Shaping a Personal Relationship with the Consumer

The CPG industry has a deeply personal relationship with the consumers it serves. We put these products in us, on us and around us. We have them in the pantries, medicine cabinets, laundry rooms and garages of our homes. And we interact with them, on average, 42 times a day.   

That’s 42 moments to develop a relationship per consumer, per day. I’d argue there is no other industry that has that level of engagement — and responsibility — to consumers. It emphasizes that CPG brands are not only selling a product, they’re creating connections with the consumer.   

There are several ways to connect with consumers, but let’s focus on three that stood out at the CPG Summit: personal connection; digital connection; direct connection.   

Give Your Brand Permission to Get Personal   

At the CPG Summit, spoken word poet Sekou Andrews said, “If you’re going to transform, transform yourself from a what into a why. Transform from an expert into an experience.”  

You could list all the attributes of the product (great taste, less filling) but that’s the ‘what.’ That’s your expertise. Give your brand permission to, as Andrews shared, remember your purpose and connect with consumers.   

His advice to connect? Humanize yourself and remember it’s okay to get personal. While you can’t engage every consumer in conversation in the store aisle, you can humanize your brand. Many CPGs use that to great effect. I’m immediately called back to P&G’s “Thank You, Mom” Olympics campaign and how personal and meaningful that was to me, a mom of two girls. Halo’s promotion of ice cream for grownups resonated with me because it was hilarious and gave the brand personality that I wanted to connect with. The list goes on and the results speak for themselves.    

Shape Meaningful Connection Keeping an Eye on the Digital Shelf  

Shaping the personal relationship with consumers can happen across many venues, including the digital space. Publicis Groupe’s Chief Commerce Strategy Officer, Jason Goldberg, better known as the Retail Geek, says to connect with consumers by expanding to touchpoints beyond the “.com” and understanding how products show up on the digital shelf.   

The physical product, for example, is worthless on a mobile phone. Is it big, small, liquid, powder, etc.? Consumers can’t tell the same way they can in-store. But contrary to popular belief, digital grocery is not regressing to the pre-pandemic mean. It’s more than double, moving from 4% of sales before COVID to 11% today — and poised to grow.   

CPGs need a good digital shelf to connect with consumers across the digital space, whether that’s anywhere from a retailer site all the way to TikTok. “We’re still in the first inning and with retail media networks we’re still taking batting practice,” Goldberg said.  

But early innings mean the opportunity is still wide open. Finding pathways to give consumers a digital experience with your product can be a means of creating meaningful connections — before it’s the status quo.   

Don’t Overlook the Direct Relationship    

CPG companies are not Nike or Apple. It is easy to dismiss the direct-to-consumer option as nonsensical for industry business. But (and you knew there was a but), what if the opportunity — albeit smaller — created a lasting relationship with a loyal consumer who is more likely to be a brand evangelist?   

There are some CPG companies very engaged in this space and, in some cases, buying players that started as direct-to-consumer operations. Unilever spent $1 billion to acquire Dollar Shave Club, for example. But many need to start with the basics. And most CPGs haven’t told consumers what their URL is — the equivalent of retailers not sharing their websites 20 years ago. Sucharita Kodali, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, says, “If you want to connect with consumers, let them know where you are.”   

Goldberg, however, reminded that the first capture of a consumer doesn’t have to be your website, though it should be the center of gravity in the long run. “You don’t just want to get them onto your website, you want to get them into your ecosystem.”   

In short, whether it’s at the personal, digital or direct level, companies can start by creating connections in one of a hundred small ways and grow the relationship.   


This post offers takeaways from the 2022 CPG Summit, the premier gathering of industry leaders. The event is invite only, but follow the Consumer Brands blog and #CPGSummit on Twitter for content that offers a peek behind the curtain.  

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