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3 ways to keep your brand relevant with women consumers

Sunday, October 11, 2015  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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By Bridget Brennan

The Rolling Stones make it look effortless, but keeping your brand cool as it ages is no easy feat.

Enter Quaker Oats. Clocking in at over 130 years old, Quaker has been marketing to its core base of women consumers since petticoats were still in fashion. How has a brand like Quaker Oats managed to thrive for more than a century of cultural changes, particularly among women?

Related: 7 ways to get women to buy (your message)

Here are three important lessons on staying power:

1. Think like an anthropologist.

Changing household dynamics create new cultural norms, and this is certainly true for mealtimes. "Breakfast is the new dinner," says Becky Frankiewicz, senior vice president, general manager of Quaker Foods North America. "The conversations that used to happen at dinner in reflection are now happening in the morning, in anticipation of the day."

Consider some of the forces driving this: Afterschool activities dominate many family calendars; 70 percent of moms in the U.S. are active in the labor force; 40 percent of U.S. households with children under 18 include a mother who is either the sole or primary breadwinner. Mornings are often the calm before the storm of a busy day.

Look at your market with the lens of an anthropologist. How have changing family dynamics impacted your own product category? What innovations might be created based on these cultural changes?

2. Embrace new definitions of convenience.

The phrase "on-the-go" used to mean everything that happened after you ran out the door. Now, on-the-go often means in the house.

For the breakfast category, this means thinking differently about portability. "We’re seeing the majority of breakfast being eaten at home, but not necessarily at the table," says Frankiewicz.

If not at the table, then where? For many moms, it’s standing at the kitchen island while her kids eat breakfast at the table. For others, it’s simply multitasking in another part of the house. Changes in form factor, like single-serving Instant Oatmeal Cups as an alternative to packets that require a separate bowl for cooking, have enabled people to take their oatmeal with them, even if their destination is just down the hall.

Convenience applies to communications, too. The brand was the first to incorporate recipes onto product packaging in 1891. As consumers have shifted their attention beyond packaging to sites like Pinterest for recipe inspiration, Quaker has moved right along with them.

3. Keep what made you great.

Oatmeal has endured decades of food trends that have come and gone faster than you can say quinoa. Quaker has kept its brand "oat-centric" while adapting to changing tastes with product innovations like lower-sugar Chewy Bars, higher-protein Baked Bars and Real Medleys multigrain oatmeal and bars. In addition to updating the product line, the brand has refreshed marketing, too.

If you’ve ever seen a Quaker Oatmeal canister, then you’re familiar with the white-haired gentleman who serves as the Quaker icon. It wasn’t long ago that the Quaker Man got a makeover that subtly modernized his look with a haircut and more youthful glow, while keeping the character distinctly recognizable.

In September, Quaker announced the launch of a new campaign, "Off You Go!" The ad spot focuses on how Quaker prepares consumers for the day ahead, and is a more emotional execution than the energy-focused "Quaker Up" platform that ran since early 2014.

Whether your brand is 10 years, 20 years or over a century old, staying relevant doesn’t necessarily mean reinventing the wheel. It could mean continually adapting what people already love about your brand in ways that reflect the realities of modern life.

Bridget Brennan is CEO of consulting firm Female Factor, and one of the world’s leading authorities on marketing and selling to women. She is the author of "Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers,"” which was called "essential reading" by the Wall Street Journal. In addition to researching women’s purchasing patterns, she speaks globally on the subject of women’s consumer spending and is a blogger for Forbes where this blog first appeared. You can follow Bridget on Twitter via @BridgetBrennan.

Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.

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