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Food and nutrition brand strategy in an age of mergers: Why mindset is everything

The food industry has experienced a surge of Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) over the last two years, reshaping competition while also providing fresh opportunities for growth and innovation. From the DSM and Firmenich mega-merger to the Actylis amalgamation of eight experienced specialty manufacturing businesses into one integrated ingredient player, B2B companies across the food and nutrition industry are expanding their market positions, geographic presence and enhancing their product portfolios with M&A deals. Against this backdrop of intensifying competition, developing a distinct and meaningful global brand is more critical than ever for gaining a competitive edge in an increasingly saturated market. But how can companies stand out and connect with their customers on a deeper level? In this article, we explain why developing a universal mindset is essential for brands to excel globally and appeal locally.  

The challenges of building a global brand 

To avoid the impersonal feel of a faceless corporation, global brands must capture the authenticity, uniqueness and agility that customers value in small brands, without seeming niche, local or specialist. The answer to balancing professionalism with relatability lies in understanding and appealing to your target audience. We believe that – whether you’re designing a new purpose, proposition, identity or personality – your journey to brand success begins with defining a universal common mindset. 

What is a universal common mindset? 

Although granular segmentation involving attributes such as demographics, firmographics and behaviours is important for targeted marketing activity, powerful global brands are not defined by one stakeholder subset; they transcend boundaries like region, company type and job role and speak to a universal common mindset that millions of people can relate to. Decision-makers worldwide share common goals, obstacles, and values, which bring them together – the best brands are those that tap into these commonalities.  

One company that has successfully embraced this approach is Ingredion. With their tagline “Be what’s next™”, Ingredion speaks directly to the universal mindset of food and nutrition professionals who are striving to stay ahead of the curve in a rapidly evolving industry. This tagline encapsulates the aspirations of Ingredion’s customers, who don’t want outdated ingredients, technologies or advice to hold back their potential. By aligning their brand with this forward-thinking perspective, Ingredion has positioned itself as a strategic partner that understands and supports its customers’ goals. 

Authenticity through empathy 

To build a truly authentic brand, companies must go beyond surface-level messaging and demonstrate a deep understanding of their customers’ needs, challenges and aspirations. This requires a shift from a product-centric to a customer-centric approach, where the focus is on empathizing with the customer rather than simply promoting the company’s offerings. 

When brands put themselves in their customers’ shoes and consider what they want to hear and what benefits they are seeking, they can craft narratives that are both relevant and meaningful. A simple, inspiring vision that resonates with customers can help build enduring brand loyalty. This human-centred approach may seem idealistic, but it is rooted in a deep understanding of the customer mindset and has the power to forge lasting emotional connections. Without this powerful understanding, brands often lack empathy – they showcase what they have to offer, rather than considering what people want to hear and the benefits that can share with their customers. Though ambitious, a human-centred approach to branding can motivate both customers and employees. 

A global mindset for global impact 

Today, if you want to generate true impact at scale and be driven by a purpose that touches more than a small sub-section of the market, you need to think big. To make a global impact, you need a global mindset that transcends regional and cultural boundaries. Brands must be able to simultaneously adapt their messaging and tactics to resonate with local audiences and address market-specific nuances – something which is especially important in Food and Nutrition, as food preference is highly localised.  

This requires a delicate balance between consistency and flexibility. Pinning down a big, shared mindset that you can then address through every marketing lever (whether that’s design, communications, events or products) creates consistency across touchpoints without excess repetition. At the same time, brands must empower local teams to tailor their approach to the unique needs and preferences of their markets. 

Ultimately, the goal of any brand strategy is to build long-term brand equity. In the food and nutrition industry, this means creating a brand that is not only recognized but also trusted and valued by customers. Once you’ve got a point of view that works on a global and local level, it’s down to creative executions to engage audiences across different regions, company types and job roles.  

Companies must be selective and strategic in their branding efforts, ensuring that every touchpoint reinforces their core narrative and appeals to the universal way of thinking of their target audience. Long-term memory structures are built up over time through memorable creative and consistent use of distinctive brand assets. Be selective, so everything you do builds on the narrative of your universal common mindset. By consistently delivering on their brand promise and demonstrating a deep understanding of their customers’ needs, food and nutrition brands can foster lasting relationships and establish themselves as leaders in their field. 

In the end, it all comes down to understanding, embracing and aligning with the shared aspirations and values that unite customers and drive the industry forward. 

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