How Marketers Can Improve Food Industry Brand Reputation
Imagine this: Two co-workers exit an office building at lunchtime, chatting about where they should eat. One mentions a favorite local chain just blocks away. “They’re fast and always delicious,” she says. Her co-worker shakes his head vigorously. “No way! Didn’t you see the news? They had a salmonella outbreak last week.”
And so the seed is planted. For weeks, and possibly months, the coworkers will avoid the restaurant. The risk of consuming unsafe food will stay in the back of their minds, and they’ll pass along the information to friends and family. For these formerly loyal patron, and thousands like them, the brand is tarnished.
As a marketer, you know how important food industry brand reputation is to consumers. But how can you keep your brand safe from becoming a dirty word when news organizations publicize your misfortunes? To help you out, we’ve compiled our top three tips.
1. Don’t Hide the Bad News
A stock withdrawal, recall or report of a foodborne illness can wreak havoc on your business. But the worst thing you can do is attempt to brush it under the rug. Your customers are smart, well-educated and have access to all the information they could ever want literally at their fingertips. In other words, if there’s not-so-great information floating around the Internet, chances are they’ll find it.
Be honest, be open and let your customers know how you plan to make amends. This transparency will increase faith in your brand and increase the likelihood of return visits.
2. Use Data to Back Your Claims
Terms like “locally grown” and “fresh” are used so often, they’ve almost become trite. It’s not enough to simply tell your audience you use the best ingredients, you have to show them. Use supply chain traceability software to determine where your food was grown and sourced.
For example, instead of saying, “We use only organic produce,” display photos from the organic farms where you source the food and include stories about the farmers. When you make it a point to share all the data you have, your customers know you’ll be able to cite and fix any food safety or quality issues that may arise.
3. Take Feedback Seriously
In 2009, Domino's launched a surprising campaign. The company published real Tweets and focus group results with phrases like “Worst excuse for pizza I’ve ever had” and “Domino’s pizza crust to me is like cardboard.”
Why? They wanted to show customers they were listening. They took these complaints, vowed to revamp their pizza and allowed everyone to follow along on their special site pizzaturnaround.com. The strategy worked. Not only did the company re-create a product using feedback from real customers, its stock rose 130 percent in one year.
Overall, the message is clear: To maintain a positive reputation—and earn back patrons after a negative event—you have to be open, honest and include your customers as part of your process. The more you engage directly, the greater your customer loyalty.