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“Word-of-mouth has long been considered one of a supermarket's most valued assets,” Phil Lempert writes in this month’s edition of Facts, Figures and The Future. “The butcher who takes the time to explain how to prepare a certain cut of meat perfectly and the baker who always has a warm cookie ready for the after school treat, have been effective ways to get customers to tell their friends just how great service a particular supermarket offers.

“Over the past 50 years, we've seen an enormous evolution of consumer power. What started out as backyard discussions over clotheslines where our mothers would discuss their opinions about retailers and products, evolved into 24 hour toll-free consumer hotlines, full-time consumer affairs staffs, letters to the editor and at times, even protests and boycotts.”

But now, just as the Internet has fundamentally changed ways that people buy things and how people communicate, it also has made possible a new form of communication that can be sliced a number of ways: the Blog.

“Blogs are now commonplace,” Lempert writes, “and with high speed Web access available on 40 million lines, and to over a third of people on the Internet, retailers and brands are using blogs to create buzz (the new terminology for word-of-mouth) and measure just how new store formats and promotions are being accepted by their customers.

“A blog is created about every 2.2 seconds. In simple terms, a blog is a web site, where people (and smart retailers and CPG brands) write on an ongoing basis. The latest postings show up at the top, so your web visitors can read what's new first. Then they can add their own comments directly on the blog, or email you.”

The challenge, Lempert writes, is “to use the technology and relationships with shoppers to build your brand.” And, he says, “Blogs offer a unique opportunity to reach out to shoppers and build relationships and sales by doing the exact same thing that the corner store shopkeeper did 100 years ago - listening to what the shopper has to say.”
KC's View:
While we’ve never defined MNB as a blog – in part because there some differences between what we do and how many blogs work, most specifically in the way we edit and shape the “Your Views” discussions – in essence, that’s what we’ve been doing for a lot of years now.

We mention this because there is a critical factor that can make blogs work for marketers – they tap into people’s passions, and allow for the expression and expansion of those passions. That’s an extremely important function, and one that cannot be underestimated and should not be undervalued.

Take a look at what Stonyfield Farm does with a number of blogs on its site – addressing issues that it feels are important to its consumers, and creating both community and communication. It’s something that every marketer ought to consider…sure, it has risks, but properly managed and intelligently written, it could be an enormous success.

We hope more people and companies take a cure from Phil Lempert’s piece and embrace this new way of reaching out to customers.

By the way, if you want to check out this month’s edition of Facts, Figures & The Future, just go to:

F3 is published by the Food Marketing Institute, ACNielsen, and Phil Lempert.

Other stories covered this month include:

  • Key insights into marketing to aging Baby Boomers.

  • The complexities of wine marketing.

  • The impact of healthier eating trends on ice cream consumption.

  • How even sugared cereals are slimming down.

And much more.

(Full disclosure: MNB Content Guy Kevin Coupe is a Contributing Writer to F3.)