Food marketers are chasing an increasingly fragmented audience, therefore making their products relevant to well-defined targets creatively is more crucial than ever.
"It is so important that consumers see our product lines as relevant and that we talk to them in a way that intimately speaks to their needs in today's environment," Mr. Hosfield says.
Innovation plays a critical role in General Mills' efforts to stay relevant, both in terms of the development of products and the marketing behind them. Tapping into consumers demand for on-the-go products, or what CEO Steve Sanger calls "one-handed" items, General Mills is following up its success with Yoplait Go-Gurt for kids with a similarly convenient Yoplait product for adults called Expresse.
To meet the needs of continually health-concerned female shoppers, General Mills recently launched a new cereal specifically fortified for women called Harmony.
But creating products with particularly defined benefits is useless if you don't communicate those benefits to consumers, Mr. Hosfield says. "Consumers aren't waiting around for us to tell them things, these days we have to engage them in a deeper, more emotional way and talk to them about things that affect their busy lifestyles," Mr. Hosfield says.
To that end, General Mills has doubled spending on non-TV media, including the sole use of outdoor boards for its Lloyd's barbecue brand, targeted print for its Betty Crocker brand and the test of bus advertising in African-American neighborhoods in Chicago for Trix cereal.
M&M/Mars has likewise shifted away from TV and into vehicles such as event marketing and Internet platforms to support its mega-brands.
"Because of media inflation, if you've held budgets flat over the last five years, your share of voice has dropped 30% to 50%," says Bob Gamgort, general manager-chocolate, at the Mars Inc. unit. "Since you can't generally increase your budget by 50% to 100%, you have to get a lot more creative."
Examples of such creativity exist in recent M&M/Mars' efforts. For the relaunch of Peanut Butter Twix, M&M/Mars plays off its new music-themed advertising from Grey Worldwide, New York, with the "Twix Mix Tour." The mall tour features local DJs and offer kids a chance to record their own custom-music mixes that can be played on the Internet.
FOOD INDUSTRY TREND
"We used to look at advertising, PR, promotion plans, each piece as very separate," Mr. Gamgort says. "Now, every piece of communication from package to Internet has to reflect the same message."
That move toward integration is reflected across the food industry.
Lance Friedmann, senior VP-consumer insights and communications for Kraft Foods, has recently pushed a concept called IDEA marketing at the food behemoth, a process that pulls resources from advertising, consumer promotion, packaging and other areas at the start of a project to create a more consumer-centered, integrated approach.
As Kraft has accelerated the shift from TV to more innovative media, it is consolidating media-buying at one agency in the hopes of facilitating such efforts.