Promote vs. Protect: Why Global Integration is a Two-Way Street

For decades, we have collectively praised the notion of global integration but few have achieved nirvana where all activities are seamlessly threaded without borders or boundaries. There are many reasons why this doesn‘t happen. I would offer that in the food and beverage industry it shouldn‘t happen. Rather, we should take a different strategic approach. I‘m going to state the obvious here. The food and beverage sector is still very much focused on local brands that speak to varying cultures and lifestyles – and rightly so. Building relevant market strategies to promote brands requires exceptional insights about local mindsets, behaviors and trends. The marketing tools and tactics that resonate in one area may well fail in another. What is less obvious – and may even seem counter-intuitive to local brand-building best practices – is the necessity of taking a global approach to issues and crisis management. Situations affecting brands and business rarely start in or stay contained to a geography. The majority of issues impacting the industry today are a set of common negative forces affecting nearly every brand and corporation in every market in the world. They may play out to varying degrees in each market but they are typically the same core issues.

These issues are fuelled by a shift in power to the people enabled by democratized social and digital platforms, which have removed the ability to control, isolate and starve out simmering issues and activists. In an instant, like-minded consumers can aggregate and agitate for change online. Who are these people? And can they be reached? Our Ketchum Food 2020 global research identified a new consumer influencer segment we have dubbed the Food eVangelist. They are self-appointed agents of change who are neither activists nor affiliated with groups or each other. They view themselves as serving a higher purpose to warn and protect others from food-related risk by way of sharing and questioning the status quo. They are not the extreme, small percentage of the population that can never be reached or satisfied. To the contrary, our research shows Food eVangelists are and can be the moveable middle on many issues. What’s more, data shows that they exist in every country, and we have learned that the drumbeat heard around the world from Food eVangelists is remarkably similar and consistent. Conversely, we know that if dismissed or dissatisfied they will congregate and collectively agitate for change on a massive and public scale. The borderless and fluid ability of these groups to ignite and fuel escalation is expanding exponentially. Command and control strategies no longer work. In fact, we‘ve seen evidence that they actually backfire, accelerating the issue. The drain on local resources to fight each brush fire is overwhelming and, frankly, this approach is ineffective. In any business, there is a time to sell and a time to tell. There are also very different strategies for promoting versus protecting your brands and business and confusing or integrating the two can have serious negative consequences. Waiting until you see fires burning can be even worse. Concerned Food eVangelists are continually urging everyday consumers to pay attention and take action. Bonfires become a raging forest firestorm all too quickly.

At Ketchum, we advocate building a two-way approach to global communications in the food industry. Promoting from the inside out locally in parallel with PROTECTING from the outside in regionally and globally is the new paradigm. By adopting relationship-building, reputation-enhancing communication initiatives between Food eVangelists who share common concerns and expectations, it is possible to build a base of support, and acceptance that will surround, strengthen and shield local marketing strategies. A skilled firm that is steeped in food and agricultural work should have separate teams working on these two paths at all times – one regionally focused on protecting while the other is locally focused on promoting. It is crucial they be aligned but each requires deliberately different messages, channels and strategies. We’ve all seen that bad things happen to good people – and to good brands. When a crisis hits that disrupts business or threatens the brand materially, you need a plan, a protocol and a firm that can instantly mobilize and align across multiple borders. Our global crisis team runs simulations on a regular basis to ensure our clients are prepared from the inside out. Broad-reaching technologies like our mobile crisis app called Mobile RepProtect allow our clients to have their crisis plans available to them instantly via their smartphones as well as to instantly contact the main crisis manager on breaking situations via email or a phone call within the app. This technology allows all our necessary parties within Ketchum and the client organization to quickly activate across the world. Global integration is and will remain an important aspect of business. But, at Ketchum, we believe the food industry requires global and regional reputation-building and crisis management infrastructures that align and work in parallel with local marketing programs. Protecting and promoting is, we believe, a two-way street.

Food Meets Creativity: An Interview with Ketchum Creative Director, Petra Sammer

Creative directors are commonplace in the advertising industry. However, they are still quite unusual in the public relations sector. An interview conducted by Diana Dorenbeck with Ketchum’s Perta Sammer, a highly respected and tenured colleague based in Munich, Germany, gives some some insight on her role and why it’s so important to the agency’s robust Food & Beverage practice.

What does creativity mean in PR? What do creative directors do?

There are a few PR agencies that have creative directors and specialised creative teams like Ketchum – which takes its lead from advertising agencies. However, in PR we generally have a different approach. We don’t see “creativity” as a task for a small, elite team. Instead, we ask everyone in the agency to come up with ideas. This “democratised” approach differentiates us from other agencies.

However, at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this past June, you could hear that more and more agencies are starting to think in the same way. The reasons for this are very complex. In part, solutions for a multi-screen, hyper-connected and engaging media world can’t be found by a small group of “creativity gurus” acting alone. Today, you need to connect experts from many disciplines such as journalists, IT specialists, film-makers, researchers, artists and many more. An idea can come from anywhere, so our view is that there is little need for an autocratic creative director who is the “wise guy” and supposedly knows it all. However, we do need a new type of creative director that can facilitate creativity and connect different specialists.

How is creativity different in relation to the food industry?

Food is and always has been an industry that demands creativity which appeals to all the senses – from sight and smell to touch. Whenever you work for food products, you have to keep in mind that eating and drinking are two of the most intense, sensitive and emotional things we do every day and that we experience food with so many senses. Communication has to reflect this.

We often hear you talk abotuteh  importance of storytelling. What does a food company have to take into account if it chooses a storytelling approach for communication?

At the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, several food companies such as Chipotle and Honey Maid won with creative and highly visual storytelling campaigns. The key to their success was their ability to find their core belief. Every good story has a reason to be told, so food companies need to know what their reason is. I don’t mean the vision or mission of a company or a brand. I mean that a compelling story needs to dig deeper and come up with what Simon Sinek calls the “Why” behind a story.

Finally, one question regarding the future: what trends can you identify in the field of creativity – maybe with regard to food?

As you know, it’s not easy to predict the future and there are several ways to answer this question. One can either go totally sci-fi and bring up ideas which are completely out of the blue and which sound somehow outstanding, fascinating … but also a bit unbelievable and questionable. Or one can look at the past, and the present, and expand on what’s already there. To answer your question, I will choose the second option. In my opinion, we will see more #live-communications in the future. By this, I mean “real-time” communication where brands comment on real-time events, jumping in quickly on running conversations and sparking conversations in real time. I know that is challenging for many companies and brands – and also for agencies – as this needs new resources, new listening and new conversation skills. But if it is done right it’s a powerful tool to engage with fans and consumers on topics which are relevant to them. I also strongly believe in gamification. The health care industry is currently testing therapy games to support healing with mental and psychological motivation. Journalists are testing news games to get complex information across. HR departments are testing serious games to motivate employees and help them to work more effectively through a playful environment. And finally, the internet of things, wearable electronics and the self-tracking trend will give us plenty of big data to play with.

Making Every Berry Count

The skin and flesh of colourful fruit such as cranberries, blackberries and the superfood açai berries is rich in vitamin C as well as in natural compounds called anthocyanins. The juice extracted from these berries is brightly coloured, has a distinct flavour profile and potent antioxidant properties. The global juice market is complex. Whilst products able to make specific health claims or offer unusual flavour or nutrient profiles have continued to do well, consumers have grown sceptical of the intrinsic health benefits of more traditional products like orange juice, which contain a substantial amount of sugar. Recent UK consumer media coverage has criticised  household-brand orange juices for their high sugar content and there have even been recommendations that fruit juice should not count towards a person’s “five a day.” There is a clear opportunity for beverage manufacturers to leverage the rich colour and health benefits of berries to create 100% juices that both taste great and support a balanced diet. In fact, the beverage sector has already seen an increase in consumer demand for antioxidant-rich açai, goji and aronia berry drinks.

cranberries

Meeting consumer brand demand: more high-quality functional ingredients needed
Taste and health-giving properties are not the only attributes that consumers look for when reaching for fruit juice. Convenience has become an increasingly important consideration when buying food products. Given that 80% of British adults admit to struggling to keep up with the recommended “five a day”, the attraction of a high-quality fruit juice or smoothie that counts as one or two portions is clear. Market research confirms this, indicating that, while sales of fruit juice remain static at a high level throughout Europe and North America, in Asia, South America and North Africa they are going from strength to strength. Low-acid and not-from-concentrate juices have recorded the highest growth rates in these regions, with a shift towards highquality products with antioxidants and other functional ingredients similar to that previously seen in Europe and North America.

Enzymes: add a little, do a lot
Given these market conditions, it is no surprise that there is an increase in the number of consumers wanting fresh, healthy juice made from blue and red berries. However, unknown to most people, when berries are squeezed, only some of the antioxidants and juices are released. So a special enzyme designed to break down the skin and tissues of these delicate fruits is needed to extract more from them. Manufacturers using these enzymes can actually double the level of antioxidants made available in the juice, compared to not using enzymes. Also, if coloured berry juice was produced in Europe and North America without the help of enzymes, the cost of producing the juice concentrate would be about 20% higher, potentially making it less accessible to consumers seeking the health-giving properties and great taste of berry-based juices. That would be a real shame for families already contending with the rising cost of living.

Open Air Breakfasts

Biscuits ‘n gravy has never been one of my breakfast staples. I recently had the occasion to taste a pretty amazing version outdoors, under a stormy, cloudy sky. It might have been the location and timing of that particular breakfast, but I am pretty sure I would go back for third helpings of this dish anywhere.

Ready to paddle the distance of Boston to Washington, D.C. using just these two arms and my legs.

Ready to paddle the distance of Boston to Washington, D.C. using just these two old arms.

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Home Is Where the Coney Is

Lake Michigan’s coastline from 30,000 feet

Lake Michigan’s coastline from 30,000 feet

Great Lakes. Tigers (the baseball playing kind). “Up North.” Lemonade. Ice cream. Coney dogs.

This eclectic group of pastimes and food cravings describe summertime in Michigan, my home state. And I remembered just what makes summer so summery (besides steamy Midwest temps) in the Great Lake state during a recent visit home to celebrate my nieces Abbey’s and Allie’s graduations.

As my older niece Allie wrapped up her high school career, the primo food event that week centered on her graduation open house – when family and her parents’/grandparents’ friends would embarrassingly (but lovingly) reminisce about “how fast she’d grown up.” And memories and food go hand-in-hand.

Months ago, Allie landed on her open house theme: summer picnic. Daisies and a summer picnic. Let the picnicking begin …

Lemonade + Iced Tea

Every summer picnic’s favorite refreshing combo – as good apart as they are together. A Michigander enjoys an “Arnold Palmer” as much as the next guy.

Who doesn't love a pitcher of Arnold Palmer?

Who doesn’t love a pitcher of Arnold Palmer?

Summer Salad

Michigan builds cars. But did you know we also build a killer salad bar? A real Michigan salad never leaves off dried sweet/tart cherries (sometimes cranberries), crumbly blue cheese, crunchy pecans or walnuts and a tangy vinaigrette dressing. Toss in crisp cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, crispy bacon bits – with a side of my mom’s homemade macaroni salad – and you’ve got a picnic salad party.

Fresh Fruit

Traverse City, on the banks of northern Lake Michigan, is one of the world’s cherry capitals. Michigan also happens to grow some of the juiciest, sweetest, bluest blueberries. It’s true. If you’re ever at a Michigan summer picnic without a fruit salad heavy on the blueberries, something has gone wrong.

Essential for a Michigan summer picnic!

Essential for a Michigan summer picnic!

Sweet Daisies

Apple blossoms are Michigan’s official state flower, but daisies are a universal summer thing. This picnic sported white chocolate daisy lollipops from a local candy maker among the daisy desserts.

Daisy desserts are the perfect treat for a summer party

Daisy desserts are the perfect treat for a summer party

Not Just Any Hotdog

Hotdogs … an American summer staple. This open house picnic hotdog spread (my sister’s genius) included recipes & ingredients to tailor your ‘dog: Barbeque Bacon-style, Ballpark-style, Chicago-style. But the ultimate Michigan picnic show stealer is the Coney Island Dog (or “Coney” if you’re a local): grilled beef hotdog, with locally made Coney sauce (all meat), yellow mustard and chopped white onion. And you’ll only make the rookie mistake once of describing a Coney as “just like a chili dog.” Flint Coney? Detroit Coney? Different towns put their unique spin on their Coney secret sauce. Serious sauce business … worthy of its own blog post. (Ask Anthony Bourdain, who just scratched the Coney surface during his ‘Parts Unknown’ Detroit journey.)

Uniquely, deliciously, purely Michigan.

If you find yourself exploring Michigan, just ask where to find a good Coney and directions to “Up North” (which really does exist) … and a friendly Michigander will point you the right way.

Eating My Way Through Asia: The Photos

Recently, I was lucky enough to travel to Asia on behalf of Ketchum, both as a global scholar and as a trainer of our planning process, RISC.  In a whirlwind of a month, I went through Singapore, Mumbai, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. When people ask about the experience, I point to the photos, which are mostly of food, naturally. Food is important within all cultures but it takes new heights in Asia. There, food is a manifestation of your persona – your heritage, your hometown, your ability to provide for your family, your graciousness towards a guest in your care. In India alone, I was astounded at the nuances of completely different cuisine belonging to certain regions of India – never again will I order “Indian” and not question if it’s North Indian or Gujarati, to name just two of many.

Here, I take you through my top food experiences, as seen through a selection of my personal photos.

Conveyor Belt Sushi, Singapore
Conveyor Belt Sushi: Though this has certainly hit the US before as a novelty thing, the complete normalcy of this experience in a Singapore mall is what struck me. Why wouldn’t one endlessly grab new dishes off a fast moving belt? For variety-addicts like me, this was one exciting meal (and one that could’ve gone on forever).

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Top 10 Food & Dining Trends in Moscow

Editor’s Note: While most of the world debates the likely medalists at the Sochi Games, we foodies will be asking an equally important question. Tell us, tell us PLEASE, what in the heck is everyone eating over there and how can we replicate it at home? Our Ketchum colleagues graciously obliged our tantrums and now you, too, can be in-the-know if someone asks you to bring some “Herring Under a Fur Coat” to their Opening Ceremony party. I hope you’ll enjoy learning more about Russian cuisine today and in the weeks to come. Amy

2013 was a remarkable year in the world of food and dining in Moscow and people are still talking about food trend predictions for 2014. We are no astrologists, so instead spent the past days examining the current top 10 trends in Russian food and dining. Who knows? With a little help from the Sochi Olympics, some predictions might become the next global hits!

A traditional Russian salad served in a sushi-like manner at café Schisliva in Moscow.

A traditional Russian salad served in a sushi-like manner at café Schisliva in Moscow.

1.       The big comeback of traditional Russian cuisine.  More and more restaurants in Moscow are offering traditional Russian dishes as part of their mixed European menus or as the main thing. Thanks to the trend, more visitors to the Russian capital, and even locals, have a chance to rediscover real Russian food and learn that there’s more to it than kasha and blini (the famous borsch is, in fact, a Ukrainian special). Some places stick to the classic recipes and offer authentic botvinia (green vegetable soup with fish), pastille (prune-coconut-honey confections) – not to be confused with zefir (meringue-style confections) and sbiten (a honey-based traditional drink), while others get creative and serve common dishes in very experimental  ways – think of a classic Selyodka Pod Shuboi salad (commonly known as “Herring Under a Fur Coat”) made to look like the ever popular sushi (photo above). [Read more…]

The Good Food Awards Marketplace

Good Food Awards 2014

The Good Food Awards, held in San Francisco each year and put on by Seedling Projects, is a gathering of some of the nation’s most delicious and authentic food producers who generously share their wares. Judging across a wide range of categories – beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, oils, pickles, preserves and spirits – the awards honor producers around the country who meet specific criteria based on an extensive set of principles put together by The Good Food Awards Committee including:  [Read more…]

Trend Watch: Extreme Guy Food

“Bro/dude food” has undoubtedly been around for a while now, but in 2014 we expect to see it re-invented and taken to the next level with the Fully Loaded/Full Throttle trendextreme, indeed.

What does it mean?

  • Consumers are pursuing thrill seeker food like specialty sandwiches crafted with custom meat mixtures and often toasted, pressed and griddled
  • These  foods often come in large portions and are shareable
    • i.e. Reuben fried with chopped pastrami, sauerkraut, melted Swiss and Russian dressing
December 4 photo for Mara Sljvich post The Beast of Midtown East

The Beast of Midtown East” – 13-layer sandwich stuffed with fried chicken, ham, bacon, waffles and all kinds of other ingredients. Photo Credit: Thrillist.com Andrew Zimmer

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