Rachel Hansen

Many of our clients’ brands have both retail, or business-to-consumer (B2C), and foodservice, or business-to-business (B2B), sides to their business. This means that anyone from chefs and restaurant operators, to foodservice directors at a college or university or a hospital, to our neighbors and our mothers can buy, serve and enjoy their products. Whether we are eating out, dining in, operating a business, selling a product or cooking for others or for ourselves, we are all consumers. And when thinking about brand strategy, what is relevant, original and impactful about a brand may be, and likely is, the same across divisions of a business. I am talking about an umbrella brand strategy, a singular brand promise that rings true throughout an organization that can be leveraged in both B2C and B2B worlds, a true business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) or umbrella brand strategy. Let’s look at the merits of a singular, resonating B2B2C brand strategy, and how it might translate across different sides of the business (B2C and B2B).

In foodservice, getting your products in chefs’ hands, working and innovating with the products is important. At Foodmix, we leverage our nationwide chef network to tap into chefs across commercial and noncommercial foodservice, assembling a diverse group from different segments. Why? Because chefs help influence other chefs, and inspire consumers. Foodservice can be a live sampling opportunity for your brand, getting your products in the hands of chefs and in the mouths of consumers. And at the end of the day, we are all consumers – chefs, operators and foodservice directors included!

Part of this exercise is helping chefs understand what is unique about your brand story. Is it a true farm-to-table story? Does your company comprise several generations of family owners? Are your company employees obsessed with quality every step of the way? If chefs and operators understand your point of difference, it can be a compelling story for their patrons. If waitstaff talk to their customers about your product, those same customers are the ones browsing the store aisles and seeing your packaging or your shelf talkers or your billboards on their way to the store. Retail can be a billboard for your brand, where foodservice can be a sampling opportunity. Consistent brand storytelling across both sides of the business strengthens your position versus your competition’s and provides reach and frequency benefits as well.

Where a clear, unique brand story has relevance to foodservice and retail, it can differ in how the message is brought to life. Take for example our coffee and tea client Red Diamond. The one resounding and unrefuted brand truth is their obsession with quality. From the four generations of coffee and tea farmers handpicking the product, to the company’s top-of-the-line Italian roasters making sure a consistent roast is achieved, to the family’s endless cuppings to assess flavor, we often say they have “obsessively obsessive obsessiveness” when it comes to their products. This is true from field to final sip and across foodservice and retail. On the foodservice side, the strategy is about “expecting perfection.” In this way, the campaign and efforts are a little more serious. On the consumer side, we get more tongue-in-cheek with “perfect’s not easy.” An example is how we tell the history of the company. On the foodservice side, it is about the “family of coffee and tea craftsmen that have been perfecting the art of coffee and tea for over five generations.” On the consumer side, it is about “five generations of nitpickers – bringing home dates is never fun.” You can see how the strategy is the same, but the tone and manner can vary by audience.

Lastly, when a truthful and consistent brand story extends from just B2C or B2B to B2B2C, you also garner greater brand authenticity over time. Because your story aligns with your company’s core values and actions, it is the same no matter who you talk to (even if the message execution varies). We know that millennials and Generation Zers are less trusting of brands. In an evolving consumer world, where brands must be able to keep their promises and walk their talk to achieve brand loyalty, this is easier and more authentic when your strategy is consistent across both foodservice and retail.