creativity can help solve these problems. After all, we’ve turned cranberries into a tasty snack called Craisins, made fruit into fun strips and created shelf-stable milk. We should be able to give consumers more protein, fiber and carbohydrate food options for life on the go.

Vacation Odyssey Day Four: Breakfast—The Most Important Snack of the Day

Does it count as a snack if you eat it for breakfast? When does it stop being a snack and become a meal?

A meal should fill one completely. Maybe breakfast is less about filling the tank and more about providing enough fuel for the initial spark that gets the engine going for the day.

If that’s the case, then let’s take a look at some of our favorites, and why they’re our favorite snack and/or brand of snack.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It’s easy. Pretty much everybody likes it. It’s a fantastic family cereal. Cereal, even with added sugar and corn syrup, is hard to beat for a meal, in-between snack or, as designed, for breakfast.

Odwalla Bar! Nourishing Food Bar. Huzzah! Four words: Eight grams of protein. An energy bar that tastes good and still packs a nutrient-rich punch. We like the chocolate chip peanut bar. This bar is also worthy of applause because it’s a natural product-line extension for the people known for being natural, energizing and body-friendly because their juices were rich, tasty, funky and minimally-processed before it was cool. (Available online from Amazon and many grocery stores.)

Pie or brownies. These unbranded little daisies are great vacation breakfast food that’s easy to eat, pleasing to the palate and full of quick energy, plus carbs. There’s a reason why pie is served at rest stops on long bicycle rides. We’ve already seen “breakfast” and “energy” cookies for on-the-go professionals and sportos. Heck, Snickers has an energy candy bar. So we think some smart food marketer should come up with breakfast brownie or pie that has health and energy benefits but plenty of sweetness!

Courtesy gotmilkbottles.com

gotmilkbottles.com

got milk? It’s still a commodity, so we’re not going to lie and say anyone has done a good job of marketing their own brand (except maybe Borden, Shatto-two brands with whom we work-and a select group with an enduring brand, family focus or locally-grown point of differentiation.) But you gotta have the cold, creamy white stuff to complement the snacks we’ve covered above. As Cosmo Kramer would say, “Delicious. Nutritious. Outrageous!”

Vacation Snack Odyssey Day One: Replenishment is Important

Oberto natural beef jerky and a bag of Art and Mary’s potato chips, after a big breakfast at the Famous Serveteria sustained us well. But 200 miles into our 500-mile trip, it was time to top off the gas tank in the Honda Odyssey and top off the road pantry with our favorite snacks. Here are our selections by team member:

The Spoon
The cooler was already loaded with plenty of cold citrus green tea (Big K, the Kroger private label beverage, is a surprisingly good substitute for Lipton when the Dillons market runs out of the name brand). This trip inside the truck stop called for something salty. Oh, yeah: Corn Nuts. It’s vacation. Corn Nuts: For when you’ve got 300 miles to go and you don’t care if your breath smells like dog food.

Try the barbecue-flavored snack size. With a mild taste and 200 calories, it’s a great shot of grain-based energy that awakens the senses and complements a cold beverage SO nicely.

Mama Spoon
After driving the first leg of the early-morning trip, Mama Spoon was ready for a nap, but it wasn’t long after catching a few winks that she was up and downing a quart of G2 from Gatorade.

She has discovered the hydration and electrolyte infusion is the perfect preventative medicine for altitude sickness, which can result in headaches and fatigue.

Little Spoon 1
This pre-teen consumer treats selecting a snack like picking Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club competition. After much deliberation, he picks up a snack-size bag of Doritos QUEST chips. These are the ones that challenge you to guess the flavor and win a prize. So we’re almost to the register, and he changes his mind. He goes back for the Mounds bar, instead. “Why?” you ask.

“Well, the DARK chocolate was too hard to resist,” he says. “And the coconut was a different flavor to throw into the mix.” Note to parents: Don’t let your kids search for “mounds” on the Internet. Specify “mounds candy bars.” We’re not even joking.

Little Spoon 2
There are a couple of reasons why this kid’s nickname is Sweet Tart. One reason is she loves sweet and tangy candy. Sour LifeSavers juicing gummies were an easy choice for her. They come in a bag. They’re not messy.

As a parent, now that you’ll appreciate that they keep a kid pretty busy and quiet for awhile, too.

Pistachios: Nature’s perfect snack food

We’re just hankerin’ to get out on the open road, and our little excursion down Route 66 this week whet our appetite for snack foods. As promised in an earlier post, we’ll chronicle our food finds while on vacation. In the meantime, check out this little beauty from Everybody’s Nuts.

These pistachios come in a bag inside a fun little box. Kids love them.

Here are some fun facts about pistachios. They are indigenous to Iran, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. They are loaded with phytosterols, which promote cardiovascular health. Pistachios grow in bunches on trees, sort of like grapes on a vine. The word pistachio comes from the Italian pistacchio, which is derived from the Latin pistacium, taken from the Greek pistakion.

We just like to shell them and eat them one after another. Remember the red ones? They would get your fingers red. We used to get those at the baseball game or out of a machine.

They’re perfect for a game or watching TV. OK for vacation too, as long as you’re not at the wheel.

Vacation 2008: The snack food frontier

Four days and counting, and the Spoon takes it on the road for a two-week vacation of hiking, fishing, horseback riding, fishing, sleeping, fishing, sightseeing and, of course…driving. Lots and lots of driving.

And nothing goes better with all those activities than all of your favorite snacks. Here’s what the Spoon is packing for the trip:

  • Oberto natural beef jerky
  • Archer Farms real fruit strips (pomegranate is the tastiest)
  • On the Border restaurant-style chips and salsa
  • Odwalla chocolate chip peanut butter snack bars
  • Homemade granola
  • Pink lady apples
  • Roasted, salted pistachios
  • Ocean Spray Craisins
  • Plenty of Lipton diet citrus green tea for the Spoon and Little Spoon 1 (Mama Spoon likes Diet Coke; Little Spoon 2 prefers Harvest Surprise)

It’s always great to stock up on your favorites before you leave town. But part of the fun for a true snackie is checking out regional brands, flavors and preparation methods unique to the areas one is visiting.

There are still a few regional potato chip outfits. For beverages, root beer is a fun one because regional bottlers and microbreweries are keeping the tradition alive. And we might just fall in love again with an old favorite like Doritos or Slim Jims on a 7-11 stop.

Vacation is a perfect time to snack. If you’re active, you’re burning off the calories, and it’s fun to fill your tummy with snack foods during the day so you can save up for a delicious dinner at a local restaurant.

While we’re on the road, we’ll also keep our mind open to ways food marketers can capitalize more fully on the great American road trip.

Meantime, look for guest posts on marketing food to men interspersed with our reports from the road.

And, as always, we want to hear from you. What are your favorite vacation snacks? What’s the most unique food you’ve found on the road that you can’t find anyplace else?

Happy snacking!

Think word of mouth isn’t powerful? Think again, Chester!

What follows is a mostly unscientific and arrestingly informative investigation into the power of a friendly recommendation.

 

A couple days ago, a friend sent us an e-mail. Here’s the original text:

People,
 
I just need to take a moment here to tell you to have some Cheetos. I’m not kidding. I just had a bag, and it was glorious. I seem to have forgotten just how good they are – I generally avoid them because of the post-snacking finger gunk, but now I’m thinking it’s totally worth it. Seriously, I think they might be laced with antidepressants or something, because eating them was blissful.
 
Do yourself a favor. Get a bag.
 
Yours in positive snacking,
DCP

You can read the full post here.

We asked DCP to follow up with his friends and find out their responses and behavior after getting pinged by a friend about a snack brand. The idea was to see how the power of suggestion, when delivered by a friend, could be a powerful influencer.

Here’s what they said:

Friend 1: I’ve gotten Cheetos three times now.
 
Friend 2: I have a bag and yes, they are pretty darn good!

Friend 3: High fructose corn syrup friend…enjoy that coursing through your veins…..but I’m not condemning you…it makes me want some…Munchos did that for me a few weeks ago.

Friend 4: I LOVE CHEETOS. It’s the ingredients that keep me away – but the occasional cheeto spree is a necessity! (This is actually the same person ate Cheetos three times after getting the initial e-mail.)

Friend 5: You should go get yourself a bag of the Jalapeno Cheddar. CRACK IN A BAG. Wait a minute… doesn’t crack come in a bag anyways? Eh whatever, what do I know, just go get some! Cheetos that is.

Friend 6: I’m on board, DCP. I had a similar experience a couple years ago. Cheetos are the first thing I choose in the chip aisle and the only thing I choose to go with a sub sandwich.

Friend 7: I would have to say the crunchy are the best. I don’t think the crispy are very good.

Friend 8: Did you get the puffy or crunchy kind?  I myself am fond of the crunchy kind, though every day in highschool I ate the puffy kind.

Friend 9: Cheetos are good to eat. I also love Cool Ranch Doritos.

These comments represent really strong responses from nearly 20 percent of the recipient list. Not bad considering the cost (naught but time). Especially since these friends are reinforcing each other’s love for the brand each time they hit send.

Find out more about how to harness the power of the words of a friend by sending a shout-out of your own to thespoonful@shscom.com. We’ll put you in touch with our friends who know how to get your targets’ friends talking about your brand.

BTW, the Spoon’s response:

Fingers are for licking off. Pass the salty orange goodness!

And, yes, a couple people compared the product to drugs because they think they’re so good. We don’t condone illegal drug use and may have chosen better words ourselves, but please take it as a compliment. Thanks.

What is your favorite brand of yogurt and why?

What yogurt gets your tastebuds poppin’ and your energy level hoppin’?

Use the comment link below! We want to know.

Identification: The Breakfast of Marketing Champions

Great things come in threes. They’re easier to remember that way. Like Tom Asacker’s  three primary brand relationships from his book A Clear Eye for Branding.

It goes like this, from weakest to strongest:

  • The bottom tier is compliance. I buy your product because it’s the only one or because you give me a coupon.
  • The middle tier is identification. I buy your product because I identify with the celebrity you use to promote it.
  • The top tier, the pantheon of brands, is internalization. I buy your brand because its values mirror my own and you are now an integral part of my life.

As marketers, we ought to aspire to at least that middle tier: identification. It has its risks, e.g. your superstar spokesperson gets caught doping or living in a way counter to the brand image.

But it’s worked for Wheaties over the years. With heroes like Kevin Garnett, Jackie Robinson, Mary Lou Retton and, my favorite, Bruce Jenner, gracing the box, it’s hard to go wrong.

No matter your product, there is a way to make it identify with your audience through someone they know and/or relate to.

Lest you say, “I don’t have the dough-re-mi to pay a superstar,” consider this: It’s not just celebrities. The concept of identification works with “real” people, too. Think about how to unlock the power of testimonials and endorsements from people who will get your prospect’s attention.

It’s the emotional connection they feel, coupled with the association between your brand and the endorser’s perceived success that increases loyalty among your targets. It might be Michael Jordan. Or it might be the next, as yet undiscovered, Rachael Ray.

This might not be the right strategy for you. Drop us a line if you need help thinking through it.

And keep reaching for the top tier, where your brand’s values mirror those of your target such that he or she internalizes them and believes there is no alternative to you. This requires a relationship based on communication and outreach. Don’t expect them to come to you.

Note to beverage bottlers:

Please don’t fill those bottles right up to the top.

I won’t miss the extra two tablespoons. And my shirts and pants will stay drier and cleaner.

Thanks.