Food Business Marketing 101 - 5 Step Product Positioning

Developing a food business marketing plan is not a daunting process.

Coffee company positioning example
What makes brands stand apart?. Susie Wyshak

Developing a food business marketing plan can be a daunting process.

Just Google "developing a marketing plan" and your head will spin with examples from The SBA and other marketing experts. We all have heard of or read about a brand's positioning.

Let me take the complexity out of this and offer you a 5 step process to improve your food business marketing strategies.

New Food Product Launch Strategy

We all have heard of or read about a brand's positioning.

It is part of a strategic plan and frames how your brand is compared to your competition and what you are trying to say to the customer. You say …"oh that is stuff for the big guys and I am special and different and…". STOP! When you launch a new product, remember this - 80% of new products fail in the first 2 years. Don't you want to be in the 20% that succeed?

If you want to land on the customer's plate, don't they have to buy it? Shouldn't what you say resonate with the customer that makes your company stand out through your story and with a value proposition that motivates people to try it?

Mark Lang of St Joseph's University was a professor of mine in my MBA program. Besides the many things left with me, one concept continues to be useful for me when working with food entrepreneurs; the Positioning Statement.

Positioning Statements Don't Have to be Complex

Positioning statements are a way to concisely communicate to web designers, people designing your packaging and your advertising what they need to do.

Without this, they are flying blind and on your dime!

The format is 5 easy to follow steps. Let's use BRAND Coffee as the example:

Step 1 - To [the target customer with a problem or need],

Step 2 - [your brand] is the [frame of reference],

Step 3 - -that is the [benefit oriented point of difference]

Step 4 - evidenced by [product features]

Step 5 - The Reason to buy [your brand] is [what?]

Tips for a Great Food & Beverage Product Positioning Statement

Developing a food business marketing plan should not be a daunting process. Positioning statements communicate clearly and succinctly to all of your packaging, marketing and web site professional. Consider the Positioning Statement as a short blueprint for them to follow.

You are paying good money to your marketing experts so be very clear in what you want and how you want to communicate to your customer. Don't fly blind in your marketing plan.

Let's use a real brand, Colorado Mountain Coffee to illustrate how you would build a positioning statement.

Step 1: Define your target audience

Look at their web site and tell me what is Colorado Mountain Coffee's target audience? It is NOT just anyone who drinks coffee because their coffee is very expensive, you need to go to their site to buy it and then wait for it to arrive.

Coffee is a product partly driven by impulse. Do you think about planning your trip to Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks by getting on the web at 9:45 at night?

Nope. But that is the customer behavior required for their brand. Hence the target customer here has other needs and desires not fulfilled by the major brands.

Step 2: Say what you're making or offering

This one is easy. We know that the brand is Colorado Mountain Coffee, so what is it [Frame of Reference]? Well it is coffee but we really need to add a bit more here so the customer can immediately know that it is coffee but with a bit more. So maybe it is an artisanal coffee, gourmet coffee, authentic Colorado Coffee? Hey, how about creating a designation for Colorado coffees that are grown above a certain altitude?

Step 3 (difficult): Explain the benefit

The Benefit must focus on an intangible aspect that the consumer can not make an easy comparison to your competition. A benefit for most people for coffee in the morning is to wake up! So in their case this is not a benefit to tout since Dunkin Donuts at $1.50 will do the same. 

The benefit has to be something that McCafe, Dunkin, Starbucks, Folgers, etc can not credibly deliver. Folgers claims it is "the best part of waking up"… don't think so! In the case of this product they feel that coffee grown in a high altitude is their differentiators.

So let's assume this provides superior taste not available elsewhere. Then… what can you say about a benefit this superior taste? Maybe it gives you the feeling of waking up in the Rocky Mountains or reminds you of a great skiing experience? You have to really think had here about what "clicks" with your target customer, something Clearly Canadian mastered whether intentionally or by chance.

For another perspective, here are some examples of benefits of buying organic.

Step 4: State the features

Features are the tangible parts of your product.

So, some features of Colorado Mountain Coffee might be enticing mountain aroma, bold / aromatic flavor, packaged in sustainable packaging, smooth flavor, made in small artisanal roasters. This should not be a laundry list so keep it to the most important.

Step 5: Offer an incentive

When all is said and done, everyone needs a reason to buy. This is the incentive for the customer to hit the Buy Now button. This could be an introductory offer for first time buyers, free shipping, the flavor is a seasonal offering and goes away after a few months.

Your Positioning Homework

I have laid out a 5 step plan for changing the direction of a branded food. Take some time, quite time, to go through each step. Be prepared to go back and forth a dozen times or more. It is worth the effort since you will have something that gives you direction.

Don't spend a dime on web sites, social media, email marketing or advertising until you create your food brand positioning statement. And when you do, find or make a food holiday that can inspire a celebratory launch in social media.

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