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Seasonal Marketing

In the last few blogs, I discussed Strategic Revenue Management & Food Safety. Consumers assume that the companies that make the products they use and consume are doing everything within their power to insure they are safe. Consumer trust is critical to your long-term success. And now more than ever you need to price your products and services properly to ensure that you make a fair profit!

This blog takes a closer look at seasonal marketing. This includes products, packaging, promotions and merchandising. Over the past 10 years, seasonal marketing has continued to drive incremental sales and profits for everyone in the food and beverage business.

When we think about the 4th quarter, pumpkin has become the king of seasonal flavors. Stores are selling everything from pumpkin spice coffee creamer to pumpkin cereal. It seems like more and more food companies are introducing these products earlier each year. And they continue to add new items to the mix. As you all know, you can now get pumpkin products before Labor Day! It wasn’t too long ago that pumpkins were sold a few weeks before Halloween. Pumpkin pies showed up for Thanksgiving and maybe Christmas, which followed the farming season for these products.  Christmas was peppermint, chocolate for Valentines Day, cherry pies for Washington’s Birthday, coconut for Easter, S’mores for barbeques etc.

Fresh fruit and vegetables used to be seasonal, but now thanks to technology, science and global supply chain (when it works right!), we can get all kinds of fresh produce year-round.

So what does this mean for your business?

The beer/seltzer/spirits category has done a great job with seasonal and limited products. Over the past five years much of this innovation has come from the hard seltzer side. Besides the actual product, the promotions, merchandising/POS and advertising that the breweries/distilleries provide help create excitement and should drive incremental purchase which is what we all want. Think about how you can create a “destination” by combining these programs with your own communications programs.  

I would rather be a few weeks short on the “season” rather than a few weeks late. This helps stimulate the demand by keeping to the “limited time offer” nature that seasonal products should present to consumers. A holiday/special event should be special.

Take a look at your sales by week for these items and make sure you’re maximizing your storage and shelf space. Set up your own seasonal calendar based on your sales. Create your own promotions. If you sell food, tie your menu to your seasonal beverages and tie your seasonal menu items to your everyday beverages. Pairing food & beverages is a great way to generate incremental sales & profits.

If you have an active social media presence, use that to your advantage by creating a contest or promotion to let people know and take advantage of the word-of-mouth marketing opportunities that technology presents. Partner with complementary products/services to bundle promotions. Everyone is now sharing their food experiences and by taking advantage of user generated content you can use your customers as your sales team.

Understanding how your customers think about seasonal products and marketing, and how they can influence the behavior of the others is critical. (What to drink, where to drink it, what day/time etc). This could be as simple as talking and listening to them directly or hiring someone to conduct some basic marketing research for you. Then, adjust your marketing and merchandising strategy based on this information.

Whether you are an on-premise or off-premise establishment, you need to understand YOUR customers and build your seasonal products, merchandising and marketing programs around them. It will positively impact your bottom line!

And remember, Marketing is a race with no finish line.

George Latella

George Latella teaches Food Marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Food marketing which is one of the largest majors at Saint Joseph’s University is celebrating its 60th anniversary. George does Sales & Marketing consulting & is also a partner in Beacon Marketing group which provides Marketing planning, research, and e-commerce/direct marketing communications for food and beverage companies. George can be reached at glatella@sju.edu or 610-304-1034.

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