Making the communication
matter: imagery,
words and speech
strategies around
food & nutrition

pascal-beucler
Pascal Beucler
SVP & Chief Strategy Officer,
Global, MSLGROUP

@pbeucler

The Future of Food, as we see it, is also about the future of its representations, in terms of the communication around it. Several factors go into influencing this, one of them being the discussions driven by audiences via social networks.

Analyzing food conversations on the web brings up interesting insights – consumer awareness is at an all-time high; food is at the center of peer discussions, pop culture, etc. Today, knowledge about one’s food is considered cool, trendy. There’s a know-where-your-food-comes-from dialogue that’s caught on with consumers universally.

When stakeholders in the industry – food companies and others in the foodservice space – speak of food, what is the angle they are adopting? The food communication that’s targeted at consumers – is it from a well-being or nutrition standpoint? Do they actually measure what impact the language strategies they use may have on the audience – words, images, references, symbols? Do they identify, and analyze, what their competition do, whether direct (other food companies) or indirect (Life Sciences and healthcare companies, for instance) ones?

Understanding and monitoring what is at stake is certainly something all major companies in this area could do with benefits, for today and most importantly for tomorrow, in a market where disruption and blurring boundaries tend to complexify everything.

In our times of effectiveness, and performance spirit, every communication activity has to be positioned in this perspective. In this context, from a consumer’s point of view, the “rationalization” trend impacts how food is viewed, and communication focused around nutrition may be the response or the solution to this demand – for example, messages emphasizing the importance of taking care of oneself (think heath, physical appearance, etc.) like a valuable asset.

With increasing consumer suspicion toward safety issues, a nutrition-centric approach can translate to a kind of truth/honesty/virginity about food. Adopting a defensive attitude can be risky for food companies. Instead, they can utilize this as an opportunity to reinforce their credibility through consumer insights and extend their business reach.

For Life Sciences companies and pharmaceutical groups, febrile stakeholders to the conversation, it may be a real opportunity for developing business, with the significant advantage of their historical “healthcare” image.

Companies and brands have various ways to address nutrition issues and build their narrative around it – some of them being more competitive than others, obviously

How can food brands intending to resonate with consumers effectively build their communication around the nutrition aspect, in the context of visual communication?

Is my biosphere safe?

Nutrition can be seen, and “built” in the speeches, like “the genuine truth of food” in a context of safety psychosis: it’s all about protecting the “bio safe sphere” like the key words hygiene, control and standards suggest it. Typically, some dedicated imagery will support this – with surgical masks, green gloves, test tubes and sanitized bubbles…nothing short of intimidating. Doing so certainly is one way to try and take opportunity from the current “safety freaking” trend, but is such a defensive and opportunistic approach a beneficial one, in the long run?

Am I really what I eat?

Nutrition can turn into a complete health concern, where only specialists would be in a position to know, and wisely advise, in many ways, the new and rigorous mantra guiding your life. We’re all too familiar with communication like “Be careful, you are what you eat!”. The result is quite a scary health-at-risk landscape, where the knowledge, and power, belong to healthcare professionals and related actors. Foundations, institutes, dedicated nutrition portals are often used to demonstrate the effort, and the seriousness of the concern, also supported by a massive medical and scientific iconography.

Is Nutrition ‘The Way’?

What if I just do it?

Nutrition can also be viewed as an individual choice to expand people’s potential: reaching the next level, for more fun, satisfaction and transcendence. It’s all about a personal achievement. The key words are pleasure, freedom, well-being, performance: kind of a “just do it” paradigm, in many ways. It is essentially a focus on taking care of one’s body and mind.

We will only touch food and drink that meets our rigorous aesthetic standards. (…) The eyes carry greater weight in our brains than the tasting senses, so we often taste what we see, rather than what we're actually tasting.

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