In the first of a new series of category-specific investigations for WARC, Kantar’s Global Brand Director - Media, Duncan Southgate, takes a look at the media effectiveness of campaigns for food and non-alcoholic drink brands.

Like a good nutritional program, the trick to touchpoint effectiveness for food and drink brands is balance and variety. These brands are some of the world’s biggest advertisers, and key to their success is demand generation at scale. But in attempting to create this scale, they need to be careful not to rely exclusively on paid media, or to rely too heavily on any one specific media channel.

The Kantar Connect database shows that paid media delivers just 23% of all touchpoint impact for food and drink brands, less than we see in other categories. Product experience and word of mouth deliver almost 50% of touchpoint impact. These need to be maximised, as well as fundamentals like good distribution and shelf presence (both in-store and increasingly in e-commerce). In fact, according to our COVID-19 Barometer, 14% of people bought food and drink online for the first time in the month of March this year (more than any other category). So the brands that have invested in e-commerce will now be reaping some significant short-term rewards.

Memorable moments across all touchpoints, new or old, need to create associations that stick in the memory and set food & drink brands apart. For example, a relatively small French biscuit brand with limited marketing budget were focused mainly on delivering their product as a sample along with a cup of coffee in bars and restaurants. Kantar Connect results showed it was the only brand to generate a positive experience through valuable moments, while its competitors were dependent on promotions and other value-destructive pricing strategies. As a consequence, the client set up a B2B action plan to maximise the impact generated through coffee-related point of sale touchpoints and put more emphasis on this USP in their paid media communication.

Within paid media, the food and drink brands Kantar measures invest very heavily in TV, achieving high reach (72%) and strongly building awareness and associations. However, this investment is less cost-effective than other paid media (index of 73*), largely due to excessive frequency (the average of 18 is well above our optimal threshold of 13).

In contrast, Facebook ads are delivering very cost effectively for food & drink brands (index of 152*), in part thanks to lower than average frequency levels. 

Food and drink brands who have joined the Facebook boycott are therefore doing so at a real and relevant cost to themselves, according to research conducted by the Oxford University Saïd Business School, based on Kantar data. In general, boycotting food and drink brands should expect a drop in Unaided Awareness (-7%), Associations (-6%), and Motivation to Purchase (-5%).

TV spend is also not providing the perfect platform for success, because synergies between TV and other media are significantly lower than we see in other categories. So why might food and drink brands be struggling to generate synergy? As well as having much less TV synergy, they also achieve less digital synergy than other categories. So perhaps food and drink brands are still somewhat siloed and struggling to fully integrate their “traditional” TV media with their digital activity?

Online video is another touchpoint where food and drink brands could do better. The cost effectiveness of online video is below average (index of 90*), which is worse than we see for other categories (index of 129*). Investment is relatively high but reach, frequency and brand impact are lower than other categories, suggesting potential to improve media efficiency (lower CPMs) and impact (better customised content).

A cheese snack brand in Germany learned the importance of a balanced media diet. They were pursuing a new strategy to change their brand positioning amongst young adults by using out-of-home (OOH) and point-of-sale as their main reach drivers. Kantar’s CrossMedia solution showed the OOH drove awareness due to high reach, however the impact did not go beyond reminding consumers about what they already knew about the brand. OOH messaging needed to be bolder to build new associations, and other channels were needed to provide wider context. Our recommendations were adopted in a subsequent campaign which included Facebook and YouTube, and these synergies saw far stronger increases in brand metrics.

Into the future, food & drink will be significantly impacted by the emergence of the ‘Post Retail’ era, where we will see the rise of e-commerce & shop-vertising, and a shift to algorithm-assisted auto-replenishment. This blurring of marketing & sales implies greater fluidity will be needed between how food & drink brands create and convert demand.

We are entering a new phase of “post digital” marketing. Some of the newest DTC food & drink brands have found success in the online space, but are now evolving and aspiring to be more like traditional brands (investing in offline shelf presence and bigger media budgets which are not just digital). Meanwhile, traditional FMCG players are learning from the DTCs by improving their e-commerce capabilities and ability to connect with younger audiences.

Across both TV and digital media we also have clear evidence that an excessive share of spend for any single channel damages effectiveness.  For all of these reasons, it is clear that a varied media diet (both paid and non-paid, traditional and digital) is the way forward for food and drink brands.

To download further free insights from this Kantar food and drink touchpoint analysis, please visit this page.

* Cost effectiveness indices are a comparison of CrossMedia share of brand contributions vs share of spend. 100 is the score for a channel with average cost effectiveness (same share of contribution as share of spend).