Measuring the ROI of Digital Storytelling for Food Brands

October 16, 2017

Food brands surveyed in the 2017 Consumer Goods Forum Top of Mind study say customer loyalty is their top priority, but many of those companies are not quite sure where to begin. Customer loyalty goals and the fact that Nielsen reports that Americans now spend more than 10 hours a day on screens (and growing) means digital storytelling becomes essential for building and nurturing relationships between food brands and customers.
 
What is Digital Storytelling?
As traditional journalism continues to evolve, traditional public relations is also following suit. USC Annenberg’s State of Public Relations Study predicts one of the biggest trends in the industry is a blending between paid advertising, marketing, earned and social media. This creates an opportunity for food brands to become their own content creators, and those that have done so are seeing great success. PepsiCo launched their internal brand content team, the Creators League, in 2016 and grew organic revenue by 3.7 percent for that year. More importantly, those brands who do not amp up their brand narrative and content strategy will soon find themselves left behind in today’s rapid-fire content environment.
 
The Data Shows ROI for Digital Storytelling

The data provides evidence that those companies willing to invest in building customer loyalty see a clear ROI. Ranjay Gulati, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, has studied the customer centricity journey closely. Gulati’s research of 500 companies between 1999-2007 showed those with a deeper commitment to customer centricity grew sales by 233 percent, rather than the 10 percent achieved by the typical company in the Standard & Poor’s 500 (Source – Consumer Goods Forum Top of Mind Survey).
 
Food Brands Should Solve Problems, not Sell Products
According to Dr. Gulati, companies only become customer centric when they shift from selling products to solving customer problems. A strong brand journalism strategy is key to communicating with your audience about how you’ll solve those problems, whether it’s through video series, infographics or blog content. In addition to PepsiCo, other Fortune 500 food brands are seeing success through content, like Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods Market is a brand journalism leader, publishing content about recipes and food sourcing and telling the story behind their products. Rather than only focusing on selling their products, they are helping solve problems – whether that’s through better relationships with farmers, fostering more ecologically sustainable business practices, or simply what to cook for dinner tonight. Research shows customers want to associate with companies who hold similar values, and Whole Foods does an excellent job connecting with their audience.
 
Trust Goes Both Ways
While it’s important for brands to earn customer trust, on the flip side, brands themselves are understandably hesitant to trust putting their reputation in customers’ hands. However, while brand safety is paramount, it’s also important not to stifle customers who can be your biggest advocates. When a company makes a commitment to a culture of content, those that do it successfully must allow for a two-way conversation, which means trusting customers and allowing for user-generated content.  

As Roberto Meir, CEO of Brazilian media agency Grupo Padrão, put it, “Today’s consumers want to be engaged – which means it’s not just about what you want, the brand also belongs to the consumer.”


Whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or a startup, having a brand journalism strategy is essential for building and maintaining customer trust and increasing your bottom line.

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