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Food Marketing Mix

Do you really know what marketing is all about? Picture this

It’s the weekend; you are hanging out with your friends and you decide to get something to eat. You only have a few bucks to spend on food.  As you and your friends walk a couple of blocks you’ve already passed three fast food restaurants, so you decide to stop in at the next one you see. Once inside you see different menu options that are within your spending limits. In the back of your mind are the images that tell you that you are getting a good deal for your money... you see very familiar and appealing food images and reminders that the price is right.  Maybe you’ll try something different and get the item that is promoted as a new menu option. You already know that eating the food option you chose may not be the best thing for your health but you also know you like the way it tastes and you’ll feel satisfied once you eat it. The healthier options on the menu were more expensive anyway, so they weren’t really an option. You never thought about going somewhere else to grab something to eat because the fast food places were along the way and the most affordable.   

So marketing doesn’t affect you, right? Or perhaps it does?  Keep reading to reveal the system that’s in place to make this happen.


*This figure has been modified based on a figure developed by Sonya Grier, PhD, Associate Professor, Marketing, American University, Kogod School of Business

Marketing is an exchange. Companies have something to sell and people will buy it (exchange money for it) if they realize a need for it or want it and they can afford it. Marketers do research to identify different types of consumers (market segments) according to the factors that influence their regular purchases. They match up what they have to sell with the types of consumers likely to want their products. They make a point of promoting those products in ways that will motivate consumers to choose them, set prices that will appeal to those consumers, and place products in places where those consumers are likely to access them. This process is called STP, for Segmenting, Targeting, and Positioning. Targeting and positioning use promotion, placement, and price to create an intensified effort to sell a particular product to those consumers perceived as relatively more likely to buy it. Marketing is the combination of all of these elements and concepts: it works better when all aspects are used together compared to when only some of these factors are operating.

You are hanging out with your friends…

market segment/target audience -- urban teens; hungry, not much tendency to cook, making most of their own decisions about what to eat, using public transit or walking from social activities or school, and will pass a fast food restaurant on the way home.

As you and your friends walk a couple of blocks you’ve already passed three fast food restaurants so you decide to stop in the next one you see...

placed where you will see them in your neighborhood -- this gives these restaurants a major advantage over other food outlets that are not as easily accessible. When you see more and more of a particular type of food outlet it seems really normal, perhaps even cool that you have so many choices and makes it seem even necessary to buy food items from these locations. This has a multiplier effect if everybody in your group does the same thing.

You see very familiar and appealing food images …

–where do these images come from? Perhaps TV commercials or billboards or other signs promoting the company or the product—ads you have seen so often that you are not even aware that they are making an impression on you. They are just a part of the landscape but their images stick in your mind. Perhaps you see movie characters or celebrities eating at fast food restaurants. Perhaps you know that this chain does a lot of good things for the community and it makes sense to keep patronizing them. All of these reflect--including what characters eat in movies or benefits given to communities--promotional strategies you might have experienced and respond to. Marketers make sure these strategies reach their targeted segments.

…getting a good deal for your money…

- The price and the amount you get for that price feel right for what you have to spend. Some fast food items can be produced cheaply enough to be sold at very low prices, especially the least healthy options. The same products made with less sugar, less fat, and less salt may cost more to produce and can’t generate as many sales to teens, who are known to be “price-sensitive”.

… you like the way it tastes…

–Most fast food products rely heavily on including generous amounts of some sugar, fat, and salt, or all three. People don’t need that much sugar, fat, and salt but these ingredients are overused because they make it incredibly easy to sell products. Human beings are wired to like sugar, fat, and salt and it is hard to limit their consumption. We are sold more of these products than we can handle biologically but don’t have any built-in signals that tell our bodies “too much! too much! too much!”

You see very familiar and appealing food images as well as reminders that the price is right.

-Repetition, repetition, repetition, is a hallmark of advertising and promotion. The more pervasive the promotion (e.g., you see it everywhere, often, and in many different forms), the more likely the product is to be familiar to you

Maybe you’ll try something different and get the item that is promoted as a new menu option..

–Novelty of a product is appealing; new versions of the same product can provide an enhanced basis for promotion and increase the appeal of a product. Teens are known to be attracted by new trends.

Okay, so now that you know how marketing affects what you see, can find easily and ultimately can buy, the choice is yours. Do you really have enough choice? Are there healthy food and beverage options you would like to see become more available in your community? If yes, then click here to be a Game Changer in your community.

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