Trump lesson for foodservice product marketers

Trump lessonIs there a Trump lesson for foodservice product marketers when analyzing the Donald’s mind-boggling, unconventional campaign (stay with me!)?

Perhaps Trump’s win is a surprising exception involving an unusual candidate?  Or maybe there’s something bigger going on that has flipped traditional voter research, punditry and other forms of “insight” onto its head?

The election results parallel my experience of having lived in the white space between foodservice product marketing and sales.  Marketing is the equivalent of driving a political strategy based on polls.  Sales is the equivalent of actual election results.

Whether politician or pudding, it’s becoming harder to line up product marketing strategy with sales results.

The whims of consumer tastes, the barrage of new product introductions, shifting distribution channels and social media’s impact make foodservice product marketing a four-dimensional chess game.

Ironically, all the amazing data analysis now available to us is supposed to limit our risk.  But new product failures and missed market opportunities run at rates that haven’t changed much over the decades.  Hmmm, that’s what kind of what happened to Hillary.  Data analysis only goes so far.

The Clinton campaign relied on sophisticated (yet traditional) models of voter behavior.  Trump winged it believing that he was on the right track so long as large crowds kept showing up.

Trump may have simply lucked out.   By most reports, he was even surprised he won.  But Clinton’s massive “ground game” of volunteers, focus groups and polling failed miserably.

There is no silver bullet for making an educated guess on how to build market share for your foodservice products.  Operators — like voters — live in a complex, distracted and pressure-packed world that no research can adequately capture.

Of course, data is still important.  But now more than ever it’s equally valuable to get out from under the cloud of “models,” “trends,” and “insights” to personally visit with operators inside their own chaotic environment.

I’m usually knocked sideways when seeing reality firsthand versus what a clinical look of the “numbers” might suggest.  I’m guessing Clinton is experiencing the same thing right now.