Get real! Authenticity will rule in 2020 QSRs marketing

Consumers want to get a good sense of a brand’s authenticity in its marketing, even though a recently completed mobile location data study from Blis shows consumers themselves aren’t really very authentic or even truthful when it comes to what they say they’ll do in terms of brand patronage and what they actually end up doing in reality.

Blis released its so-called 2020 playbook designed to guide marketers in the year ahead. The study that the playbook is based on compares results of what consumers say they want to see more from brands — including foodservice — in the coming year and what they actually do in terms of brand patronage. The company looked at proprietary data on in-store foot traffic at top retailers to contract what consumers say they want from brands and what they actually do as proved by actual foot traffic to brands.

Though this analysis looked at consumer behavior across all business sectors, including food service, it did find some general truisms about consumer behaviors related to brand marketing overall. And, in the final analysis, brands perceived to exhibit a kind of hard-core authenticity about who they are and what they do and stand for, won out.

A prime example comes from initial polling results that found most consumers say they’ll reject brands that voice political or cultural messages. In reality though, observed location data actually shows more visits to brands that DO voice political/cultural issues, indicating that despite such brand behaviors being risky, they do prove to be effective.

“The fact that observed location data actually records higher visits in retailers that voice political/cultural issues proves that despite being controversial, the strategy is effective,” said Blis Insights Manager, Americas Mariana Fletcher in response to some study follow-up questions from this website..

“There’s a risk in everything. Blis is simply reporting a real-world observation that is perhaps an unprecedented way of measuring purpose-driven marketing ROI (through footfall). The data indicates that even very controversial buzz still potentially puts the brand at the center of conversations and, in the end, retailers benefit.”

Another running them in the research focuses on how well brands understand the customer along with the resonance that brands purpose-driven marketing efforts had over the year.

“Our research underscores the need for brands to have a deep knowledge of not just what consumers are saying, but what they’re actually doing,” Managing Director of Blis Americas Gil Larsen, said of the study. “If brands want to build loyalty heading into 2020, they’ll need to continue creating personalized, unique experiences and understand the value of purpose-driven strategies for individual consumers.”

Other key findings of the research show: 

  • Brand authenticity must come through in marketing, with 41% of consumers indicating favorite brand campaigns being those that felt authentic and honest.
  • After price, brand value-alignment with customers is key, with most consumers saying they were more likely to switch brands if the new one is more in sync with their values.
  • Brands with strong political/cultural stances in 2019 were 34% more likely than average to attract customers.
  • Environmentally focused ads don’t necessarily attract customers, even though most consumers say sustainability is second in importance to them in brand selection.
  • Marketing that relays brand experience can make a monumental difference as consumers crave “more unique experiences,” the research shows, yet most don’t think brands do enough to create “one-of-a-kind, personalized experiences” for them.

That need for perceived authenticity from brands, was driven home particularly around some of the research’s findings about Chipotle’s so-called “Behind the Foil” campaign, which resulted in nearly two times more customers per store than competitor, Qdoba in August and September.

“For Chipotle, in particular, we did address reasons for choosing its advertisement as a favorite among a limited list of advertisers,” Fletcher told QSRweb. “59% of respondents who enjoyed Chipotle’s ads in 2019 attribute preference to the fact the ads/campaign felt authentic and honest as their No. 1  reason for selection.

“So, the underlying descriptive for authenticity is in the form of communication — positioning statements, creative messaging and possibly other marketing touchpoints. If consumers associate Chipotle’s food with ‘fresh,’ ‘homemade’ or any kind of attribute that pushes it far away from ‘processed,’ (or) ‘packaged,’ … then it’s reasonable to infer that the food contributes to the overarching message of authenticity.”

Fletcher said authenticity won out in the survey over other key brand values, including sustainability, political/cultural advocacy, community involvement and an option for consumers to also show that brand values don’t matter much in their buying decisions.

Again though, this was an overview of consumer sentiment about brand marketing across all sectors of business, but the results still give some direction to QSR leaders and marketers in the year ahead as they pull together those 2020 campaigns. The over-arching message from all this analysis seems to be very similar to the trait many find most attractive about human beings themselves: Being exactly who you say you are.

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