Specialists always have a tool kit. If you’re a builder, you have a hammer gun, screwdrivers and saws. If you’re an electrician, you have a voltage meter and channel locks. As a specialist produce marketer, I too have a tool kit I use in my work with clients.
The interesting point to note is, since becoming a part-time professor teaching both food marketing and fresh produce marketing, I have expanded my toolkit. This enables me to explain marketing more effectively to students who’ve had limited exposure to this discipline. One of the great joys of teaching has been learning new things and stretching my knowledge so I can teach more effectively.
As long as I have been doing thought-leading branding and positioning work for clients, one of my toolkit staples has been using a Functional Benefits and an Emotional Benefits list. One of the best lists comes from a company called BelovedBrands, and their checklists are fantastic. Here is an example from their website.
So how do you use a tool like this?
First, it is important to note consumers have what is called the ‘black box’ – which exists inside each consumer’s mind. The black box is where past experiences, family influence, cultural values, opinions of friends and more all come together to create perceptions and beliefs. This could be perceptions about oneself, and it also includes perceptions about products and brands.
Second, shoppers are influenced to buy by both the functional benefits a product delivers (does it meet my needs?) and by the emotional benefits a product delivers (does this align with my thinking/my black box?).
To effectively sell consumers a product, marketers need to be aware of their consumers’ black box, and they need to be clear on the functional and emotional benefits their product provides.
Sound easy? It’s not. Understanding shopper purchase motivations can be complex, which is why regardless of whether my clients have big budgets or small, having effective tools in my marketing toolkit helps me find the best possible marketing, branding and product positioning solutions for my clients.
Let’s dive into an example.
One of the newly introduced products I love is the Mann’s Air Fryer Veggie Kits. The company has done a great job identifying cooking trends and has created a simple, easy-to-use solution for air-frying veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and green beans. The name of the product is functional and accurately describes the product inside. Additional front-of-pack descriptions include: ‘Air fryer easy’ and ‘quick prep time’ with minutes noted. The veggies are deliciously described with their seasoning, e.g. ‘Cauliflower with Parmesan Peppercorn.’
So here is where it gets interesting. In thinking about the functional benefits this product provides, could it have been called something else or messaged/positioned in a different way to create a more powerful connection with consumers? Here is where using a toolkit like the one above can help you brainstorm and broaden your thinking.
I wanted to teach the importance of using tools in my fresh produce marketing class, so I did this exact activity this past quarter. The students had some interesting insights to add.
Many felt the key functional benefit of the Air Fryer range was that it ‘Simplifies your life.’ Students loved the air fryer idea, and thought it was something they would buy and use because it made veggie prep so simple. For them, the key supporting messages were ‘Easier to use,’ ‘Saves time,’ ‘Hassle free’ and ‘Efficient’ because the portion size was perfect with no waste.
Others felt the main functional benefit for them was that it ‘Helps you be healthier.’ Many noted having the calorie count on the front of the packaging would be beneficial and catch their eye.
A third group thought the key functional benefit was, ‘Works better for you.’ Their insights were about cooking speed plus performance, meaning there was no waste, and they did not have to deal with any leftover heads of cauliflower.
Tools help specialists do their best work. Tools, like the Functional Benefits list, help us be better marketers because they broaden our thinking and deepen our consumer understanding.
• Lisa Cork is the chief executive of Fresh Produce Marketing Ltd and Adjunct Professor of Produce Marketing at Cal Poly State University in California.