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Remember when retail coffee brands ruled the roost?  The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.  The world cups of Maxwell House.  The iconic El Exigente for Savarin coffee?  Now all the cup of joe mojo is with Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, with a bit of Keurig thrown in. So where did the big CPG companies go wrong? How did they become commoditized brands in comparison to the high levels of attachment that people have to the coffee house brands?  How can they get it back?

First, a cup of facts that support my observations.

Now, before you say, “well, Folgers and Maxwell House are packaged goods brands bought in stores so that is why no one talks about them or searches for them online”, consider Red Bull.  It is also bought in a store rather than a coffee house but it has 27MM fans on Facebook, gets 8,000 or so tweets per day, and has 10X the number of trademark searches on Google. And guess what? Folgers and Maxwell House compete with Red Bull big time whether they think of it that way or not.  Red Bull leverages the same desires that the ritualistic coffee in the morning leverages.  Now, the best part of waking up is apparently Red Bull on your way to work.

You would think that many more people drink Starbucks or Red Bull in the morning than Folgers and Maxwell House, but I believe it is the other way around.  Consumers just don’t care as much about it, but they should.  In fact, digital and social media Marketing is built to make people care about the brands they buy.

Here are six principles for marketing in a digital age to get people to care about your brand again

  1. Define your competitive marketplace by something larger than the brands next to you on the shelf. In the digital and social world, brands compete in a mental marketplace to become forces of attraction for lifestyles, behaviors, and interests.
  2. Become the expert. Yes, your brand values need to match a those of a segment of consumers but you also need to be perceived as the expert, so people are encouraged to seek you out for guidance.
  3. Create a content strategy to bring your values and expertise to life.  Consumers won’t seek out your brochureware.  Be content rich on owned media about the lifestyle for which you are a gravitational force.
  4. Make search the focal point and acid test.  If you take the key words that describe your brand expertise you should be on the first page of organic search results for each search term. If Maxwell House was on the first page of search results for the word “coffee”, it would pick up 16MM search impressions every month.  If it found a way to be on the first page for “breakfast” it would pick up another 6MM impressions AND no other coffee brand would compete for attention as they do not show up either.
  5. Turn expertise into joining.  Now that you stand out for something that a segment of consumers really care about, encourage them to join your brand on Facebook, Twitter, and to talk about you.  This adds passion, earned impressions, and search optimization as search results are now affected by social media activity.
  6. Turn every one of these performance goals into metrics.  You can imagine some expanded version of the table I show up above, and the targets for each metric that would define success.

One of the biggest problems that CPG marketers face today is commoditization, the conclusion on the part of shoppers that store brands have the same features and are good enough. The route to addressing this is not more features and better molecules it is establishing the expertise that will make people care about your brand because you stand for something much larger.  Branding advantage comes from you becoming the leading expert on something central to that person’s lifestyle.

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