A Cultural Anthropologist Shares What Influences Consumer Behavior
This interview with my longtime colleague, Chadwick Boyd, provides insights to boost sales and build consumer interest and affinity, advantages which benefit decision makers both buying and selling fresh produce. I look forward to seeing his advice in action throughout our industry as we continue to level-up fresh perceptions and, as a result, businesses.
For 30 years, Chadwick Boyd has been immersed in the media, retail, and communications world of leading consumer food and lifestyle brands. His deep knowledge of the food space and its continuing evolution is unparalleled. As a food and lifestyle expert, Chadwick has created and overseen programs for some of the most enduring and impactful brands—Panera Bread, Campbell’s Snacks, and McDonald’s—to create new categories, inform new product development, and employ editorial-style storytelling to reconnect with waning audiences. His expertise has led to frequent features in major food and lifestyle magazines and on television, while his farming roots and passion for agriculture compel him toward produce brands.
KAREN NARDOZZA: CHADWICK, YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGIST, ANALYZING WHAT DRIVES ERA-DEFINING CONSUMER BEHAVIORS, TASTES, AND TRENDS. WHAT ARE SOME KEY FACTORS DRIVING RETAIL SUCCESS FOR FOOD AND BEVERAGE BRANDS?
Chadwick Boyd: Today, we have easy access to affordable tools that give us near-immediate data about consumer preferences to drive engagement. When tied to marketing and storytelling fundamentals, the insights we gain from studying the data always leads to growth and success at retail.
Consumers want brands to demonstrate they know them well, not to be superficially convinced that a product is superior. Rather, they want brands to show they have done the work to understand their lives, what problems they face every day, and provide products that solve them and make their lives better. They like to be delighted, too. And they are willing to pay for it.
We can look to the success of brands like Away Luggage, MadeInCookware®, and Birddogs as examples that skyrocketed quickly because they tapped into the ongoing frustrations from consumers, learned what they were lacking, and provided well-made products that appealed and spoke directly to them. All of this applies to fresh produce brands and the retail experience they can create.
KN: HOW CAN SUPPLIERS PRESENT THEIR PRODUCTS TO RETAILERS IN WAYS THAT RESONATE BEST?
CB: Shark Tank is an excellent model for approaching and engaging with retailers. Create a strong pitch that:
- has a compelling brand story with real human connection
- shows you fulfill a need that no one else can…or do it better and show why and how
- demonstrates you know the retailers’ customer base and merchandising patterns…and how your product/s aligns with them
- has data to back up every point
Fresh, creative thinking also helps. These days, suppliers are more attractive and valuable to retailers when they show where products can live within more than one area of a store. Cosmic Crisp® apples are a great example of this. During the holidays particularly, Cosmic Crisp is sold in the produce department as well as in the floral, bakery, meat, and deli sections in some stores. It augments sales opportunities for the retailer and supplier and demonstrates greater value and need to the consumer—a big win for everyone.
Co-branding with respected and beloved brands and limited, new product runs are also ways to engage retailers. They tap into dual-established audiences and create multiple, seasonal sales opportunities that appeal to shoppers and their mindsets. Limited runs, much like a limited TV series, quickly captivate audiences, bring consumers more immediate joy, and allow suppliers to get to market more quickly with less production demands.
KN: WHAT ARE YOUR TOP “DO’S” AND “DON’TS” FOR FOOD AND BEVERAGE BRANDS?
- Be real. Shoppers want to be talked to directly. They expect connectedness and relatability, whether it is on their TV screens, while scrolling through their feeds on their phones, or in person. There is a reason the hosts of the third hour of the Today Show shift from being polished news anchors to being Al Roker the everyman, Sheinelle Jones the gregarious mom, or Carson Daly the over-stretched dad—to relate in real-time with their viewers and real-life needs, demands, and dreams. Brands need to do this, too.
- Don’t do canned talking points. Consumers want real conversations in a true conversational style. Know who you are. Know how you genuinely fit into your audiences’ lives. Don’t claim to be “the best,” just be confident in your brand. Consumers will get the rest.
- Have a sense of humor and have some fun. Many brands get stuck and lose ground because they are afraid to be human and have a personality. Millennials and Gen Z, the coveted demo, love this and get motivated to buy when they encounter it.
- Relate to the times. Know what’s going on in the world and continuously find ways your product fits into it. Consumers find this refreshing and find brands who do this fresh and appealing.
All of these points are indicative of where connective marketing is today and will continue to be for the next 12–18 months. An easy test for marketers to witness and absorb this themselves is to scroll through TikTok and Instagram in real time. Where the culture goes, the business opportunities flow.