Emotional branding is beginning to supersede the old concept of brand awareness. During this transition, I think we’ll see a move from being consumer-focused to being people-focused.

Here’s an example of a great opportunity for Campbell soup.

Because of the “tough road ahead”, Nick Neumann of Louisville, Kentucky exchanged his restaurant lunches for $1.75 Campbell Chunky soup, buying up to 15 cans at a time.

Noticing this trend, Mitchell Pinheiro, a Philadelphia-based analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, pointed out that 2009 could be “the year of condensed soup, driven by the backdrop of severe economic pressure on the consumer.”

Further, Edgar Roesch, a Soleil Securities Corp. analyst in New York, said that Campbell soup is “acknowledged as a way to weather a recession.”

Sure, these cheap meals can propel Campbell soup into an out-performer in hard times. But, I see this as a perfect opportunity for Campbell to really bolster their brand so they don’t lose momentum as the economy rebounds.

How can Campbell achieve that? Rather than just ride the wave of the economic downturn, Campbell could stop being so focused on how consumers buy and concentrate on how people live.

Campbell is a bit complacent, as I see it. They’re being lulled into traditional branding concepts that pit consumers against brands. Marketing managers would, and often still do, pin back their ears and attack customers to break down their defenses and decode their language. This is an “us” (manufacturers, retailers, marketing departments) against “them” (consumers) attitude. For Campbell, it turns into a race to sell consumers the maximum amount of soup while they’re still down and out.

Instead, this is a perfect opportunity for Campbell to focus more on the people who are buying their product and how they live. This means Campbell would create more of a partnership approach based on mutual respect. They could start building stronger relationships with their customers so that they could provide information about how they live now and how their lives are changing as the economy recovers. By doing this, Campbell could create desire for their soup that far outlives the economic downturn.

I see Campbell has a Facebook page, which seems like a start. But with unanswered posts like:

• “…what must one do if he finds a mosquito in a can of Campbell’s soup?”
• “Will the catalog for merchandise ever be back online? It seems like it has been ‘under construction’ for about a year now?”
• “…how many people have we got here who actually work for Campbell’s?

I think they’ve got some more work to do to genuinely focus more on emotional branding and discovering how people live.

Laura Strickland is a marketing professional with an expertise in brand strategy. Her credentials include an MBA with a Marketing Area of Emphasis from Arizona State University as well as experience developing marketing strategies for both large and small businesses.

Laura helps businesses succeed by helping to define their competitive advantage and using this as a foundation for marketing campaigns.
Laura can be contacted at lstrickland@phoenixmarketingassociates.com.

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