What Dietary Supplement, Functional Food and Personal Care Brands Can Learn from How Consumers Perceive the News Media
If you don’t think branding and knowing your customer are critical to your success as a natural products company (whether you’re in the dietary supplement, functional food or personal care industries), then I want to draw your attention to a June 2018 Gallup and Knight Foundation survey — Perceived Accuracy and Bias in the News Media.
The study findings demonstrate that the biases consumers bring with them distort how they read news content. In other words, it may not be the media that’s biased, but rather the reader themselves who are biased in their interpretation.
In order to come to this conclusion, the researchers fundamentally de-branded the stories from the publication in which they appeared. Half of the respondents read the content without knowing the source of the news. The other half saw the same stories, but with the story source (brand) in plain view. Those who were “blinded” from the source were significantly more trusting of the news they read.
The study concluded that knowing the news source influenced a degree of trust in the veracity of the story, both positively and negatively. It’s also important to note that the blinded and non-blinded were made up of a balanced mix of people across the political spectrum — the only difference was whether the story had a brand attached to it or not.
So what does this mean for natural products marketers?
Bias As a Key Indicator
Knowing consumers’ biases is a key indicator of how they’ll respond to your marketing.
People are emotional about their beliefs and passionate about their perspectives. The key for brands is to tap into that passion and understand their participants’ beliefs.
While this is not news to most marketers, the Gallup study demonstrates that people tend to be influenced more by their emotion and beliefs than by pure logic.
Now, if the study had asked them if they are logical and fair-minded about how they interpret the news, they would probably say they are, and that it’s the news itself that’s biased or fake. When it comes to supplement consumers, they too like to think they are the ones who are objective and rational about their decision-making process.
But the truth is, it’s the reverse. People are emotional about their beliefs and passionate about their perspectives. The key for a dietary supplement, functional food or personal care brand is to tap into that passion and understand their participants’ beliefs.
However, if you don’t know who your key consumers are, what motivates them, and what they’re passionate about, then you have no idea if you are tapping into their passion.
Passion Trumps Science
We have a saying here at Pure Branding: “When it comes to dietary supplements, passion trumps science.” We don’t discount science. It’s the cost of entry for the supplement category and without it you can’t succeed.
What this Gallup study points to is the importance of consumer passion, even more so than the passion of the brand. Ideally, you want a perfect alignment.
Take Gaia Herbs for example. When we conducted consumer research, we found consumers were seeking assurance in an industry fraught with questions, recalls and an onslaught of negative press. For them, they no longer believed “trust us.” What they wanted was proof — not tell-me proof, but show-me proof.
Pure Branding recognized the potential to elevate the promise of an herbal medicine company from “trust us” to “Let us prove it.” And Gaia was ideally positioned to be that brand and tap into that passion for proof through its Meet Your Herbs platform. The result, a nice tripling of sales in four years, happened all because they tapped into the passion of key consumers.
Appeal to Your Most-Valued Segment
One other finding from the Gallup study was the impact of alignment.
As much as a brand would like the entire market share, that’s never going to happen for dietary supplement, functional food and personal care brands.
Brands attract loyalists who are aligned with their values. The study shows that conservative respondents had a positive bias for conservative media, and a negative bias for liberal media. Those respondents might have found the unbranded story believable, but with the source identified, their level of trust went up or down depending on how they aligned themselves.
The media that caters directly to those who strongly align with them choose which stories are the most important. For example, if there are three equally important events occurring at the same time, the one that is most appealing to the target audience’s bias will get prominence over the others. This will reveal itself in the placement of the lead story in the broadcast, or placement on the first or second page of the newspaper.
Many brands in the dietary supplement, functional food or personal care space also appeal to those who have the same passion for similar causes.
For example, Nutiva, which sells commodities like coconut oil, hemp, and chia seed, is vehement in their activism in favor of organics, non-GMO, and fair trade. This activism translates directly to a perception of “highest quality.” These customers truly believe because Nutiva is so outspoken, they must have only the highest standards in everything. They want to believe this because that, in turn, supports who they themselves want to be.
Science Can Be Passionate
On a final note, many consumers are passionate about science.
Our research always shows that there are people who want to read the science, and who value the opinion of medical experts when it comes to choosing their supplements. Highlighting the science behind a supplement is never a bad decision. When we worked with Neocell, they were facing a challenge — the collagen category was booming, and as a result, collagen was becoming a commodity. They wanted to become the leader in that category before someone else did.
But first, they needed to know who their customers were. By approaching the segmentation research through a combination of life stage, behavioral, and psychographic frameworks, the results gave greater clarity to the “why” of the Brand Center — NeoCell’s business is to help people at all stages of life live with confidence and vitality.
The key word here is “confidence.” At the time, the collagen chatter was about everything except the science. We worked with Neocell to make the complexities around the science of collagen and tissue regeneration accessible. The tagline “The True Science of Collagen” resonated with Neocell’s core because the brand was passionate about putting a stake in the ground for a claim that no other brand had yet made.
Tapping Into the Passion
There’s only one way to know how to best tap into your key consumers’ passion, and it’s by getting to know who they are — their passions, beliefs, and motivations. In the case of the Gallup study, the question was where bias lies — with news media or its readers? The answer was that the biased readers dictate the conversation. For dietary supplement, functional food, and personal care brands, it’s the consumers who hope to find a brand that taps into their passions and beliefs.