Food In Canada

How to promote your brand on a tight budget

Birgit Blain   

Business Operations Food Trends Processing consumer awareness marketing

Many brand owners don’t realize that they're responsible for marketing their products

The formula for a brand’s success starts with the basics: a taste profile and point of difference that are relevant to the target customer; consistent quality and a commitment to food safety; functional packaging that has shelf impact and effectively communicates the brand message; and the right price.


Without these ingredients, getting and keeping listings will be a tough battle.



Many brand owners don’t realize they are responsible for marketing their products to move them off the store shelf into shopping carts. This requires a well-thought-out marketing plan to get the word out to retailers and consumers. The objective is to raise awareness and drive trial and repurchase.


Creative thinking is required to promote a brand on a tight budget. Here are nine simple recommendations.


  • Put the horse before the cart. Before investing time and money in promotions, ensure products are available for purchase.


  • Maximize exposure to buyers. Exhibiting at trade shows is worth the investment to gain exposure to numerous buyers simultaneously, provided it’s done effectively. Partnering with complementary, non-competing brands can reduce the cost. Inquire about government subsidies for trade shows. Shows often have competitions for the best new product, packaging or innovation – a great way to get publicity, especially for winning products.


  • Jump at speaking engagements. Get in front of retailers by speaking at conferences. Many are looking for innovative, on-trend products to meet customer needs and differentiate their offering from competitors. Communicate how you are promoting the brand to drive traffic to their stores.


  • Hone the message. Trying to be all things to all people by making multiple claims confuses consumers. Ask yourself “How does our brand satisfy our customers’ needs better than our competitors?” Distill the message down to the one big reason people need the product.


  • Show the face of the brand. People love a compelling story and meeting the brand owner. No one can tell the story with more passion. Authenticity trumps marketing speak.


  • Build a consumer database. A consumer contact list is like gold. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet. Use it to keep in touch and share valued-added content through enewsletters, blogs and surveys. Understanding areas of interest enables personalization of communications. But ensure they have given permission to be contacted, in compliance with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation.


  • A taste is worth a thousand pictures. In-store demos get product into customers’ mouths. It’s also an opportunity to engage with shoppers and gain valuable insights.


  • Support your community. Give target customers a taste by participating in events where they hang out. If they like a product, their first question is “Where can I buy it?” Anticipate the question and broadcast the answer. Note that sample giveaways must meet labelling regulations.


  • Use social media effectively. Although social media is perceived as being “free,” using it effectively to communicate a consistent brand message requires time and resources. A misstep can damage a brand instantly. Develop a social media strategy including goals and objectives. Commit to the platform that is most popular with your target audience. Post relevant, value-added content that aligns with your brand, drafting statements with care. Exploit media coverage to its fullest by sharing it expeditiously.


Never miss an opportunity to promote your brand. Get the buzz going and keep it going. A little ingenuity can stretch a tight budget to raise awareness, drive trial and capture sales.


As a packaged foods consultant, Birgit Blain helps brands that struggle to maintain listings. Her experience includes 17 years with Loblaw and President’s Choice. Contact her at or learn more at


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