Why fmcg brands should seek out the digital consumer

This piece by our Managing Partner Sarah Cantillon first appeared in The Drum.

Digital is big business. Figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau this month showed that in the US – the market which sets the tone for the majority of the rest of the world – digital ad revenues surged into the triple digits for the first time. A cool $107.5 billion, up from $88 billion, or 22 percent, when compared to the previous year, and far outstripping TV’s $71 billion.

It’s hardly surprising; digital is everywhere. It’s on our screens at work, on our phones as we commute, in our hands as we second-screen while watching TV at home. It’s also affecting the way we shop – the rise of online shopping and the decline of bricks and mortar retail features heavily in press.

One interesting sector when it comes to shifting shopping habits is fmcg. Food and drink brands are not always the most digitally savvy – often because they don’t feel that they need to be. When it comes to groceries, we’re still very much a nation of in-store shoppers; point-of-sale tactics combined with above the line mass awareness is shown to be effective. But brands in this sector need to be prepared – while growth in online grocery shopping is slower than most sectors, it is happening. And with media consumption itself increasingly digital, it pays to be present online for this reason alone. 

Getting digitally savvy doesn’t have to be a big leap. If you’re already marketing your brand, digital can just be a case of taking your current tactics a little further. While every agency wants to own the big idea, a good digital partner should be able to leave their ego behind, take your above-the-line or promotional campaign and put a solid digital strategy behind it. Even better if this strategy runs across shopper teams, too; in my experience, there could usually be more synchronisation between product, shopper and brand marketing teams to give a truly integrated creative approach. Part of our work with Fanta on its Halloween campaign involved placing Snapchat’s version of QR codes, Snapcodes, on special edition cans. They unlocked new lenses and filters each day, encouraging repeat purchasing and ensuring the campaign journey spanned all touchpoints. 

Some brands are slow to digital because of fear of the unknown. Should we be looking at CPCs or CPMs? Investing in Stories or Lenses?  The truth is, digital marketing has evolved so quickly and spectacularly, that it’s almost impossible for anyone to have a full grasp of every single part of it. This is especially true the higher up you go – it’s still very unusual for CMOs to be digital natives. But you don’t need to be digitally savvy when it comes to the technicalities – the basics are the same across any medium. Ask agency partners to explain not only how they’ll be aiming to achieve social metrics, but also real business results.

This incredibly diverse digital landscape can also lead to over complication. It’s often the case that when brands ramp up consumer outreach quickly, they try to do too much at once and their digital experiences become overly complicated. It’s very easy for people to be put off by experiences that don’t work as they would expect them to, or content that takes too long to land the message. The key is quality over quantity. Be consistent and, importantly, be bold – this will make you memorable. 

Get clued up on digital, look for digital experiences that will appeal to who your audience is now and prepare for the future. Every generation is spending more time on digital platforms and this trend is only going one way. To remain relevant, it’s up to brands to be present where people are – not the other way around. 

Here are the key takeaways when looking to kick off your digital strategy: 

  • Find partners that have proven expertise in taking an above-the-line campaign and making it work on digital channels. 
  • Don’t over complicate digital experiences – they should feel familiar, be easy to use and worthwhile to the user. 
  • Be bold on digital – you only have a few seconds to land your message, it’s not often a channel for subtlety. 

Be where your consumers are – it’s not a case of digital or ATL, it’s about making digital a seamless part of your overall consumer journey.

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