May 05, 2014 / BE THE BRAND
May 05, 2014
“I don’t know where my work ends and I begin.”
I will never forget the moment when this was said to me at my final interview for a position as a nutrition and natural health strategist with a leading packaged food brand. The comment left me a bit stunned, honestly. It was certainly wasn’t something I’d heard before—at least not in a positive context. I think we can all relate to roles that leave the idea of a work/life balance in a messy, disorganized heap. But when the woman—now a good friend of mine—described her blurred lines, she didn’t mean it negatively; instead she was articulating a manifestation of personal philosophy into business. After joining the team I quickly realized she wasn’t unique in this respect, and in fact many employees had experienced a similar blurring of the lines. The brand had become a manifestation of their collective philosophy of health and nutrition, and they were a manifestation of the brand’s mission
A New Value Proposition
For many industries today, there is an expectation that brands should be more than just a source for the latest trend or new product. More than ever, consumers are looking to brands as a tool for education and a way to demonstrate their own personal beliefs. Purchasing is not simply about products but voting—a way to reflect and even help form their own personal values. And consumer data supports this insight: Brands that have a higher purpose for being in the world have higher consumer bonding and loyalty scores.
Brand as Teacher
The organic and natural food space is one industry where preaching values has become commonplace, if not a requirement, for success. Whereas ten years ago, brand marketing was largely anchored in an articulation of the absence of negatives (e.g. “no trans-fat” or “no high fructose corn syrup”), the conversation today is about the presence of positives and connecting to a higher purpose. Brands not only tout the presence of whole grains, but the fact that the grains are also ethically and locally sourced. Real estate on cereal box panels provide infographics about biodynamic farming and soil cycles. For the brands that are winning in the market, cereal isn’t just about cereal anymore—it’s about demonstrating thought leadership and inviting consumers to join a movement through their purchasing power.
It was exactly this shift in the industry that drew me out of private practice and into CPG. Although I am a physician by training, my passion has always been in education. Though health education has traditionally taken place in a doctor’s office, I was drawn away from private practice due to the evolving role of brands as educators and into an industry with the potential to educate on a massive scale.
The Foundation of Brand Authenticity
Since leaving my private practice, I’ve found the past eight years to be more rewarding that I ever could have imagined. As the strategists and storytellers behind product brands, we are in a fascinating moment in history. And although practicing what you preach will always be the foundation of brand authenticity, we now have a unique opportunity to preach what we practice and help lead conversations and ultimately people and planet health to a better place.