Avoiding Information Overwhelm (2): When Good Food Trends go Fad
There are so many crossovers in the food trends landscape, that when they're teamed with the pace of the marketing industry and the consumer hunger for new information, it can get a bit crazy out there.
It's imperative to connect with your audience so that great concepts take hold, both in terms of purpose and profitability. But there's a thin line between fab and fad, and we have to be able careful not to cross it.
Hygge was everywhere in Winter 2016, presented enthusiastically but inescapably as Popular Culture in a great big hug of candlelight and cosy blankets. But Hygge is far from that; it's Timeless Wisdom, a highly-regarded Scandinavian way of life-with-nature and taking pleasure in simple things, largely outdoors, and celebrated and practised for millennia. SO rich in ideas for a wholesome lifestyle that cultivates contentment with what we have.
BUT, the inevitable race to the article-click and the consumer pocket proved only to skim the depth of its principles, and so lost its reach. Consumers eventually grew weary of hearing about it in the same way, over and over again. It ran out of puff.
If approached differently, with the in-depth research and creative such a timeless concept deserved, it could have made a significant and long-lasting impact on consumer behaviour.
Take The 'Clean Eating Car Crash'
Early 2017 saw what I call the ‘Clean Eating Car Crash', where a concept that had its heart in the right place (we believe) was hijacked and smashed to smithereens.
In its infancy, the phrase 'Clean Eating' referred to eating food without pesticides, preservatives or additives - food that had not been tampered with and was as close to its natural form as possible. It coincided with a consumer desire to improve our lifestyles in an increasingly work-worn, stressful and low-energy existence, and combatted concerns over the lectures against fast food and convenience, slotting in as the potential solution. So far, so good, right?
As its popularity rose and consumers hungered for ever-more inspiration, off set the bandwagon, gathering a great crowd of wide-eyed enthusiasts and self-proclaimed experts, who corrupted it into something totally confounding. Gradually, it erased almost all food groups, which first left us at a total loss about what to make for tea, but soon progressed to hungry, malnourished and at risk of an eating disorder. It alienated certain demographics less able to afford the complex ingredients, and left older generations scratching their heads about the sudden perils of potatoes.
It was awful to see eager rising stars in the food world fall from grace, struggling to answer complex questions, and all because they had based their whole personal brand and identity on a topic where the research hadn't been conductedly thoroughly enough, or in collaboration with the appropriate expertise, to ensure a balanced message and application that could withstand questioning or misinterpretation.
What went wrong?
All engagement, no insight, lost purpose.
Powering ahead with Engagement MINUS the proper Insights or a strong Purpose meant the message was half-formed and burned up fast, like a supernova. Then the good part disappeared, and it's now remembered only for the blast, never really getting to shine.
Profit and pace overtook identity and purpose, and while I will discuss that at brand-level in another post, fundamentally I believe there are several issues at play in the industry generally.
These stem from key representatives of the food industry talking in isolated pockets, without a constellatory perspective of the industry and impact as a whole, for example:
Consumers, who (generally speaking) are overly-influenced by the fast pace of technology and the marketplace, and expecting things too quickly to be sustainable or well thought-out, when...
Scientists and academics don’t really talk the same language as consumers, and take a relatively long time to study and test before reaching the...
- Marketers, who have a direct line to consumers, but are under pressure about competition and being first to market, ironically both fuelling and fuelled by the insatiable hunger of...
- Consumers, who... (and repeat!)
What to do?
EVERYONE NEEDS TO SIT DOWN AND TALK MORE.
I can't stress that enough. We need to break this cycle.
When the most changemaking of messages gets lost in the telling, short-term profits won't matter for long. If there's no-one left to buy anything, or no crops to farm, or no income to pay for groceries or meals out, or no sales to pay the bills, or no clean air to breathe.
Whether at mighty corporation or kitchen-table level, we are all the same at heart (we are!), and I will always believe the answers lie in improving knowledge and seeking balance collectively via joined-up conversations.
In such an intricate and widespread ecosystem, understanding and appreciating everyone’s role and responsibilities - and we all have a responsibility - is the only way to have a positive and enduring impact.
Time to talk.