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Reinvention: How to Re-establish Relevance in a Commodity Category

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Kristy Roldan

Director, Account Service

French Market Coffee is an established New Orleans brand that has been around for over 120 years. For those of you keeping score, that kind of “staying power” is usually reserved for iconic brands like Coca-Cola and Pabst Blue Ribbon. But unlike these brands which have reinvented themselves several times over the past century, French Market Coffee has mostly stayed the same.

The problem with relying on tradition is that FMC was failing to bring new customers to their brand, while their core customer base was “exiting the category” – in other words, aging (and dying) out. The brand needed to innovate in order to appeal to a larger, younger, and more stable group of coffee drinkers.

The next step FMC took was rather unconventional for such a stable and traditional brand. They went out on a limb and launched a Cold Brew product to appeal to Millennial audiences, but without really knowing how Cold Brew “fit” into the portfolio of the brand. And voila! It worked. They took a chance with Cold Brew and the result was… they had reinvented the brand.

This is where MDRG comes into the picture. FMC needed to reconcile this newfound success via Cold Brew with its longstanding, historic product and New Orleans roots. MDRG used its Whole Mind Approach™ and set to work on a path to reinvention for French Market Coffee.

Step 1: Who is the target?

We used an existing A&U study to better understand the target. By reanalyzing the data in this study, MDRG determined that there are essentially three groups of FMC Consumers: core, heavy-ground coffee drinkers who skew older; younger consumers who drink various varieties and formats; and a competitive target of Community Coffee drinkers.

Step 2: Understand the target.

MDRG wanted to get into the mindset of these consumers and learn about their habits, behaviors, and motivations. We used a mobile ethnography platform to provide insights on how these consumers make purchase decisions and shop the shelf.

The insights from this targeting work achieved two key results:

  1. Provided the basis for what the brand needed to maintain.
  2. Revealed white space in which the brand could differentiate from the competition.

These opportunities were closely aligned in that FMC needed to stay true to its roots and the local culture of New Orleans. Consumers are seeking brands that provide customization, variety, and “craft” creations. This also corresponded with the competitor’s vulnerability. Community Coffee, to some, had become less “local” and somewhat generic in its efforts to expand on a national level.

Armed with this information, FMC needed to find a solution that wasn’t walking away from its core base but also leaned into the assets this new Cold Brew consumer loved about the brand. To do this, FMC ‘s advertising agency developed three strong brand platforms that could potentially represent their new direction. Each platform touched on the identified core elements in their own way.

  1. The local character and culture of New Orleans
  2. The deep history and craft that goes into coffee roasting

Step 3: Pick a platform.

MDRG utilized a monadic survey and analyzed brand attributes to arrive at a winner: “Soul,” the platform that provided a unique intersection for both brand elements and appealed to the right audience.

Now it was time to execute on reinvention. This was done in several layers:

  1. The presence: Communicating these efforts through branding and marketing.
  2. The packaging: New, attention-grabbing designs building on the presence of Cold Brew.
  3. The product: Roasts were refreshed for modern tastes.

Step 4: Package testing.

This is a huge part of the story because customers aren’t going to buy a product that doesn’t grab their attention in-store. MDRG conducted a two-phase study to select and refine a package that best communicated the Soul platform. The team tested several designs, ultimately helping develop a package that consumers preferred over the main competitor Community Coffee.

Step 5: The Results.

To date, the brand has already experienced measurable growth.

  • 140MM campaign impressions through September 2019.
  • Organic velocity has increased by +35%
  • Yielding increases in both sales and volume!
  • MDRG is still tracking growth ongoing using a brand funnel metric.

In our humble opinion, this is an example of branding strategy and market research properly executed. There were no shortcuts. FMC, MDRG, and the ad agency teams partnered together over time to carefully reinvent this brand step-by-step and gain insights throughout every part of the brand funnel. And the results are proof that this kind of alliance works.

We’re looking forward to our next CPG client that’s looking to achieve insights that lead to brand re-imagination!

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