Last week, a select group of up-and-coming and industry-leading beverage brands convened in Santa Monica, CA for the invitation-only [BLUE BOX] 2018 Conference; a full day of collaboration, storytelling, knowledge-sharing and inspiration. According to the organizers, “[BLUE BOX] was born out of a desire to produce a highly differentiated beverage industry conference…one that digs deep to discover the many factors at play in the innovation of new brands and the disruption of beverage segments.” Based on previous work 3Degrees has done in the beverage industry, I was pleased to receive an invitation to attend the conference to gain deeper insight into this fast-growing industry; 3Degrees also offset the full carbon footprint of the event.
There were several key themes from the conference, most of which revolved around identifying and exploring emerging trends in Beverage. Bill Anderson, Founder and CEO of First Beverage Group, the organizer of [BLUE BOX], acknowledged that traditionally the beverage industry has been slow-moving, conservative and entrenched. Old-guard beverage suppliers have not been keeping pace with emerging consumer trends and have done very little to shake up the industry. New market entrants and ‘disruptors’ in the beverage space, however, understand the importance of paying close attention to consumer cues. Following are some of my key takeaways.
CONSUMERS ARE BECOMING PART OF THE STORY
Ian Beacraft, vp, group director: digital strategy at the data-driven marketing agency, Epsilon, noted that by the year 2020, Gen Z will comprise 40% of total consumers. These young consumers are familiar and comfortable interacting with brands. In fact, 40% expect to communicate with brands 24/7, with social media being the primary, and in many cases, the only way to connect. With this kind of unfettered access to brands, consumers are now engaging at such a level that they are themselves becoming part of the brand story and are influencing the narrative.
BUILDING AN AUTHENTIC BRAND NARRATIVE
Given these insights, it’s no wonder that so many conversations at [BLUE BOX] revolved around brand storytelling. Younger, savvier consumers can recognize when brands are not being authentic, and they vote with their wallets. Now more than ever, brands are aligning themselves with a mission, story or emotion that is relatable, approachable and speaks to the values of their consumers. This is especially true for new market players.
According to the 2017 Edelman Earned Brand study, “57% of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue.” All this is to say, to succeed in a very saturated consumer packaged goods market, companies need to find meaningful ways to stand out and be relevant to an ever-growing and engaged market segment. Studies show that integrating an authentic mission into the very DNA of a brand can be an effective way to achieve this. Which brings me to my final takeaway, one that has been a foundation of my career and has developed into my life’s mission – advocating for sustainability in the fight against climate change.
SUSTAINABILITY’S ROLE IN STORYTELLING
Since co-founding 3Degrees over a decade ago, I have seen the motivations for addressing climate goals of the average corporate multinational shift towards proactive, voluntary action. Increasingly, companies understand that taking action to address their greenhouse gas emissions can positively affect every aspect of their business – from cost to resiliency to innovation. And, consistent with both the research statistics above and the conversation among the [BLUE BOX] participants, consumer pressure is frequently a driving force for companies to decide to take action on climate change. In fact, 53% of CDP reporting companies listed climate-related reputation as an inherent risk to their business. By committing to sustainability goals and effectively communicating their action to address climate change, brands are able to build a reputation for social responsibility, which brings us back to that authentic brand narrative, one increasingly desired by today’s – and tomorrow’s – customers.
Participating in [BLUE BOX] 2018 left me inspired by the energy of these new and well-established beverage brands alike. It is reassuring to know that doing the right thing for the environment is not at the detriment of building a successful business. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Companies today have to be about more than making money if they want any chance at building the defining brands of tomorrow.