Q&A with Certified Angus Beef: Consumer Behavior Changes and Agile Insights

Published Feb 26, 2021

Ron Ruffinott, VP, Head of Research Solutions

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Sitting down with Diana Clarke from Certified Angus Beef — a non-profit owned by the families and farmers of the American Angus Association® to deliver consistent, high-quality beef to end consumers — we discuss abrupt changes in consumer behavior and the increased need for agile consumer insights.

Diana shares her experience adapting to the conditions of the ongoing pandemic, getting in the consumers’ mindset, and embracing agile insights.

Q&A:

  • Ron Ruffinott, VP, Head of Research Solutions, Toluna (RR): With all this disruption, brands have had to adapt and engage in agile insights like never before. How are you approaching the way that you’re providing insights to your organization?
  • Diana Clarke, Meat Scientist, Certified Angus Beef (DC): We don’t actually sell any beef or own any cattle; all we do is market the beef. We’re unique within the market so we need to dive in and do our own research to provide that information to grocery stores, foodservice distributors, restaurants, and other accounts. We want to provide the right data so they know how consumers will respond and what they can look forward to.
  • RR: What impact did COVID-19 have on the insights you were seeking and the types you received?
  • DC: One big thing we looked at was how consumers are shopping at grocery stores because restaurants are not open. We were looking at our brand placement and understanding of the message was coming across clearly on packaging and through different messaging, even if our logo presence enticed the customer and they understood what it meant.
    We also saw this increase in premium meat demand, specifically because people can’t have it at a restaurant like they used to. A lot of times they’ll go into a retail store and say they’re going to pay a little bit more because they’re not spending that money outside. We realized if our brand is perceived as premium by that consumer, they’ll see it and believe it’ll bring them a great experience. We looked at consumers’ perception of our brand and logo throughout many U.S. markets. We also localized to see where we had growth potential and did some international research in Canada.
  • RR: In thinking about the challenges of pandemic conditions, how did they affect your research needs and how you conducted research?
  • DC: Usually, every three years, we measure the brand’s position in the market with a web survey and in-store intercepts. That’s a huge part of how we look at and monitor our brand growth for many years now. When everything shut down, we were stuck. How could we get insights from consumers that were in stores?Fortunately, we were able to through Toluna. Were they going to a licensed or unlicensed Certified Angus Beef retail store? Do they notice the marketing, and like Certified Angus Beef? Do they view it as premium? We were able to still glean those insights and move the brand forward. The insights gave us the motivation to keep going.
  • RR: How did you find the experience of pivoting to compensate for those programs?
  • DC: It was fantastic to get to know the platform and the Toluna team was fantastic at responding and communicating. I’d get responses at all hours, and they were extremely helpful with opinions and ideas. It made the process pretty easy, and as we programmed more and more and had the Toluna team help, they talked to me throughout the whole thing. “This is why we built the questionnaire this way,” or “This is why we organized the data that way.” It helped me learn and make our own surveys more powerful.
  • RR: When working with an agile insights provider, what advice would you give? What characteristics would you prioritize?
  • DC: Flexibility of research type, having the ability to showcase different types of marketing from videos to images, and being able to export the analysis. The team of support, too, is awesome for becoming a powerful research team. I love the flexibility to do the research on our own or have another team run it, gather the data, and analyze it for us. You need to be able to move and be flexible.
  • RR: What key benefits have agile research provided for the business?
  • DC: We know more about specific markets than we did before because we dove into specific demographics and understanding what drives the customers in those areas. Even generationally — for example, some generations really know what marbling is, and others don’t. We were able to break that down and put data behind it. It amazed us — the differences around the country — and plays a huge part of how you’re marketing your brand. It can change how they perceive you based on how they do their shopping.

The increase in e-commerce is also a huge influence now. The convenience is there, so what can we do to drive our brand presence on the websites? We’re interacting with a completely different part of the retailer than in-store marketing. Agile marketing has been extremely helpful in these areas in the past year.

Thank you, Diana, for offering a firsthand look at your journey in pivoting research techniques and putting agile consumer insights to work for you. In an ever-changing market, it is encouraging to hear Certified Angus Beef’s success story in moving forward and putting quality data on your side. Thanks again!

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