The “4 Ps” model has been a foundation of marketing management since the 1960s:
Product + Price + Place + Promotion = Marketing
If you manufacture a product, price it right, make it accessible to shoppers, and spread the word about it, you make the sale. Easy.
We’re here to declare this 50-year-old formula dead.
Product doesn’t (really) matter anymore. Patagonia a great example: Yvon Chouinard started the company in the ’70s, selling climbing equipment; now they’re in the food business. You can’t win on price, because Walmart has muscled brands into discounting submission. Place is irrelevant: Thanks to Amazon, people can get any product shipped anywhere. And you can’t out-spend the big brands on promotion.
A New Marketing Discipline
Consumers today seek authenticity from the brands they buy; they want to know what’s in their food, and they expect companies to have morals and values. Now more than ever, people use brands as building blocks of personal identity—they don’t just buy your products, they view you as a reflection of themselves.
Consumers’ expectations of brands are even higher in the naturals category because those who are willing to pay more for natural products care not only about what you’re doing for them but about what you’re doing for the planet.
The 6 Ps of Marketing for Natural Brands
We see it: Many brands are struggling to be relevant in the face of changing consumer preferences. They’re increasingly pressured to do more with less and are vulnerable to better-organized, well-funded competitors.
So we guide our clients to focus on a mix of six marketing ingredients:
This is your mission, your higher calling, your reason for being, beyond making a profit. What’s your contribution to society or the planet? This should be so well defined that you don’t even have to think when you’re asked about it. If it’s not ingrained in your brand’s DNA, you have major work to do.
Two components here: internal and external. How do you treat employees—not just your office staff but your manufacturing workers? Wages and working conditions are key indicators. Outwardly, what’s your giveback to your community? How are you pouring profits back into supporting your purpose?
Our client Loma Linda is a great example of this internal/external people focus: The world’s oldest vegetarian brand has a manufacturing facility in Rocky Mount, NC, a community of working poor. The founder raised wages, gave every employee food once a week, and taught them how to cook with it for their families.
Do you have a visible, transparent end-to-end manufacturing and supply chain? Not just for your products, but your packaging as well? It’s a challenge: All of the natural snacks brands we know want to put products in pouches, which are not recyclable or renewable. We’re constantly pushing clients to find different options; cans, for example, while not especially sexy, are sustainable and a package of choice for Loma Linda.
This is your why—it underpins your purpose and drives your people. It’s your origin story. Successful brands have a battle to fight, a wrong that they seek to right. Your enemy isn’t your competition; it’s a challenge that your products help people to overcome. Nike’s foe isn’t Adidas—it’s the voice in all of our heads that says, “you can’t.”
Your brand should sound like no one else; in fact, it should be contrarian to your competitors. It should speak in a language and tone that calls out to your tribe. For example, KIND’s core message—“Do the kind thing for your body, your taste buds & your world” wraps a basic message about health and sustainability in a larger envelope of kindness. It’s a great display of brand personality.
Duh. But some passion brands let profit fall by the wayside in pursuit of the higher calling. We’ve watched founder/owners mistakenly believe that being successful in the business they’ve built equals selling out. So they don’t pursue the right relationships, they let growth stagnate, they get stuck with a $25 million business that costs $30 million to run.
If you’re a better-for-you brand, having a good, wholesome product with clean ingredients is a given. You have to stand for something more: sustainable sourcing and manufacturing practices, livable wages for workers, commitment to the environment. You need a prominent, passionate founder (that’s you) with a great backstory and a voice that echoes a siren song to your people.
To this 6 Ps of Marketing, we’ll add a seventh: Partner. That’s us. We’re here to help.