Don’t Sell Me Your Natural Product. Sell Me . . .

When I buy a head of lettuce at the natural food store, I’m actually not buying lettuce. I am thinking about the salad I’m going to make that night, the friends that are coming over and the good times we will all have. So, in effect when I look at that head of lettuce I don’t think green leafy vegetable – I think friendship.

The same thought process happens for just about every natural product, from vitamins to crackers, from shampoo to yogurt. You buy the product, but you are actually being sold something other than that product.

But here’s the rub. The same product does not sell the same thing to different people.

It’s What Happens Outside the Box or Container That Matters

We’ve conducted quantitative and qualitative market research for a variety of natural products brands —supplement companies, beauty products, superfoods, herbal extracts, teas, and packaged foods, to name a few. We cluster and segment the participants, and we ascertain the motivators for purchasing these products. In many cases we create a series of RealPersonas™ for the brand or category, which look beyond simple consumption to uncover opportunities for partnership between the brand and its most valuable participants.

One of the key findings that shows up consistently in our research is that people don’t buy the product. For example, when they are looking for a supplement, they want to be sold health, happiness or longevity, not higher doses. When they buy a specific food brand, some are looking for comfort, others for safety or a cleaner world.

Ask Them and They Won’t Tell You

The thing is you can’t ask people directly to fill in the blank of what they really want to be sold when they consider the product. Even in a qualitative interview setting, where you can set the stage and give them time to really think about it, most interviewees will still struggle with this question.

The way we uncover the information is through a series of questions that incorporate Jungian archetypes, social values orientation and adult attachment theory. We incorporate these findings with their buying patterns and preferences.

What’s striking is how when the RealPersonas are fleshed out, the answers to what each really wants to be sold when they make a purchase are quickly evident and distinctly different.

The problem for the brand now becomes, which aspiration or aspirations does it promote? After all, you can’t be all things to all people.

Value Versus Volume

Let’s say you have two personas: One is looking for comfort and the other is seeking truth. At first glance the comfort persona represents a greater market share, but upon closer inspection they are not as brand loyal as the persona who wants truth. The comfort persona shops more on price while the truth persona is willing to pay more for a product that they can trust. However, the truth persona represents a smaller market potential. This is where you need to make a decision — to compete for the bigger share where price is king or to appeal to the smaller share where integrity and loyalty count for something. This is where you make the decision to sell truth or comfort.

If you are asking us, 9 times out of 10, truth wins out.