The state of flux in FMCG

FMCG brand managers are facing an unprecedented and almost overwhelming combination of challenges, which are coming at them faster than ever. We have labelled this phenomenon the age of progressive FMCG – political and social tensions, culture wars, gender wars, warnings of impending environmental disasters, the obesity crisis and the collapse of trust in traditional media and other forms of authority. It makes for a darkly dystopian mix.‘ according to a report by FINN, a communications agency.

Despite all this change, FMCG companies continue to homogenise shopper characteristics by generational cohorts for different markets. While this worked well 30 years ago, when each generation had its own signature characteristics, today, this has changed.

Patterns across generations

These days, due to technological advances, there are similarities in shopper behaviour across generations that could be used to categorise shoppers rather than relying on generational similarities.

For example, each generation has people who adopt technology early. Not only that, but Baby boomers needed to undergo a ‘crash course’ in ecommerce and social media during the pandemic for everyday shopping and to keep in touch with their family.

As a result they found that e-commerce is a far more convenient channel for their shopping needs than travelling to stores. This is especially so for baby boomers who maybe mobility constrained & for those baby boomers living in emerging markets, where proximity to stores and traffic are deterrents to shopping at stores.

Another commonality across generations is the impact of price. While only 73% of Baby Boomers considered price a key factor influencing their purchasing decision vs 78% of Gen Z, the delta between the two is not significant.

Consumers across generations love a bargain, with 75% of both millennials and baby boomers agreeing that they’re more likely to purchase if they have a coupon or loyalty discount. For more information on multi generational retail strategies, read this report.

Pre pandemic studies on FMCG now out of touch with consumers

Most studies on shopping preferences and styles of the different generations were done pre-pandemic. These are now of out of sync with the consumers of today, and that includes baby boomers and Gen Xers.

A recent 2022 study by Hubspot on how each generation shops shows more similarities that differences between many of the generations. While 50% of Gen Z shoppers said that a brand’s ESG initiatives are important to them, 35% of Baby Boomers also said the same, with Millennials at 41%.

Millennials & ESG initiatives
Gen Z & ESG initiatives

While only 25% of Baby Boomers say that ESG initiatives by brands influence their choices, 71% of those who agree want companies to take action on Climate change.

The key takeaway is that consumers across generations are concerned about similar things. The only difference is the percentage of each generational cohort.

Leveraging similarities

Today, we live with spiralling inflation, geopolitical conflicts and the ever present threat of another pandemic. These uncertainties are impacting consumption choices yet again.

Perhaps it is time to regroup consumers by how they discover products & shop and what features/benefits influence their choices rather than relying on generational similarities to target consumers.

You’re not you when you’re hungry

The ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ marketing campaign, by the Snickers team at Mars, celebrates its 12th anniversary this year. Since its launch in 2010, the campaign has won several awards including Cannes Lions, The One Show, D&AD and the Emmys. And as the campaign premise is universal & timeless, it hasn’t needed much change(through time or for different markets) either. But what catalysed the Mars team to develop & launch the ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ campaign?

The problem

Snickers as a brand had become overly targeted and focussed on a subsection of the male population – young men. The brand used ‘bloke humour’ to focus exclusively on this consumer segment. As a result, they were unable to grow beyond a certain point. However, contrary to their focus, the Mars team wanted Snickers to be a universally loved brand for men.

The process

The team decided to identify a universal human truth that worked across markers and time. This would help them build a global brand. Through customer interviews and research, they discovered that men seek acceptance and membership of the “male pack‟. They found out that when they’re hungry, they’re not themselves which threatens their place in the pack. This insight was consistent with the brand’s heritage, whilst also being relevant to a much broader audience.

The resulting brand idea was, “A proper, nut-filled Snickers sorts out hunger and restores your role in the pack”. 

The solution – You’re not you when you’re hungry campaign

And so, the ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ campaign was born. The team decided to implement the campaign universally, tweaked for local culture.

  • The US was critical for success as the country was Snickers’ number-one market. The team launched the campaign during the 2010 Super Bowl Game , featuring US actress Betty White. The ad topped the Super Bowl favourite ad poll and generated 91 days of media coverage worth $28.6m. Betty White appeared on TV shows such as The Jay Leno Show and Oprah Winfrey Show and the ad was played during each appearance.
The US version of the ad
  • In Australia, “Hungerithm” monitored the mood of the internet and offered discounts from 7-Eleven stores when the internet is “hungry”
Hungerithm explained
  • In UK, the team leveraged timely tweets by celebrities that may be attributed to hunger. Once such example relates to Top Gear presenter, Jeremy Clarkson’s infamous dust-up with a BBC producer that generated 5,000 retweets and 390,000 media impressions
The Snickers team’s tweet to Jeremy Clarkson

The results

Prior to launch of this campaign the Snickers brand growth lagged behind its key competitor and also the category.

By leveraging their insights into their target consumer group and tapping into a universal ‘truth’ to create a compelling campaign, the Snickers team at Mars was able to grow the brand by 15.9%. As a result, Snickers is significantly ahead of its closest competitor and the category itself.

All the best Snickers commercials from this campaign