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Brand & package design intelligence for CPG food brand performance.

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Consumer persona strategy: how to build love for CPG food brands

By Vanessa Doll

A common fear among my clients when developing a positioning strategy is targeting too specific a demographic with the branding or packaging design and potentially alienating others. The threat of risking access to the largest slice of the market share pie is a genuine concern. But they need a clearly defined target audience to identify values or lifestyles that give the brand personality, approachability, or appeal. Consumer persona strategy can help push and pull levers to refine brand personality, tone of voice, and specific messaging. 

Knowing how to identify, classify, and utilize personas for your CPG food brand is essential. Consumers break into two broad categories: traditional consumers (they make purchasing decisions based on price, convenience, and availability) and experiential consumers (they value experiences over products). 

These two categories are the starting point for your brand targets––because food is consumable, many brands are more conducive to being seen as practical and convenient. But certain products are meant to enhance an experience, from exotic ingredients to indulgences. There may be a white-space opportunity to speak to a more experiential consumer with your product, but don’t force it. 

The needs and expectations of consumers in the grocery space are somewhat defined. Most new brands in the CPG food space provide a unique solution to an old problem or improve upon an existing option. Many consumers overlap within the two categories; they want a convenient and affordable product that also helps them share a special moment with their kids. Understand their preferences in order of priority, and be realistic about where your product will likely be most successful.

The “target” demographic is where you aim, not the only place you hit.

A consumer persona is a fictional depiction of a shopper representing a combination of drivers that lead them to your product. Each persona should embody a specific segment of your target market based on demographics like age, gender, income level, education level and psychographics like lifestyle choices or hobbies. 

For example, Jennifer is a single Millennial Mom with two young school-age children who works full-time as a paralegal for a downtown law firm in Chicago. We can ascertain from this that she is active on social media (from her age), middle income (from her job and marital status), and busy (again, job and young children). She values convenience, price, and healthful items as she feels pressure from social media messaging to show up as a good mom. Can your product provide solutions to these three pain points? 

Or would your product better suit Jimmy, a single college-age kid who loves to party with his buds and game. He is also on social media and has limited income, but more interested in convenience and flavor than finding nutrient-dense options for picky kids. 

Consumer choices are made on a sliding scale and can be affected by anything from the time of day to the retail environment. It’s tempting for that reason to talk to both Jimmy and Jennifer. The “target” demographic is where you aim, not the only place you hit. You can still reach broader and secondary audiences with a clear definition of your ideal audience. If Jennifer is the more likely target consistently, Jimmy can still find your product independently. Your messaging, however, should reach Jennifer instead. 

Use brand personas to guide your discovery phase when determining positioning or a brand personality. They can also be useful when revisiting current equities or positioning during a refresh. Let them be the foundation for your brand love. Real people will follow.

Have a pet food brand? This article explores more insights on consumer behaviors.

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