By Leonard Grape
Within the intricacies of the brand development process are four key quadrants that are foundational in developing healthy F&B brands that can become preferred products and not just the alternative.
Each of these is important on its own but they can work wonders for your brand when linked interdependently in the whole process and is guided by strategic thinking and a methodical approach.
These four quadrants are Audience, Positioning, Character, and Identity.
1st Quadrant: Audience is Key
Audience is the first among the four quadrants.
Whether you are in inception stage or already an existing Healthy F&B product, the groundwork for all your brand development efforts is knowing who your audience is. It underscores a basic business principle that your product must exist to solve a problem within your market. It must add value to a specific set of target buyers.
It doesn’t matter what product category you are in be it plant-based, vegan, vegetarian, non-dairy, non-GMO, functional, all natural, and whether you offer food or beverage. In this first quadrant, all that matters is that you have clarity on the persona of your buyers and that everything that you do in developing your brand is in alignment with them.
There are typically two ways for you to understand your audience better. It is through demographics and psychographics.
Demographics is a run-down of certain criteria that describe the dynamics of who your audience is. This includes target market information such as age, gender, occupation, location, income segment, ethnicity, and even religion.
Psychographics classifies the segment in terms of shared psychological characteristics. It delves deeper on their attitude, values, interest, opinions, and behavior. This is a more compelling way to create hypotheses on how your target market might act and behave. For example, a vegan consumer may be deeply involved in animal rights discussion. A vegetarian might have high interest in agriculture or gardening while a pescatarian may be more inclined with a general healthier lifestyle. These are loose samples that are not intended to make generalization on these consumer segments but to provide you with a topline view of how to pursue psychographics segmentation.
While demographics and psychographics are effective tools, knowing your audience becomes more powerful if you go deeper in understanding their needs and desires. If you want to resonate with their thinking and build an emotional connection, you should ask questions such as what are their frustrations and aspirations? What motivates them? Where do they feel a sense of belonging? What builds their self-esteem? What gives them meaning?
Having a well-defined audience would provide you with clarity and guidance on how you can develop a brand more strategically.
2nd Quadrant: Positioning as Driver of Growth
In such a highly competitive industry, it is critical for you to figure out what makes your product unique and the advantage that you have over your competitors. The strategy that can allow your healthy Food & Beverage brand to be in a place of greater advantage is called positioning.
A common approach for positioning within the healthy F&B industry is to focus on product offering, its healthy descriptors, and some product benefits. Is this also how you are positioning your brand? This is well and good if others don’t do the same. But all HF&B brands would naturally have healthy descriptors. By focusing on product benefits alone, you are entering a stringent battle of commodity, which makes for a weak positioning case.
So, what are the key approaches to elevating your positioning?
One is by zeroing in on a niched target market so you become more relevant to a focused audience while still ensuring potential for growth. For example, vegan young professionals might be a specific consumer audience. But it’s still too wide. You can narrow this down by adding one or two descriptors like Millennial and Vegan Young Professionals who love sports.
Another approach is by focusing on creating a desired position in perception and an impactful emotional registry among your target market. This requires going beyond your product offering and benefits and can be an expansion of how you relate to your focused audience.
For our example of Millennial and Vegan Young professionals, a functional beverage that appeals to their desire to maintain their passion for sports even while pursuing their professional careers could be a good angle. The core product benefit could be adding extra energy that is not harmful and only comes from healthy sources. But at the same time, you are creating a perception of being the drink that understands the busy sporty professionals. You can also be perceived as the winning drink or the brand that encourages a well-rounded life through sports.
It is essentially being intentional on how you want your brand to be perceived by the market and finding that emotion that you want to evoke so that buyers can be more connected with your brand.
I’ve written a more detailed guide on how to elevate your positioning. Read The Hierarchy of Product Differentiation if you want to learn more about this.
3rd Quadrant: Character is Personification
With your audience and positioning firmed up, the next quadrant to be built is your Brand Character, which comprises of the elements of your product that can personify it. This is where you explore the personality of your brand, set its tone of voice, specify its values, and figure out its acceptable way of doing things.
Building an intentional brand character can further differentiate your brand and more importantly, it can contribute to building the desired perception and emotional registry that you want to have. This is also where you can explore the deeper aspects of your brand such as your mission and vision or your higher purpose that goes beyond just offering a healthy product or earning profits.
Your mission can serve as a moral compass that enhances your position of authority. Your vision can be a desired future where your customers can also opt in. However, it is important to note that mission and vision are more than just euphemized words of wanting to grow your business. It must be anchored on a real inspiring purpose that drives your brand.
A strategic tool that you can use to build the character of your brand is by employing Brand Archetypes or the consideration of key human desires and values to find a representation that best connect your product and your audience.
Some of the brand archetypes are the Ruler type, Sage, Everyman, and Explorer to name a few. Each of these has different focal points. The Ruler type, for example, exudes control. The Sage shows understanding. Everyman prioritizes belongingness while the Explorer is empowered with freedom. You can have varying brand archetypal mixes depending on the role that you need to play to further empower your customers. I won’t go into more details as this is a topic that merits a whole article in itself.
As a takeaway, personifying your brand means breathing life into your product. This is done by creating and developing your brand character so that customers can relate and interact with it above the transactional level.
4th Quadrant: Identity Comes Last
Brand Identity is that image that your brand projects and the physical appearance of your product. It is composed of your visual identifier or your logo, your visual elements such as your typography, color palette, and imagery. Your identity also includes your narrative and the style and distinctions on how your touchpoints are presented. This is the last among the four quadrants for a couple of reasons.
First, you cannot appropriately design and build an identity for your brand unless you have figured out who your audience is, how you want to be positioned, and what is the character behind your product. Jumping straight to identity design is like building a house without any engineering plans and architectural guidance. It is most likely to end in a disaster or a house that does not have a strong foundation.
Second, identity is an output of strategy executed creatively. Creative work must be driven by the position of advantage that you want to achieve. For example, if your audience is environmentally conscious and passionate Gen Z artists, your positioning may be offering a healthy herbal tea that induces calmness, which helps set people up within their artistic zones. The desired perception can be the drink that offers the artistic boost that Gen Z needs, and its emotional registry may be driving passion and artistry.
With these core strategic elements in place, your creative direction for your visual identity would be driven by concepts of painting, swooshes, cursives, and other conceptual territories that artists would be able to relate to. Also, your character should have a tone of voice that can resonate within the artistic community and so is the way your narrative will be written, and your touchpoints will be presented.
To build a business with sole focus on product development is a fragile proposition. A stronger approach is when you simultaneously build the brand behind your product to discover more strategic pathways that can help you win.
The 4 Quadrants of Brand Development is intended to be your overarching guide to navigate an intricate and complex process of building brands. If done right, this can help your healthy F&B product becomes preferred and not just the alternative.