The Encounter in Food & Beverage brands – How to Manage

Background

  • In our book The Taste Signature Revealed we introduce and talk about the value of the Encounter
  • How, when, where and with whom are all crucial components in forming the conscious and unconscious emotions at the first meeting of any new experience.
  • In life, any new experience, such as a new food and drink, are met with a form of introduction. This often heavily influenced by the experiences and thoughts of the introducer, be it parent, sibling or friend.%22Healty Eating%22 UGGH 2

 

New brands can be met anytime in life, however, most (but not all) new flavors are met when growing up. Therefore, every new food or drink a child encounters comes with its own description, tonality or even health warning, from the attitude and behavior of those doing the introduction.

  • However, the circumstances of the Encounter are also crucial as the child learns that people’s emotions, behavior and attitudes are not always consistent and do not always tie in with the actual experience. A mother may say something is nice when it is not.
  • The occasion will also have an impact – a party or something more mundane. A child learns to depend on these environmental cues as much as any cajoling from an introducer – a bullying brother or a kind uncle. The introducer’s beliefs, behavior and motivation are all analyzed and stored.

Where it is being introduced is also very influential. Is it in an expensive, formal place or a casual laid-back venue – an expensive restaurant or a corner diner or cafe? Is the place exotic, a sunny beach or a bustling city? How can the experience be anticipated – exciting or dull?

It is obvious that at the moment of the Encounter many more questions are being posed than in subsequent experiences of the food or drink.

  • To give an example, the introduction of Indian food to the UK is typical of the emotions that are being stirred.
  • With the winding down of the British Empire more immigrants came from India and ex-colonies where there was a large Indian population introduced by the British – such as parts of Africa
  • They bought their cuisine with them and being entrepreneurial opened restaurants
  • This cuisine was initially viewed with extreme suspicion by the locals – being very different in aroma, taste and texture
  • However, at this time the British licensing laws were very strict and most pubs closed at 10-30pm and so did restaurants
  • However, Indian restaurant owners were prepared to work late hours and stayed open to accommodate hungry drinkers and the result was that consumers were delighted to find that spicy Indian food worked very well with beer and a powerful British institution, the pub, was linked along with its Emotions, to curry
  • Over the years the liking of this food percolated into mainstream British life and the result was that Indian dishes (often adapted for the UK palate) are the amongst the most popular – more so than fish and chips
  • Once the product has been seen, classified and categorized no more questions are asked; otherwise similar effort would have to be spent on every occasion.

 

  • So how can a brandowner manage such an important issue? 

Managing the Encounter and the 80 / 20 Rule

New experiences generally create a strong impression upon the human being – both exciting and requiring care in evaluation.

Its “newness‟ is evaluated and classified vs. other similar experiences.

It can be exciting, dangerous or adventurous but the individual knows instinctively that the experience will not be as intense when subsequently repeated.

However, new experiences can be potentially dangerous, or even worse, embarrassing!

The ideal for the individual is 80% familiar and 20% new. If the new element is seen as potentially too high, the individual will be put off and may withdraw from the challenge altogether and reject the experience.

However, once a child moves into their teenage years new experiences become more attractive and experimentation is high, particularly with their accompanying peer group. While in old age the willingness to experiment can be diminished, rather routine and familiar patterns are appreciated.

 

Managing the Encounter for the appropriate consumer target market is crucial for the brand owner. It can determine whether a consumer will be heavy or light user. Is the product seen as something with a strong emotional attachment or just another product – one of many

Is it more appropriate at a smart stylish venue or a local filling station, or the local supermarket? For example, new alcoholic drinks are frequently introduced into a limited number of stylish bars to reach opinion formers, in the hope their influence will percolate to others.

Consumers observe those who are purchasing and often emulate their behavior as it gives an indication of the brand and whether it will support their self-image and value structure – or not!

If it is a food the consumer will go further. They are unlikely to study the ingredient list – despite government and manufacturers cajoling, but they will look at pictures and colors to classify major ingredients.

Product shots are very useful to give an indication of what it might be like to eat and whether appropriate for a particular Need State. It, therefore, needs to be obvious, familiar but exciting, which can be difficult for a new product launch.

One of the reasons that a range extension of a successful brand can be a safer option for the brand owner as long as this has the „80/20 familiarity vs. new connect. If not, there is a danger of damaging the parent brand – either being too close causing cannibalization or too distant and therefore lacking heritage and congruency.

It is obvious that managing the Encounter is key to the introduction of a new brand and requires more thought than simply putting on a big display at the end of the supermarket’s aisle. Care and thought need to be applied as to how exactly the target market will Encounter the new

CONCLUSION:

New food and drink experiences are usually obtained through a form of introduction

– The what, who, when and the how of the introduction are very influential in forming an emotional attachment

– Most (but not all) of these introductions occur when growing up

– The ideal for such experiences are 80% familiar and 20% new

– Managing the consumer’s Encounter is crucial for a brandowner

 

 

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