Brand Strategy Online: Packaged Food

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At the Start of the Customer Journey, How Does your Brand Compare?

Nearly all shoppers begin their product search online, whether they are B2B or B2C customers. This reality means that brand strategy online is a must for every single product.

The beginning of online searches for B2C products is dominated by search engines like Google (48%) and Amazon (63%). While they may contain additional relevant information, comparison sites (10%) and brand websites (21%) are used much less frequently at this early stage of the customer journey.   

For many brands, their customer journey begins with Google or Amazon. 

For example, if I am looking for the best English muffins and enter the search “best English muffins” into Google, I get the following choices for English muffins, excluding recipes:

  1. Epicurious assessment of 7 brands of English muffins.  According to this source, Bay’s is the #1 choice (at $3 for a package of 6 at Target), followed by a premium muffin, Stone & Skillet that costs twice as much ($6 for a pack of 4). Well-known Thomas’ did not make the grade.
  2. Amazon Best Sellers English Muffins. As of this writing, Kertz Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins were #1 (at $5.49 for a pack of 1), followed by Thomas’ Original ($14.99 for 18 pack), then Stone & Skillet ($27.99 for 16). These Amazon “best sellers” have much higher price points than the results from shopping on Amazon Fresh (from larger quantities, in many cases).
  3. On Amazon Fresh, Thomas’ Original is the top choice ($3.59 for 6), along with Orowheat Extra Crisp ($2.99 for 6), Thomas’ Light 100 calories ($4.9 for 6), Bays ($3.49 for 6), and then Dave’s Killer Bread Killer Classic ($4.99 for 6) and Dave’s Killer Bread Rockin’ Grains ($4.56 for 6).
  4. Caitlin Kunkel’s personal assessment of English muffins. Various varieties of Thomas’ rank in the top 5, but #1 is an English muffin made fresh locally.

In these leading English muffin products, there are different taste and dietary preferences seen. 

Some consumer segments prefer the sourdough taste profile, while others are looking for extra crispy, and other segments want low calorie. For some, gluten free also commands a price premium, as does lower calorie. 

Searching on “best English muffin brands” yields a few more sources:

  1. Bon Appetit’s Thomas’ taste test. This assessment focuses only on Thomas’ brand and finds not surprisingly that Original is highly ranked (#2), and that Cinnamon Raisin is the “fan favorite” (#1).
  2. AmyLearnstoCook’s Battle of the English Muffins (YouTube). Bays and Thomas’ rated the highest in this spirited assessment.
  3. BrandInformers. Thomas, Bays and Stone & Skillet are among the recommended brands, which is consistent with other sources noted above. Additional brands mentioned include Dave’s Killer Bread, Udi’s, Wolferman’s, Vermont Bread Company, Mikey’s, Food for Life and Franz.

Brand Strategy Online Starts with Amazon and Google

While it can certainly be argued that consumers won’t trust online sources as English muffin authorities, the brand strategy online for English muffin leaders is that some consumers will. 

Accordingly, the brand strategy should consider impacting the start of the journey with Amazon and Google. 

Brand Strategy Online: Packaged Food

Consumer-claimed brand preference (eaten most often) follows a different pattern, with Thomas’ the clear leader at 34% of the adult population, followed by store brand (10%). Bays is a distant runner up at 2% and Stone & Skillet is included among other brands (4%). 

Brand Strategy Online: Packaged Food

Brand Strategy Online Continues with Social

While social media is used much less often at the start of the search (just 8%), it also can influence brand perceptions over time, when the consumer isn’t searching but browsing. All three top English muffin brands have a brand strategy online for social. The executions are much the same, sharing recipes, live events, videos and photos consistent with the brand personality.

While Stone & Skillet and Bays do relatively well in brand strategy online, Thomas’ brand clearly wins in the market. Perhaps the “underdog” English muffin brands chose to compete with the major player online, rather than on grocery store shelves, where the Thomas’ brand dominance leaves little room for success.

For more on brand strategy from Insight to Action, check out the brand strategy resources page, or contact us.

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