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New research reveals the secret behind brands that are enduring in the FMCG sector

New research reveals the secret behind brands that are enduring in the FMCG sector

Posted by: HeyHuman | Date added: Thu 27 Sep 2018

Analysis revealed today has shown the qualities that brands in declining FMCG sectors need to possess if they want to buck the trend and grow. Unusually, it suggests that deep and meaningful relationships are not always the best option: brands can also become ‘friends with benefits’ or ‘teammates’.

 Behavioural communications agency HeyHuman analysed market share data for six FMCG categories with shrinking UK value for a year or more, and highlighted in each one the brand that instead showed consistent growth during the same time. It then defined that brand’s relationship with consumers in one of 14 pillars ranging from ‘casual acquaintances’ and ‘old pals’ to ‘secret affairs’ and ‘marriages of convenience’.

As an example of ‘friends with benefits’, Kleenex facial tissues have consistently communicated clear functional benefits throughout the years, whilst recently refreshing its packaging to be more easily locatable on the aisle in the moment of need.

Alternatively, vitamins and supplements are often a ‘fling’ that are at the mercy of seasonality or passing wellness fads. Berocca instead has managed to become an ongoing ‘teammate’ – offering people a boost whatever and whenever the situation.

In addition, the study highlights that two types of deeper relationships also work if businesses want to do well in a declining sector. First, brands can be ‘committed partners’: brands playing a consistent role in people’s lives, meeting their needs and with a clear and simple mission; or a ‘best friend’: a brand that champions its consumers’ values and interests as its own and plays an active role in their lives.

It found that only the four relationship pillars noted above were seen in all of the brands bucking the trend of category decline.

HeyHuman used a range of techniques to perform the analysis, such as neuroscience, regular in-depth interviews and ‘behavioural journals’ of consumer interactions with brands. The six categories (and the enduring brands in each) are:

Enduring brand Category in decline Relationship pillar
Weetabix Breakfast Cereals Committed partnership
Fairy Laundry Detergents Committed partnership
Hovis Bread Committed partnership
Twinings Ordinary Tea Best friend
Kleenex Facial Tissues Friend with benefits
Berocca Vitamins Teammate

Neil Davidson, managing director of HeyHuman, commented: “It’s no surprise to reveal brandsthat become ‘best friends’ or ‘committed partners’ to their consumers can be successful even in a declining sector. More unexpected is that brands can also buck the downward trend by taking a simpler, ‘friends with benefits’ or ‘teammate’ approach to the consumer experience.

“But they do have some things in common. Brands flourishing in the face of category decline are those that evidence clear ‘human’ behaviours: actively listening and responding to consumer needs, speaking simply to consumers through meaningful communications, adapting to changing preference and collaborating their audience to deliver functional benefits that lead to emotional attachments.

“To take just one example, Weetabix started celebrating British wheat farming and communicating the provenance of its wheat, grown within 50 miles from its factory in Northamptonshire. It reinforced its credentials as a local producer and supporter of British agriculture, and highlighted a topic important to its consumers.

“Overall, these brands endure by offering something relevant and meaningful within a segment that’s otherwise struggling. And businesses who currently see their category under pressure can aspire to move to a more successful type of relationship.”

All enduring brands in the list have value sales growth in the face of the category decline. Infusions and fruit-inspired tea flavours have re-invigorated audiences’ interest, but the ordinary tea bags segment has suffered in recent years leading the category to decline by 8% between 2012 and 2017. Twinings picked up the pace, though, gaining 13% between 2015 and 2017 with its ordinary bags alone. Twinings’ understanding of its audience led to the brandsafeguarding and celebrating its core and beloved traditional teas range, whilst also introducing new exotic flavours.

The laundry detergents markets is another example. The segment has continued to be eroded by sales promotions as consumers look to get the best possible deal on their favourite brands, causing the value of the market to fall by 6% in 2017.

Fairy, however, is defying the odds and thriving by actively listening to consumers, and embracing the cultural shift to natural products that has occurred. The brand has seen growth of 16% over the past year, which is in no small part due to its range of non-bio laundry detergents.

Neil adds: “Underperforming brands need to wake up to the very real threat that exists and revisit what it is they stand for if they are to survive in an increasingly hostile and demanding marketplace. Enduring brands, on the other hand, offer consumers a very real and valuable relationship."

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