CFI uses research to leverage opportunity for communicating with consumers
When working with consumers, the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) looks to extensive research, including consumer surveys, demographic studies and more, to understand how to connect and relay messages to the public, particularly as consumers are asking questions about whether or not their food is good for them.
“We’ve identified a disconnect, and we have used the information we have to understand what makes food information credible,” said CFI CEO Charlie Arnot. “What makes food information credible is based on the consumer’s relationship to truth.”
Inside the consumer
Through their research, CFI identified five consumer segments – scientists, philosophers, followers, wishful thinkers and existentialists.
“People’s assessment of food news and its credibility is shaped by their relationship to the truth, which could be subjective or objective,” Arnot said.
Scientists and philosophers tend to root their idea of the truth in rational, scientific objectivity while wishful thinkers and existentialists tend to hold a value-based, scientific truth, understanding truth by what feels true based on deeply held beliefs.
“In the middle, there is a combination of objectivity and subjectivity,” Arnot said. “The followers are looking for guidance from others to understand what they can do to sort out issues.”
Of the population, six percent are scientific, nine percent are philosophers, 39 percent are followers, 32 percent are wishful thinkers and 14 percent are existentialists, according to CFI.
Where the opportunity with the consuming public lies for the agriculture industry, said Arnot, is with the followers.
“Followers are only 10 percent of the voice in the conversation,” he explained. “They are unsure about what to believe, and they are less likely to take a part in or contribute to conversations. However, 40 percent of conversations are driven by wishful thinkers, who tweet, capture and share information.”
Philosophers influence and engage followers, while scientists provide technical information.
“The philosopher interprets the scientific evidence through a simple, clear, ethical and moral lens, which influences the followers,” Arnot said. “Followers are looking for advice that is simple and feels right because it is ethical. The combination of ethics and value allows us to influence.”
Arnot and CFI identified four strategic opportunities that make information relatable to followers.
“Relatability is also an important factor to being influential to others,” Arnot described, noting relatability is the aspect regulatory agencies struggle with.
Primarily, consumers are looking for knowledgeable sources that are also understandable.
“Second, they are looking for sources that tell them what to do clearly, given their life’s situation,” he said. “This is an opportunity to step in and say, ‘I appreciate your concerns. Here’s what you can do.’”
Next, messengers should have similar responsibilities to the consumers and provides guidance that “feels right.”
In delivering messages about food to consumers, the information must be simple and easy to understand with arguments that consumers can visualize.
“Remember, most importantly, we have to give followers the comfort of knowing they’re doing the right thing and permission to believe they’re not making a mistake for their family,” Arnot said. “The message should be unambiguous and deliver a simple solution to address specific vulnerabilities of followers.”
Arnot revealed results of CFI’s latest survey during a late January 2018 webinar.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.