If you're marketing plant-based protein, I suspect a few things would be true:

  • Your brand will be somewhat polarizing. You'll have vocal naysayers and superfans alike.
  • Many people won't get it right away, and education will be required.
  • Word of mouth from real customers will be a critical marketing asset.

We learned a lot about how Beyond Meat finds an audience for its vegan meats on the latest episode of the Marketing Cloudcast ,  the marketing podcast from Salesforce . In this episode, Beyond Meat's Director of Marketing, Will Schafer, joins the show.

In this podcast, several meaningful lessons emerged that apply to all modern brands, regardless of product type or industry. And in today's oversaturated digital environs, we learned that authenticity is of the few marketing currencies left.

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 Subscribe for the full episode, and check out this quick peek at insights from Will as he shared them in the podcast.

1. If You Have Fans Who Love You, There's Never Been a Better Time to Market

Instagram and Facebook are key channels for Beyond Meat. Especially on Instagram and Facebook, Beyond Meat's fans and influencers regularly post photos and videos to show their appreciation for and applications of the product. Beyond Meat, in turn, reposts (with approval, of course), and also generates its own original visuals that show the product in action. Increasingly, visuals are key for camera-hungry food customers.

For Beyond Meat, it's all about letting fans contribute their excitement to a product they use and love: “If you have a good product and you’re real in the way you engage with people, there’s never been a better time — in terms of the ability of that message to be amplified and shared. When you do something good, a lot of your fans, influencers, and followers will help you do the work and get that message out.”

2. Struggling with Content Production? User-Generated Content Might Be the Best, Anyway

“I think user-generated content is some of the best content out there," says Will. Struggling with the creativity, cost, or personnel resources to publish amazing content? That content may already be created by your biggest fans.

Especially in our eternally Yelping, reviews-obsessed world, people love a good word-of-mouth story. That's why influencer marketing has grown so much. Your best influencers are your biggest fans with the broadest reach. Will has found that letting consumers speak for themselves and finding ways to share their personal stories has been a highly effective way to get Beyond Meat's message into larger circles.

Of course, you may still have to create original content depending on your content marketing goals. But Will suggests trying to “strike a good balance in using the social channels with content we’ve developed based on [fans'] interests.”

3. Walking the Walk is Increasingly Do or Die

“If you’re not an authentic brand walking the walk and doing things for the right reason, people are going to figure it out real fast — and it won’t be pretty," says Will.

We've reached a new era of customer information. More than ever, people want to feel good about where they spend their money. And they have a lot of options for where to do that. If your brand isn't transparent and running clean, customers will find out — and quickly. 

Will encourages companies to run honestly and openly, and he emphasizes that the more focused you are on delivering what has actually been promised, the better off your brand will be. It seems overly simple, but unfortunately, many companies fall short.

4. Connect to Your Why

Whether you're a plant-based protein brand, a manufacturer, or a software company, the point is to connect to your why. Why do you do what you do? Why does your company do what it does? How is your company connecting customers to a better lifestyle or making the world a better place?

In the age of transparent marketing, it's time to communicate the good you do in the world. And if you don't think you're doing enough good, consider the amazing cause marketing campaigns that many companies are now involved with.

Cut the baloney — plant-based or otherwise. Will advises, “There’s no more room for baloney. I would argue you can’t even fool some people some of the time these days.”

5. Social Is Great, But Find a Way to Own Your Audience

”With social media, one downfall is you’re prisoner to someone’s algorithm,” explains Will. True, social is a big part of Beyond Meat's strategy. But Will recognizes that changing algorithms and channel preferences mean that the social audience is always a moving target. That's why Beyond Meat is looking to a new email program to grow its owned audience of email subscribers.

Are all or most of your marketing channels a rental of someone else's audience? Email is still a consistent way to build an audience that you can truly own. Finding engaging—and not overly pushy—ways to encourage customers to sign up for emails through your website is a smart investment in long-term marketing success. Your email database will last much longer than the hype over any new channel or tactic.

And that’s just scratching the surface of our conversation with Will Schafer. Get the complete low-down on social strategy from one of the world’s most interesting meat alternatives in this episode of the Marketing Cloudcast.

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