A view from Alex Ririe

Why FMCG brands need to rethink their purpose

Recent YouGov data suggests YouTube and Netflix are more important to millennials than established brands like Cadbury. It speaks volumes about the...

Ultimately I think brand value is still rooted in purpose. It has to respond to a consumer need or desire and if it doesn’t do that, then the brand won’t have longevity. What has changed hugely is the way a brand has to communicate its value.

We know millennials live for experiences and entertainment and use them as social currency – so it makes sense that inherently experiential brands are more popular with this audience than traditional brands.

We have to recognise that FMCG and content brands are very different propositions and fit into our lives in very different ways.

Brand interaction, and subsequently brand engagement, is significantly higher for content brands than it is for FMCG brands, simply because we have constant access to them via our mobile devices. These days, FMCG brands do need to work harder.

Millennials live for experiences and entertainment and use them as social currency.

However, I would argue that instead of FMCG brands emulating content brands and their strategy, it’s about going back to marketing 101 – establishing what’s at the heart of the brand, without the marketing spin. Millennials value brands with purpose, but they can spot smoke and mirrors a mile off.

The problem with many traditional or FMCG brands, is that they either lack purpose entirely – they’re produced simply because they can be – or their reason for being is built on tenuous points of difference and non-insights.

To succeed today, the "why" of your brand needs to be founded on truths and responding to a genuine consumer need. When this happens, it makes it easy to implement at every touch point, is easy for consumers to understand and comes across as authentic. The brand does what it says it’s going to do.

This is why modern content and experience brands are able to connect with their audiences better – they are truer about why they exist and their benefits are clearer. 

Of course brands today have to create content, interactions and experiences, but this shouldn’t be the cornerstone of brand importance. It’s not about creating content for the sake of it and just because everyone else is.

It’s about giving your consumers something useful while also delivering brand value. And what constitutes "useful" will depend on the context. It could be delivering something functional, it could be about enhancing their knowledge, or it could be entertainment and contributing to culture in some way. Whatever it is, to be truly effective it has to hit the sweet spot where brand value meets consumer need.

The essence of brand value hasn’t changed, but perhaps the categories that were once able to connect with a younger audience, confectionery, soft drinks etc. don’t offer the same value they once did.

Instead the top-spots are occupied by brands that can tailor experiences and provide non-stop entertainment.

In the meantime, ironically food becomes less experiential and more convenience. Increasingly, it needs to do a functional job, while the experience of eating and enjoying food is being eroded via distraction and multi-tasking.

Which is why, more than ever, FMCG brands really need to go back to basics. To plagiarise a quote I heard, "content is king but brand purpose is the queen, and she wears the trousers."