Power your food brand with stories of partnership and purpose.

Meaning makes better brand messages

COVID-19 turned a spotlight on food production and logistics, driving widespread appreciation of both the supply chain and the essential workers who support it, from farmers and ranchers to truck drivers and grocers. The food supply chain became the story, and people cared. They quickly recognized how it mattered as part of a larger human narrative.

These stories were delivered as news but would make powerful commercial messages as well. Food producers and their partners in the supply chain invest in innovation, working every day to find new ways to use fewer resources, simplify packaging and reduce their energy consumption. They lean into technology and collaborate to make their systems and processes faster, smarter and cleaner. Those make for engaging stories; as a gregarious social species, we all love stories about teamwork and working together to serve a higher purpose.

More smart food brands are highlighting their supply chain partnerships to create meaningful marketing messages. When the shared goal is responsible sustainability, the byproduct of getting food to tables can lead to a better world. Consider these recent stories of positive collaborations from the food supply chain:

Coming together to mitigate climate change 

In September, McDonald’s Corporation announced a joint effort with The Walmart Foundation; WWF; and Cargill, Inc. to launch the Ranch Systems and Viability Planning (RSVP) program to restore grassland and address climate change. McDonald’s Chief Sustainability Officer Francesca DeBiase called it “an important step toward scaling climate solutions across the supply chain.”

Similarly, Meat+Poultry reported that Burger King also was partnering with Cargill and WWF to reseed and replant 8,000 acres of marginal cropland with ecologically diverse plants for cattle grazing. Burger King’s Global Head of Innovation and Sustainability Matthew Banton explained: “Via the Grasslands Restoration project, we are proactively engaging with our peers, experts and industry stakeholders to help advance beef sustainability and mitigate the effects of climate change.”

Evolving from corporate to brand messaging

Ironically, while they celebrate doing things differently and better, both stories were promoted with standard press releases. So both died the common death of corporate announcement anonymity.

Despite real relevance, none created significant value with consumers’ clamoring for change. These massive missed opportunities stem directly from corporate structures where corporate and brand messaging are kept separate. That’s too bad. Audiences certainly don’t segregate messages in those buckets. If a brand were to tell these stories, they would welcome them — eagerly.

The inspiration within these partnership stories could come to vivid life through the emotional power of video or podcasts. They could live on social pages and pop up on Google searches for brands. They could create meaningful, sharable consumer conversations.

Food brands should look to their corporate supply chain alliances for stories they can leverage to demonstrate purpose and take credit at the brand level. The best way to determine if a partnership could inspire powerful brand storytelling is one thing every example above has in common:

They are partnerships created for a purpose that satisfies consumer desire for positive change.

People helping people. Finding purpose in the battle against a common challenge. This is the basis of inspiration storytelling. And since commercial messages rarely involve more than one brand, they are intrinsically unique and newsworthy. Any effort to create lasting change that improves the climate or society and aligns corporate and social goals is inherently interesting and can be leveraged to drive consumer loyalty at the brand level.

Don’t keep your company’s sustainability stories from your consumers; share them.

At Bader Rutter, we recognize that the current approach isn’t reaching consumers. Let us help you tell the story of how you cooperate with farmers, manufacturers, retailers, environmental groups and researchers to create better products for a better world. That’s exactly what we did recently for food startup Bunch Bar. Our client came to us with an amazing mission and belief: Great-tasting food should be available to everyone — period. She wanted to help address food insecurity for inner-city kids by creating a nutritious and delicious snack bar that integrates giving into its sales model. Together, we created a new brand from scratch and anchored it with a purpose as sincere as its intentions; see the story here.

It’s time to create heart-bursting, hall-of-fame success by partnering your company’s sustainability actions with your brand marketing’s creativity and budget.

Do it right, and together we will create a generation of consumer value for your brand and support people and the planet at the same time.

About the Authors

JoDee George is a former vice president of marketing who developed brand and customer experience strategies for a global food ingredient company. At Bader Rutter, she considers her primary role to be a connector — bringing the best of Bader Rutter to help solve business and marketing challenges for CEOs, CMOs and CCOs.

Over his career, ECD Dennis Ryan has worked on everything from Anheuser-Busch to Zaxby’s. His deep experience in CPG spans a wide range of brands that line grocery store shelves from major food companies like General Mills, Kraft Heinz, Conagra, Unilever, PepsiCo and WhiteWave. Food brands have always mattered to Dennis, but in today’s world of radical transparency, he believes the food chain matters more than ever. That’s why he joined Bader Rutter.