Earlier this month, we took a deep dive into how brands can keep their communications strategy healthy in the lead up to the HFSS (high fat, salt or sugar) products promotion ban.
Since then, due to the on-going cost-of-living crisis the UK Government has made the decision to make a U-turn and delay some of the proposed promotion restrictions coming into effect until late next year.
This decision has been greeted with a real mixed response, some have celebrated that the proposed ban to BOGOF (Buy one Get One Free) offers has fallen through as it will help consumers cut supermarket shopping bills.
Whilst a host of healthier food brands who specialise in creating low-sugar and low-calorie snacks such as The Collective Dairy and Snackzilla have joined forces to write a letter to the Prime Minister in protest of the HFSS U-turn, suggesting they have been punished by the decision and it will lead to major food brands “swamping” the public with unhealthy food. Which will ultimately allow unhealthy cheaper brands to profit and flourish all whilst worsening the obesity crisis the UK faces.
We’ve also seen major supermarket chains falling on either side of the postponement ruling, with Sainsbury’s and Tesco opting to stick with the Government’s original October deadline to focus on making healthier food more affordable, whilst Morrisons have said that they will keep up deals on BOGOF offers through the cost-of-living crisis.
With the industry divided, there is a real need for brands to provide consumers with educational, clear and concise messages about their products and what their brand stands for. It perhaps isn’t too strong to suggest that if brands can engage audiences at this difficult time, there is an opportunity to secure brand advocates for life.
But how can brands engage with existing audiences and create relationships with new demographics?
Choose a side and stick with it
Decide is your brand for or against the HFSS delay, or is the obesity crisis something you can have a direct impact on? Don’t be afraid to be bold and talk about the issues at hand if there’s an authentic connection to your brand values. Consumers value brands that talk openly, or act, they are more likely to create an emotional connection and over time, convert to brand loyalists. Being a part of the debate also means you increase your share of voice in an extremely competitive, saturated FMCG marketplace – stand out from the crowd and increase your relevancy.
Make sure you stick with this view over time, so consumers see it’s a genuine stance. Brands should be warned that jumping on a topic or a conversation to weigh once or twice isn’t enough. Consumers need to see you ‘walk the walk’ and provide consistent support over time to have the desired effect.
In times of uncertainty and fluctuating inflation rates, price increases are inevitable. if you have to up your prices, it’s ok – but just be honest about it. Transparency with your customers is everything. There’s enough negativity towards brands seen to be profiteering in the wrong circumstances.
Respect that your consumers are smart intelligent individuals who, if you share your supply chain or the true reason as to why you’ve had to increase your prices, will accept this reasoning and continue to respect and buy into your brand.
Trust and sincerity with your audience is everything- don’t jeopardise it because of a fear of open, real communication.
Use a multi-channel ‘community’ approach
Times have changed and peer to peer advocacy now holds the power to decide what’s popular and which brands get exposure and airtime.
That means a brands’ community can now define its ‘value’ – messaging strategies that are clear, but community focussed will be those that really win at times like these. Brands need to look at their entire ecosystem and ensure they are including community activations, channels and different ways to grow engagement via digital, and in real life.
Making sure your messaging is consistent across all these disciplines is crucial. Whether a consumer visits your website, social or attends a brand event – all touchpoints should bring it back to that same message to ensure it resonates. It’s vital people know who you are and what you stand for, and ultimately whether yours is a community they would like to be a part of.
If you’re a brand in the Food and Drink industry and interested in hearing more about how a PR strategy could help your brand navigate the HFSS U-turn, get in touch today.