Why marketing for food innovation sometimes has to be very classic

Digital marketing has played a key role for food startups and their marketing teams over the past years, as digital spendings and their return are easy to measure and the budget you need for online campaigns is usually quite a bit lower than for classic advertising at the point of sale or out of home. Nevertheless, food as a category is still usually bought offline in retail stores, which can make it harder to convert into sales with an “online only” strategy. At the same time, corporate startups or highly innovative food startups with strong funding suddenly have the money to allocate their budgets almost like the big players do, so they decide to go for more classic advertising again. But what is the best solution for a new food brand that wants to grow, and wants to generate not only awareness, but also sales? Which marketing channels can you rely on for that, and how “classic” should your marketing actually be, in order to quickly become a well known player?

Selling a food product still needs a classic story

One of the most important tasks for new food brands is to make consumers understand what their brand and product stands for. People are asking themselves: “What do I get if I spend my money on this, and will this experience be as yummy as the one that I know from a competitor?”. In order to answer this highly important question, a food brand has to make sure that its benefits are understood by every consumer within a millisecond. Is it more tasty than everything else? Is it better for our health? Is it helping to protect the environment? Or is it super quick in preparation, easy in handling or just so trendy that you cannot get around it? New food brands or product lines under an existing brand umbrella usually have the tendency to focus on too many things at a time, instead of simply communicating one strong message. But it is always better to make sure that a consumer can remember one strong USP, instead of bombarding the users with a million great product benefits that in the end only create a blurry picture nobody can keep in mind. This is why food marketing - also for innovations - should still be very classic and bring the message down to one clear story and benefit.

Selling a food product can work online, but classic offline channels also gain interest again

Especially when it comes to sales conversions, online marketing - which usually is a discipline many innovative food brands and startups are really good at - is sometimes lacking a bit of strength. Food products are still mainly purchased offline in food retail, and online marketing can of course still reach people in that environment, but offline marketing also plays a highly important role.

POS marketing for example, with the classic disciplines of sampling/degustations and secondary display placements, is a marketing activity almost all food startups use to drive in-store sales. This way, shoppers get in touch with the products and maybe make an impulse purchase, and retailers can be shown that the product’s initial purchase rate and hopefully also repurchase goes up. Keeping the rotation high is crucial to keep listings in food retail, which means that a marketing activity in store that is directly impacting people's shopping behaviour is one of the best ways to make sure retailers stay happy.

OOH marketing, like e.g. billboards, are seeing a big revival at the moment, as also the ways of digital measuring get better. Running local OOH campaigns can for example help to measure purchases going up in a specific city, or giving out a specific QR-code, discount code or landing page helps to identify traffic and purchases that were directly made through the OOH advertising. This way, the benefits of online marketing - being able to measure your outcomes - are also a benefit for classic OOH media.

Public Relations can be considered both an online or offline channel, depending on the type of publication a brand receives, but working with journalists is usually still more focused on offline media. PR is a great way to not only get publications with a very high distribution in a certain target group, but also increase a brands reputation, as independent journalists are writing about its benefits. Just as influencers in the online world, journalists and PR can help food brands to get their message spread in the classic offline world of magazines and newspapers, while gaining better reputation through an independent, trustworthy source.

For long term success in food marketing, things quickly get more classic than fancy

If a new food brand wants to survive in the competitive world of food retail stores and online platforms, its marketing efforts can never rely on fancy new trends only. Everything that starts as a trend, even new social media platforms or event formats, turns into a classic business at one point (if the business model is made to survive). Just like that, also food brands have to make sure that their approach turns into a planned, structured and aligned marketing process at one point, if they want to become a successful long term player in the market.

If you are interested in finding out how other food innovators see this topic, we found an interesting read for you by Crunchbase.

If you else need help with your marketing and would like to learn about our ways of working, reach out for an e-coffee at

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