Consumer shifts require organizations to make better connections

Legacy brands can no longer rely on retail prominence to boost their sales. Here’s why—and how—you should develop a brand customers will actively seek out.

As consumer tastes and habits shift, so, too, must product marketing, if companies wish to keep moving products.

What does that mean for brands that have enjoyed shelf supremacy for decades?

Consider Smucker’s jellies and jams. Go to just about any supermarket in the country and you will find their products very well represented. There are other brands on the shelf, both big names and store brands, but Smucker’s jumps right out at you, both in quantity and consumer familiarity. So, when they want to release a new product, they just slap a “new” image on the label and stick it on the shelf next to multiple other products in their line.

Yet, what if customers are not actually in the store to see those products? What if they’re buying online and picking up in-store? Or, what if they don’t go into the store at all? At that point, it’s not enough to have a brand consumers know; you need one they will love and actively seek out, a brand they will type into a search engine.

That kind of consumer relationship is earned through a much different style of marketing and product placement. It’s no longer adequate to say “Look, we have more space; we must be popular.” You need to be memorable and connective. People must want to go look for you.

It’s a model the publishing industry has been wrestling with for some time now. As Amazon gained more power, an author’s name recognition began to mean a lot more. It became harder for newer authors to get traction, unless they had a big marketing push and a willingness to get out and press the flesh. Some authors are private people, less apt to do those things, so their potential sales suffered.

Still, what if you’re selling jelly from a corporate office half a continent away? There’s no book signing to bring people out. You must get them excited in new and different ways.

TV commercials have been a traditional channel for drumming up business. However, given that the target audience for jelly makers—kids—is watching less regular TV and much more streaming, there’s another hurdle to overcome. What then? Savvy marketers might turn to product placement, social media, cause-connected PR and targeted marketing.

While consumers are less likely to be influenced by shelf position, they are more accessible to brands than ever before in the history of marketing. If you have a connective message, you can take it directly to your target market through social media. This opens up a whole new world of creative possibilities in marketing for brands that are willing to reassess and make the shifts with their audience.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent PR agency .

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