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5 Food Brands That Are Owning Values-Based Marketing

Millennials continue to make waves in the consumer world with what Forbes refers to as “the Millennial Mindset.” This trend of buying behaviors has forced many brands, food companies especially, to reconsider how they approach the consumer.

In 2014, an Edelman study revealed that 66% of consumers felt customer-brand relationships were one-sided. Nearly 70% believed a brand’s only goal of communication was to increase profits. Since then, companies across the board have been making strides to show their softer sides— all to connect with their audiences.

What does this mean for the viewer? For starters, a seemingly safe sit on the couch might just end in waterworks. And if it ends in waterworks, you better believe they’ll remember it. It also means that, as we approach advertising from a more cinematic mindset, we may also incrementally lower the cognitive ad barrier that so many younger generations have grown up with.

And this means that — at long last — we’re finally reaching people.

While we’ve come to expect this angle from juggernauts like Coca-Cola and Google, a host of others have since joined their ranks. Here are five brands that are embracing and owning this new frontier of marketing:

  1. Annie’s

This little food manufacturer from Berkeley caught the organic and gluten-free waves early and rode them all the way to shore. What started as a mac and cheese vendor selling from the trunk of a car has become a household name for gluten-free consumers and organic lovers. And their success has caught the eyes of others, too.

In 2014, General Mills saw the writing on the wall. As a mass food product manufacturer, they realized that marketing to niche pockets of naturalists and health food aficionados would never produce the results they wanted. So, to compensate for the shift in consumer preference, they snagged the perfect bait: Annie’s!

Since this partnership, Annie’s has added to their image, produced over 50 new organic products and increased awareness of their brand’s values and initiatives. Plus, with the help of a larger distributor like General Mills, they’ve also managed to increase ongoing conservation and conscientious farming efforts — a big win for their target audience.

  1.  Starbucks

Although most of Starbucks’ visual identity remains heavily product-focused, this not-so-little coffee hut is consistently finding ways to serve up sweet perks for consumers and employees alike. On the good works spectrum, they are covering all the bases with initiatives in both environmental conservation and community advancement.

These programs include the ongoing Starbucks Military Commitment, which aims to employ and advance military veterans and their families and send Starbucks products to service members deployed abroad. This initiative is probably the brand’s most strategic implementation as it targets people not typically represented in their target audience.

As the go-to caffeine fix for workaholics and college students, Starbucks also commands a strong connection with many millennials. To connect on this front, they’ve partnered with the University of Arizona to offer their College Achievement Plan for Starbucks-employed college students.

  1. Pillsbury

Yes, we live in a world where even biscuits can make you cry. While it’s debatable to say that Pillsbury rarely includes aspects of the home in their marketing, many of their earlier ads strongly focused on the product. The main feature was often a fluffy plate of croissants or beautifully buttered biscuits rolling into the oven — often with mom and others playing second fiddle.

However, Pillsbury’s 2017 holiday season was marked with a collection of ads that allowed sentimental notes on friends, family and togetherness to upstage the brand’s golden biscuits. Running at only 16 seconds each, the television spots capitalize on strong, values-driven copy and visual elements to hit the heart:

“Things We Made”


“Can’t Be Bought”

  1. Grounds & Hounds

While most startups don’t have funds for the pricey razzle-dazzle of show business, that doesn’t mean they aren’t in the perfect position to build their brand values-centric from the ground up! Exhibit A: Grounds & Hounds. This coffee roasting brand was literally created around the idea of giving back, incorporating their position into the very name of their company.

What this accomplishes is so simple, yet so brilliant. By starting at their very core, this company’s good works are now intrinsic to their identity, making consumer connections much more imminent — and incredibly effective. Besides, who can say no to saving dogs?

This isn’t the first brand to do this, of course. Many other like-minded entrepreneurs have also trotted this path to big success, like Toms and Bombas. If their track records are any indication, they won’t be the last ones to jump on the bandwagon, either.

  1. Whole Foods

Ah, yes. The big kahuna. The grocery store Prada. What munchy marketing magic do these guys keep hidden up their hemp sleeves? What ideal attracts the hungry masses in droves? Hint: it ain’t the prices.

Whole Foods understands that to get people to pay premium prices, you’ve got to cater to premium needs and market those initiatives well. The grocery brand has invested a lot in the storytelling of its food’s originals and company values with spots like:

Food From a Happy Place

Going Local: Stories From the Field

It All Adds Up: Values Matter

Not only do these videos do a great job of illustrating the effort Whole Foods puts into ethically farming and procuring their products, but they also explain the role this plays in the consumer’s life. The viewer feels that they are getting a quality product, and also playing a pivotal part in protecting the environment.

Comments? Questions? Concerns?

We’d love to hear your take on values-based marketing tactics and campaigns. Send your thoughts to [email protected]!