To Win in 2016, Let Consumers Personalize Your Brand Experience


Blah, blah, blah. We’ve all heard about personalization for years. In the nineties, credit card companies launched new products with options and features that you could combine to make your very own “perfect” credit card. So, many of us had credit cards in our wallets with pictures of our dogs or kids and, we even chose our preferred payment date.

But, this is 2016 (well, just about), and companies have exploded on to the scene with major success mainly because they allow consumers to personalize, not products, but experiences.

Take Blue Apron for example. In June, the Company announced a $135 million dollar VC raise at a valuation of close to $2 BILLION dollars. So, what is Blue Apron? According to the company, it’s a grocery delivery service that now delivers over 3 million meals per month to US consumers.

Ask any Blue Apron customer – and by the way, their customers cut across multiple generations and consumer sets — and they will tell you that they love Blue Apron because it gives them a chance to use their Blue Apron deliveries to create their own meals, exactly the way they want them.

The ingredients and an easy to follow recipe guide are all delivered by Blue Apron but, ultimately, the customer has to put those ingredients together, in their own kitchen, using their own kitchen tools, and their own skills.. Each Blue Apron package has three recipes, for three meals, and each meal is 30 minutes to an hour of kitchen time. It’s a culinary experience in a box, not just a collection of curated ingredients. And, based on the growth of the meal delivery service, they tripled their volume between January and June of 2015. In short: consumers LOVE it!

What Blue Apron has learned and leveraged is that if they can get a customer to engage with a product (in this case a meal service) they will make it their own. Hence, personalizing it while building loyalty.

So, what can CPG brands learn from the success of companies like Blue Apron?

1) Let Consumers Make Your Product Their Own

Traditional food CPG brands can certainly do the same. Why couldn’t Perdue collaborate with Hunt’s and Ronzoni to create a “Dinner in a Box”? These food brands could create programs where their products are shipped to a consumer along with recipe ideas and fixings to create a great meal. This idea does not just extend to food. Think about a cosmetic brand doing the same. They could curate “looks” and create packaged kits along with how-to instructions to create the look on their own and personalizing the experience!

2) Encourage Consumers To Create Content

Once consumers make your product their own via these type of Blue Apron experiences, they have a natural inclination to create content to “show off” their creations. Take a look at Blue Apron’s Facebook page with its over 1 million fans to see the thousands of consumer generated photos of their meal recipes

3) Give Consumers a Reason to Share Their Love

Consumers want to look smart, creative etc. Once they love your brand, give them a reason to give their friends a chance to try it. Think referral programs! Blue Apron has a robust referral program that gives their customers points and free meal credits for referring friends to sign up for the service.

I’d love to hear about other brands that are personalizing their brand experiences. Please share them in the comments below. Here’s to a successful (and personal) 2016!

This post originally appeared in MediaPost’s Marketing:CPG on December 14, 2015.

How Food Brands Can Win Over Female Shoppers






It’s a typical Tuesday evening at Jackie’s house in Madison, Wisc. Jackie, 36, is watching her daughter, Lucy, 6 ,and son, James, 5, push their dinner around their plates. “Why aren’t you eating? Jackie asks. “Because you make the same thing all the time. Can’t we have something different for dinner?” Lucy asks.

Jackie isn’t alone. According to our recent survey, the number one meal-time challenge faced by women is boredom. Yes, boredom. Not cost or lack of time. Those are lower on the list. Women are bored and their families are bored with their meals.

The same survey uncovered some surprising insights about food including snacking, social media and influences on food purchases. These insights reveal opportunities for brands to step up their efforts to engage and win with female shoppers.

Food Study Key Insights:

1. Boredom (50%) is the #1 meal-time challenge faced by women, followed by varying tastes among family members (43%); cost of ingredients (42%) and lack of ideas for cooking healthy, good-tasting food (41%); conflicting schedules (30%); and lack of meal prep time (27%).

2. Guilty pleasures are enjoyed across all age groups, but millennials indulge with many more guilty pleasures (candy, chocolate, ice cream etc.) vs. other age groups. The item that remains a “guilty pleasure” favored across generations is ice cream.

3. Social Media: Food is a very popular topic on social: a large majority (74%) of women post or share food-related content on social media. Recipes (61%) are the most heavily shared type of content.

4. Women visit #1 Pinterest and #2 Facebook for meal inspiration i.e., recipe ideas and discovery. They turn to Instagram to show off their creations.

5. Influence on Purchase: The opinions of family and friends are most influential when women are deciding to purchase particular foods: 50% of women say family/friend opinions are very influential, following by 38% saying reviews by consumers like themselves and 38% saying information on product packaging is what they pay attention to. Least influential? Celebrity endorsements (with 73% of women say they are not influential at all) and advertising.

Food Opportunities Revealed:

1. Women are willing to make the time to prepare good food, but need tastier recipes (especially for healthy food), more ideas, and suggestions for pleasing different palates in one meal as lack of appeal is a bigger issue than lack of time. Brands can provide customers with recipes in a variety of formats, including video, as well as platforms, including Pinterest. A full 78% of respondents said that they visited food brand’s social pages in order to find recipes and tips.

2. Since boredom is such an issue, the response to boredom is just as challenging. What are the options? Takeout? Order in? A major opportunity exists for brands to make their food interesting and exciting to target customers. Drilling deeper in the survey, women tell us that what they crave from brands are product tips and tricks/recipes.

3. As for influencing purchase, brands should consider soliciting consumer product reviews from brands and prompt customers to share their love for their brand/product with their friends and family through a variety of medium including social media.

4. Sample It! Women said that a positive experience with a sample (50%) is most likely to prompt purchase. Brands should consider targeted sampling in order to get tasty samples into the hands of bored consumers “looking for food inspiration.” Coupons also inspire sampling. In fact, 83% of surveyed respondents said that they visit food brand social pages in order to get access to coupons and discounts.

Also worth noting is that there are many opportunities for brands to distinguish themselves on social: only 10% of women feel that any particular brand is doing a better job of engaging them than any other. With food continuing to be a popular topic on social for women of all ages, food marketers can distinguish themselves on social by actively engaging, encouraging more sharing and providing more ideas for them to chew on.

Infographic: The Snack Brands and Foods Moms Really Reach For

Low-carb diets may still bring a lot of buzz, but when women need a snack, they’re three times more likely to reach for chips, pretzels and crackers over protein-rich choices like cheese and yogurt.

We conducted a survey exclusively for Adweek of U.S women ages 18 and older to see what kinds of snack foods they routinely pick for themselves and their children—and which brands they buy the most. See the full story here.