Food and Beverage Industry Pandemic Marketing – Then and Now
The world is incredibly different today than it was one year ago. It’s even different than it was one month ago. Things are changing rapidly, and in order to keep up with the rollercoaster of this Pandemic, Americans are consciously and unconsciously shrinking their worlds, pursuing closer, more tight-knit connections with one another. This also applies to their purchasing habits. Consumers feel the unexpectedness of our world and are tightening their spending and sticking more to products they know well and are familiar with.
So, in this new “normal”, how do food & beverage marketers manage their campaigns to keep companies successful and in-the-know, without seeming tone-deaf or out of the loop? It’s important to confront an impending global recession and be sensitive to consumer’s needs to tighten spending, but the bottom line is they need to still sell product. Looking at past recessions can offer insights into what marketers should expect in these unfortunate circumstances.
Consumers are prioritizing comfort- whether that is through community, mutual support, or through distanced interaction physical spaces where they live, or through their digital spaces. With so many things and activities shut down, people have turned to immediate communities and find solace in the nostalgic and familiar. While this pandemic has gone on longer than most people have foreseen, we’ve observed that people will continue to retreat to what they know. Knowing there is more close-knit value placed on daily life, businesses would do well to reconfigure their sales messaging to have a more direct-to-consumer, home-based feel.
Let’s examine how “comfort messaging” has been used in the past to help sell product. During WWI and WWII, Americans produced their own food and other goods as a patriotic act of unity through crises. “Victory Gardens” reduced the strain on the food system as commercial farms diverted resources to the troops, with 40% of U.S. produce grown at home. The Victory Garden movement boosted civic morale by giving every American a concrete action they could take to support overseas war efforts, quite literally from their own backyard.
Now, hobbies like cooking, gardening, and homesteading are becoming increasingly popular, as Americans have more time at home and deal with the restlessness of isolation. During large-scale shutdowns, many Americans have shifted their purchase habits to community-driven alternatives closer to home such as purchasing produce directly from farmers and supporting small local businesses. Just as in the past, this local, human-to-human focus indicates a desire to feel helpful and connected in a time of uncertainty, fear and loneliness.
So what does this mean for your food and beverage marketing? It’s time to think local and tell stories! Stories are one of the best ways to have that home-based connection. Share stories that show the positive human impact of your brand on their immediate community. Because of COVID, consumers are more willing to continue supporting brands if they see that the brand shows support for similar values. Now is the time to try creative, community-oriented solutions.
There’s no telling how long this Pandemic will last, and we don’t know for sure how the economy will adjust or if panic buying tendencies will continue to impact the F&B space. With all of that uncertainty, we need do adjust accordingly. If consumers cannot find a product in store — or especially now when they don’t want to risk venturing out to check — they order online. Now is the time to reach out to people where they’re seeing marketing. Getting your message of availability to the proper audiences will be key to brand building and awareness during this time of increased sensitivity and unknown.