By Robert Wheatley//August 1, 2022//
By: Robert Wheatley//August 1, 2022//
Consumer studies confirm repeatedly the same stat: Only about 14 percent of available consumers in any CPG food category, including the pet parent universe, are hardwired to try what’s new. Meanwhile, the majority of consumer prospects are reticent to challenge the fear in their minds over making a bad purchase decision. Consumers’ habits will be your best friend and worst enemy at the same time.
Risk aversion is the most challenging market condition any brand will face on the path to business growth, yet this prevailing human characteristic is frequently overlooked in the marketing launch plan. A chasm exists between early trial and large-scale adoption that leads to long-term volume building results on the balance sheet. Overcoming aversion to risk of trying anything new is a systemic barrier in gaining traction for new products.
Your goal is to close the chasm. You can’t apply retail business building tactics to consumer strategy. Whether you are a pet retailer or pet brand minder, the dynamic of communications within the B2B environment all-too-frequently spills over into consumer-facing strategy, unintentionally embedding the new product launch with disconnects and dissonance.
Brands and retailers interact with each other directly about product features, benefits, formulations, category competitive advantages and pricing along the path to agreement to take a new product. There is vested interest in doing so. It makes sense: two devoted, focused and attentive audiences discussing details relevant to a decision. However, this dynamic does not exist in the consumer communications environment.
With consumers, you simply can’t sidestep their requirements for trust creation, influence and credibility so necessary to bridge the gap between the 14 percent of devil-may-care early adopters to mainstream marketplace acceptance later. Pet parents are feeling creatures who think not thinking creatures who feel.
Logic. Facts. Stats. Feature and benefit bullet points. Analytical arguments for why your new product deserves its shining place in the power aisle sun will not make for compelling outreach to the ever fickle, risk averse and attention-compromised pet parent. Getting people to burn the mental calories on complex fact-based messaging is nigh impossible. It flies upstream against the current of human physiology.
Moreover, leaving the insight about risk aversion unattended is a virtual guarantee the chasm disrupting the product adoption curve will remain stubbornly intractable – and thus informs the answer to why your volume forecasts aren’t hitting the mark as fast as you planned. There are three things we know about consumer behavior.
Things have changed. The meaning- and values-driven economy has arrived. Consumers care more about “why” you do what you do than either the “what” or the “how.” Yet the vast majority of pet brand communications strategies are self-promotional studies of what the company does and how new products are created (formulations, ingredients, percentages). “Why” is your higher purpose, values and beliefs that inform the reason your company exists. A human-relevant purpose that transcends product production, sales and profit. Are you giving your customers a values-driven reason to believe in your brand and by virtue of doing so, to trust you?
The neuroscience confirms that human decisions and actions are undertaken by the subconscious side of the brain not the rational learning side. The subconscious brain is driven by emotional cues – how pet parents feel about your brand. Emotional relevance begins with amplifying the bond and relationship people have with their four-legged family members. This lifestyle dynamic is chocked full of compelling brand storytelling substance that draws people closer to you. Further, it automatically casts them – the pet parents – as the heroes of your story rather than the brand. Your brand’s role in effective communication is that of guide, coach, educator and enabler of the pet lifestyle to which they aspire. Give them the tools to succeed. Inspire them.
Directly tackling consumer risk aversion also begs us to think about credibility, validation and verification of what we want pet parents to believe. The higher the perceived risk, the more important credibility and trust become. Brand trust metrics have been in decline for decades. In short, people will believe their peers and trusted experts before they believe any assertion or claim a brand makes. Thus why social proof is vital and yet remains underserved in many new product communications plans. It is important to note that social channel best practice involves enabling community conversation and user generated content rather than expropriating these channels as broadcast platforms for self-promotion of features, benefits and fact-based selling. Social literally means social.
Best Practice Highlights
Conduct insight research to better understand the lifestyle interests, behaviors and concerns of your core consumer base. Only then can you know what they care about and how to speak with them in a relevant way.
Remember the importance of trust creation to answering risk aversion. You will need to enlist respected third-party voices and enable social sharing and conversation to build credibility underneath what you want people to believe about your new products.
Drive the emotional dynamic in your outreach communication by focusing on the love, bond, relationship people have with their pets. If you can help people feel good in the presence of your brand, you are also nurturing the decision to buy.
Closing the chasm to trial is about consumer relevance, resonance, credibility, beliefs, values, integrity, emotion and proof. This is how you leapfrog over the 14 percent barrier.
Robert Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Emergent can help pet brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity and deeper meaning in their pet parent relationships and brand communication.