Taming the social creature

By Tony Ibbotson

I’m going to be honest: since COVID-19 hit Australian shores, I have spent just one day working at home with the wife, kids and dog, and that was enough for me. I was lucky to be able to ride my bike into an empty office, with its vacant desks and deserted boardroom, and do the ultimate soul searching there.

Sitting back, waiting for the next wave to hit, I realised that – like many people – the thing I missed most during lockdown was daily human connection.

We are social creatures and, with the exception of some introverts, we want, seek and need social interaction. I believe this to be true in the food business too – maybe even more so. The most successful food brands will always be the ones that create the strongest emotional connection; it’s the brands that behave the most like we do that we come to love the most.

You could easily argue that things are not going to change in a hurry and the way we’re currently living and consuming will become the norm. So, as people are left to crave more and more meaningful connections, there is a growing opportunity for brands to step in and provide some comfort.

Care to connect
It might be as simple as making us laugh, smile or reminisce – how can each and every one of your brand touchpoints work harder to create and strengthen

With a huge increase in food orders through delivery aggregators, you may have lost your takeaway bag as a communication vehicle. Do what you can to get it back. Look at all of your takeaway packaging and think about how you can use it to engage. It might be a story, some clever and entertaining copy lines that reinforce why you are so great and should be better friends, or a cool illustration that brings a benefit to life.

Can you make it interactive? How can you make it Instagramable? (Even if the food looks like it’s been through a tumble dryer!) Whatever it is, your packaging needs to work harder. Even the introverts among us can engage with a unique bit of print.

Personal messages on packaging are appearing everywhere and bring it on, I say. Have some fun with it, go hard and create real connections. The funnier and more
engaging the better. Remember, all it can take is a few positive Instagram posts or Tweets to boost your marketing results for the week.

Entertaining sitting ducks
Drive thru – if you haven’t already, get one. I think Ikea will be doing drive thru kitsets any day now. If you do have a drive thru, give some thought to creating something interesting while people sit and wait. You have a captive audience – the guys selling advertising space in toilets have worked it out, and so should you. We want to be entertained, people! Send them packing with one clever piece of knowledge about why your brand is so great that they never knew before.

Another thing most of us are looking for during these uncertain times is a little more value. Everyone in one way or another is taking a hit so offering some sort of value will be greatly appreciated by most customers. It seems that when I close my eyes these days all I see burnt into the back of my retinas is the $3 Taco from Guzman y Gomez. Those ads are everywhere – I swear they’re stalking me – and they are going great guns as a tasty, cheaper alternative or an affordable extra.

Value does not have to come in the form of a new product – it can as simple as adding a little extra. An extra chicken nugget from Macca’s might be as rare as rocking horse poo but by jingoes would I be grateful if I ever got one!

Spinning the sensorial wheels
Is retail dead? Not according to the National Retail Federation in the United States. Gen-Z are the first true digital natives (I knew it was coming when I witnessed my 2-year-old daughter trying to swipe right on a book!) and they also happen to prefer to shop in real stores that offer a meaningful tangible experience. The natural assumption is the future is digital and it’s certainly not going anywhere, but to these kids the future of retail is not necessarily online.

“Their last great experience is their new expectation.” Gen Z don’t just want places to buy stuff but a better personal experience that resonates with them. Smartphones and iPads will come and go in different formats but nothing will replace a meaningful, tangible, full sensory, personal experience to really spin their wheels – and give them something to post on Instagram.

Being great might help us avoid the Depression
This whole COVID-19 thingy is likely to be the biggest crisis since the Great Depression. Super news, that!

The truth is that in the food space and many, many others, whether you sink or swim depends largely on how well you can learn and adapt. I’m not going to say the ‘pivot’ word but the ability to swim comes largely down to the relationship that you have with the water and your ability to move effectively within it.

We have no choice but to dive in.

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