LONDON: PepsiCo, Birds Eye and Hovis are among the UK food and beverage firms seeking to further develop their marketing strategies as they try to drive growth in the recession.

Yahoo, the online search provider, and Marketing Magazine, the trade industry title, recently organised an event aiming to assess the challenges and opportunities facing companies in the food and beverage industry.

Speaking at the roundtable discussion, Bruno Gruwez, national marketing director for PepsiCo, argued "the rules of the game are changing", with major implications for how best to connect with consumers.

"Historically, your share of spend dictated your share of voice, and your share of voice ultimately dictated your share of market. That link is broken now," he added. 

"I don't believe that in our category you need to win the share of voice game anymore. It is about share of mind," he said.

More specifically, Gruwez proposed that a more interactive approach appeared not only to be the most effective strategy at present, but also offered considerable budgetary benefits.

"The most important media channel for me is people. If they want to make a remark about your brand, that makes you part of the conversation. You don't need to spend huge amounts of money anymore."

By contrast, Ben Pearman, marketing director of Birds Eye, suggested television remains "massively important” for the frozen food specialist, as it is still very much in favour with its core target audience.

"We have been far more deliberate, given the level of deflation in TV, pushing much more money into it," he said.

"We have probably been less creative; we haven't had the 360-degree campaigns that most marketers aspire to, but we have had some fantastic efficiency and we have made it more of a linchpin than ever before, just driven by the economics."

In-store communications are another vital channel for the company, as it attempts to differentiate its product lines from a wide range of own-label and branded competitors.

"Brand block and signage is critical," Pearman said. "You can't rely on packaging to do your advertising for you. In the first instance, they have got to find it."

Jon Goldstone, the marketing director for Hovis, similarly asserted that the popularity of Saturday-night shows like The X Factor, the singing contest, demonstrated the strength of this medium.

"TV is resurgent," he said. "To be part of that is pretty fantastic in terms of getting emotional connection. It is integral to us."

As loyalty levels are typically very high when it comes to choosing which brand of bread to buy, consumers also often to do so on "auto pilot", meaning more than TV spots is required.

As such, Hovis has redesigned the packaging across its portfolio in an effort to aid on-shelf stand-out, as well as emphasising quality, as tries to take on Warburtons, its major rival in this area.

"Before we spent a penny on relaunching Hovis, getting blind-taste advantage [compared to] Warburtons was our main focus," said Goldstone.

"Until we got there we didn't spend a penny on anything else because it was our foundation."

Data sourced from Marketing Magazine; additional content by Warc staff