The new year is fast-approaching and if there’s one piece of advice we can give to consumer package goods (CPG) brands for 2018, it’s that old mass-market shopping behaviors no longer apply. Historically, CPG brands could track population and consumer spending habits to make determinations about expanding or maintaining their market share.

However, things have changed for both consumers and retailers—and that’s a very good thing. In the age of hyper-efficient distribution channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it has never been a better time to be a CPG brand.

Take e-commerce and CPG upstarts like Brandless for example. Launched in July 2017, Brandless set out to do two things: destroy what they call “brand tax” and provide high-quality essentials for $3 apiece to anyone who needs them. (And I needed ’em.)

via GIPHY

Like most consumers, I have interests that are constantly converging and diverging. I sit quite comfortably on the fence between “survivalist” and “selectionist.” I eat, sleep and breath straightforward, stand-the-test-of-time brands like Arm & Hammer, Morton Salt and Jameson Irish Whiskey. But I also don’t mind ponyin’ up when it’s time to treat myself to specialty, import and local fare like Di Bruno Bros. Cheese, Bluecoat Gin, Food and Ferments Old World Caraway Sauerkraut and now, anything that Brandless is willing to sell me.

That’s what Brandless really gets about consumers. Too often CPG marketers stick to single camps—quality or value—when consumers are trending in a much more complicated and human way. They are simply no longer defined or motivated by a singular demographic or even psychographic trait. And Brandless takes those many conflicting interests and neatly echoes them back to consumers in a single, clear and concise value proposition: good quality, often non-GMO and organic CPG for a forever value of just $3.

Simple, clean, and unapologetically consumer-serving.

In effect, Brandless taught me a few things on how to be a better CPG marketer. Some points may sound kind of obvious, but developing that kind of brand confidence is anything but simple. Here’s what I think they get right.

Stand for something.

Brandless’ concept of destroying the “brand tax” succeeds in two ways:

  1. It generates attention and interest in the company by illuminating a problem that consumers can easily grab onto.
  2. It develops a sense of trust and credibility in the brand, which helps with converting interest into e-commerce conversions.

Make it shoppable.

One of the greatest benefits of the Brandless experience is that it’s a no-brainer from start to finish. The brand and pricing strategy are easy for consumers to grasp and the shopping experience is a breeze. Just click, ship and enjoy.

For legacy CPG brands, it’s often a bit more complicated than that—especially if a given product is highly perishable or can’t be shipped directly to consumers. But as services like Amazon Fresh and native e-commerce become more sophisticated, so should your own shopping experience. Why waste what attention and interest you’ve earned just on a complicated and long buying cycle? Remember: a confused mind says “no.”

Source: Brandless

Invest in shared and earned media.

I first started seeing Brandless social ads on Instagram. My curiosity was piqued by the (ironically) highly graphic branding as well as its value-driven message. My next move was intuitive both as a consumer and digital marketer: I checked out their social accounts and hashtags to look for other Brandless customers. Did people have positive things to say about their experience? Were they enjoying the outcome? Could I relate to them?

Then, I searched for the brand on Google to see if Brandless had been mentioned or reviewed by any publications or content providers that I trusted. I found tons of features from sites I regularly read like Business Insider, Delish and BuzzFeed.

For a new product launch or market entry, the importance of earned media can’t be understated. Consumers simply don’t take brands at their word. They research. They ask friends. They look for themselves in the brand just like I did.

Take on the consumer perspective.

Engaging with Brandless as a consumer was a great exercise in empathy for me, one that I encourage CPG brand marketers to do during their 2018 planning. Every experience you have as a consumer is valuable to you as a marketer because it challenges your assumptions.

So pen your thoughts in a journal. Keep track of new brands that you find. Be a consumer. Because in the end, you’ll be a better marketer for it.