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From GMOs to FD&Cs, whole grain over multigrain, no brominates and definitely no aspartame, it’s getting harder for the average consumer to know what to think. This isn’t to say that cleaner labels aren’t good for our collective wellbeing—just that it’s a lot to keep straight. It’s why marketing beyond benefits is essential to attracting customers.

You could forgive consumers, then, for not always being able to detect label lunacy like non-GMO salt (I’m no scientist, but I do know that salt is not an organism).


Full disclosure: I’m a millennial. I’ve heard that we’re twice as likely as the previous generation to use our smartphones while shopping to look up product information. So, while I’m more bombarded than ever with label claims and lingo, I’m more able than ever to look up that information. But just because I’m able to look them up doesn’t mean I will. What’s more important is what I’m likely to find compelling about a product, and for me, well, story matters as much as and often more than claims. Market your product beyond its benefits.

If you offer grass-fed, Non-GMO Project Verified beef, I want to know that. But if you’re doing that, I expect that you’re doing other good things, other corporate-good things, and it’s very possible that I’ll want to know more about those. If you’re a retail operation, I want to know that you sell products that I can get behind, but I also want you to offer me an experience I can get behind.

As more of us grow up as consumers online, the need for good corporate/brand storytelling, whether through narrative or experience, is increasingly important. Among other reasons, it’s important because I don’t necessarily want to share product benefits or features with my friends, but my inclination is to share interesting stories and experiences with my friends. My inclination is to tell others about causes I support, and a company contributing more than a product counts as a cause.

Whole Foods’ Shareable Experiences

A shining example is Whole Foods’ value-focused “365” stores, particularly a project they’re calling “Friends of 365,” explained best by their marketing pitch to potential partners:

“We’re looking for innovative businesses like yours to set up shop inside our 365 stores (okay, in some cases, outside on the patio). By combining our strengths and yours – plus a whole horde of like-minded shoppers – we’ll create that all-important synergy that grows businesses. We’ll also have a super cool hang.”

If that doesn’t scream millennial, I’m not sure what does. Whole Foods has taken something that has become routine for many customers—a trip to the grocery store—and turned it into an experience. Who wouldn’t post a picture of the beet tattoo they got at the same place they bought their beets?
Not every brand can scale story and experience like Whole Foods, but every brand that wants to operate beyond a commodity offering must tell a compelling story or offer a shareable experience.

Whether through a new website or a promotional campaign, or whether you need help repositioning from a commodity offering, we know a thing or two about how to identify the story behind your brand and how to tell it best to your customers. Start your marketing beyond benefits. If this rings true for your company or brand, please get in touch.

Jim Hibsch develops strategies for our partners across industries, and what every one of those partners will tell you about Jim is that he’s as interested in the people as he is the products.