Forget everything you know. I often feel like that is the new imperative for marketers in the modern world. It also feels on occasion like we in this profession are being collectively schooled in a new way to communicate and be relevant to our audience. And so be it. Smart communicators operate in today’s complex marketplace under an entirely new set of assumptions about messaging, audience and media channels. Learning the new rules of engagement is paramount in order to successfully, meaningfully and profitably connect with our current, former and future customers.

And as seems requisite in these articles to shape the content into bite sized bits of information for consumption and sharing, I will of course comply by discussing what I like to call the Five C’s of Modern Marketing.

But first, a premise to consider. I am old enough to remember well the days when marketers had all (or most) of the control. Brand managers decided what the message would be, how it would be creatively communicated, the medium, the timing, who it would reach and how often. More or less. But the tables have certainly turned. In 2015, we as marketers assemble a patchwork of interrelated strategies and tactics designed to reach our audience, but they wield the big stick now. They decide, for the most part, what they see or hear, when they see or hear it, how it is presented and if it is presented at all. They can save it for later, share it, customize it, or frankly just ignore it.

Under this new paradigm, today’s marketers must be more strategic than ever before to find, attract, engage and convert.

Concept. Powerful brands tell a story. And yes, I know you have heard that before. Good branding is effective storytelling. The challenge is crafting a brand story that can be communicated in a wide range of formats, from broadcast and print to skyscraper banners and landing pages. And that takes practice. The better you know your story, the more flexible you can be in telling it well through a dizzying range of media delivery formats. But suffice it to say, it all starts with the brand story concept. Every brand has a story. Either you can create it, or your customers will do it for you. And you may not like what they come up with.

Content. The most compelling stories are true stories. And so every solid brand story must have some underlying truth to be effective. That’s where consumer research and scientific validation plus R&D come into play. Or whatever form of support you have generated to substantiate your story and give it legs in the marketplace. Fabricating an interesting storyline is the easy part. Building a portfolio of supporting facts and data behind it is much more difficult.

Connection. When you think about all of the imagery and sound thrown at the average person on an average day, surprisingly little of it seems to “stick”. Why is that? My personal belief is that marketers tend to forget that there are two parts to every sale: the rational sale, and the emotional sale. Features and benefits are fine and good, and a solid value proposition should incorporate the most unique points of difference for your brand. But if there is no emotional connection created between your brand and your customer, precious little interaction or engagement is likely to occur. Particularly when it comes to the coveted Millennial generation, the ability to engage with a brand is a prerequisite to purchase. Savvy marketers encourage that type of emotional connection at every point of contact.

Community. With the advent of social media, the dynamics of personal connection and engagement with customers have evolved exponentially. The challenge these days is determining how to connect, with whom, in what ways, using what vehicles? One thing for certain is that key to online engagement is User Generated Content. Prospects and customers want to hear what their peers think of your brand. Not what you think of it. The more you can facilitate sharing and exchange on your Website, blog, or social outposts, the more brand ambassadors you can create and empower. One more thought regarding social media strategy; focus on generating an objectives-driven plan, not just a hodgepodge assembly of tactics.

Continuity. In a few short words, always seek to speak with one voice. The more diverse and segmented the consumer and media landscape become, the easier it is to silo content to the point where the key brand messages are lost. Always return home to the brand story to make certain that your key selling proposition is not getting lost in the shuffle. Message continuity and frequency are all important. And when I say message, I am referring to both words and graphic elements.

You’re not alone. We are all navigating this new media landscape together. Looking for better ideas and approaches. So when you find something that works, please share it. As they say, a rising tide floats all boats.

Article Source:
Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications
Written by Jeff Hilton, Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer, BrandHive
Edited by Gary Gonzalez, Medill IMC Class of 2015
Published 10/25/2015

BrandHive, a leading healthy lifestyle-branding agency, was retained by Coffee Blocks, the creator and manufacturer of an instant butter coffee beverage for active adults, to develop a brand story and messaging, as well as redesign their product packaging for a retail launch. The new packaging was previewed earlier this year and made available to retail customers nationwide in recent weeks.

Coffee Blocks packaging design by BrandHiveIn 2014, Coffee Blocks founder, Tom Meredith, turned to Kickstarter for support of his passion to make butter coffee easier and more convenient to consume for adults seeking sustained daily energy and improved overall wellness. Joined by several partners, it didn’t take long for Meredith to reach his goal and begin selling product online.

Coffee Blocks is packaged in convenient squeeze packs containing coffee, grass-fed butter, coconut oil and free-range egg yolks for use as a single-serve hot beverage. Once hot water is added and the contents are mixed, the outcome is a blended and balanced butter coffee that can be enjoyed immediately. Coffee Blocks delivers sustained energy, increased mental clarity, fat burning benefits and overall good nutrition.

“Drink. Feel good. Repeat. – We developed a daily credo for Coffee Blocks that reflects its simple and straightforward approach to better nutrition,” said Jeff Hilton, “Whether it’s the brand story, logo or packaging, it’s critical for food and beverage brands to connect with consumers in a meaningful and relevant way. We’re proud of how the brand elements supporting Coffee Blocks have come together and expect continued momentum with consumers in the marketplace.”

Coffee Blocks uses premium, all-natural ingredients and no artificial emulsifiers, fillers or preservatives. The product is sold at retail in a package of 8 convenient squeeze pouches. For more information, visit

BrandHive, a full service strategic branding and PR/Social agency dedicated to “creating healthy buzz”, marks 2016 as its 20th anniversary.

Focused on promoting healthy, natural brands, BrandHive has a proven track record of providing innovative solutions and disruptive creativity for its clients in various business sectors including nutritional supplements, food and beverage, personal care, household products and branded ingredient suppliers.

BrandHive began operations in 1996 as the Integrated Marketing Group (IMG) when Jeff Hilton and Matt Aller, the agency’s co-founders, recognized the potential for providing integrated branding and business consulting services for health-focused natural consumer packaged goods and raw ingredient companies. Under their leadership, IMG grew into a leading, one-stop shop for strategic branding, creative, media, public relations, and digital interactive services. After a very successful rebranding in 2013, and following two decades of steady growth, the agency certainly has something to celebrate this year.

“Our success and longevity is a result of both the advanced capabilities of our team plus our concentrated focus on the natural products industry,” said Hilton. “Collectively, we offer Clients over 100 years of combined category experience. Moreover, we continue to expand our global reach, having forged partnerships with clients throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Israel, Norway, South Africa,United Kingdom, Switzerland and France.”
Hilton is a sought-after speaker for his knowledge and insights into timely marketing topics and trends. He brings unique expertise in the areas of branding, strategic planning, target audience differentiation, trend spotting, and active nutrition. This year, Hilton will lead multiple sessions at VitaFoods Europe, the World Tea Expo as well as the US-based Natural Products Expo West. Hilton’s dedication and contributions to the industry have resulted in notable accolades including recognition by Advertising Age as one of America’s Top 100 Marketers and recipient of Nutrition Business Journal’s Personal Service Award.

Aller remains at the creative helm as BrandHive’s creative director, defining creative strategy while also managing implementation at a detailed level. This sort of personal involvement, in addition to a concentrated effort on team development, has significantly contributed to the firm’s creative expertise and explosive growth.

To kick off its anniversary celebration, BrandHive will host a series of white papers, dubbed the 20th Anniversary Healthy & Natural Marketing Series, expected to roll out this Spring. BrandHive also plans to share its 20th anniversary celebrations with a little bee-themed party fun in early 2016.

Jeff Hilton, BrandHive’s co-founder and chief marketing officer, will present at this year’s Petfood and Animal Nutrition 2.0 which will take place on October 20-21, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The unique event will bring together innovators, educators and marketers from around the world to share insights on pet health and well-being. Hilton’s session, Breaking the Mold: Keys to Effective Package Design, will take place during a breakfast meet-up on Tuesday, October 20th at 9-10 AM CST. For more information on registration, please click here.

In his session, Hilton will address the evolving role of packaging in increasing awareness and stimulating brand trial and preference among pet owners in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Hilton will also discuss how savvy marketers are leveraging innovative pet food packaging to engage with decision makers and convert shoppers into loyal customers. Hilton will offer real-world case studies on how packaging can make an impact on sales to category consumers on both the physical and virtual shelves.

Session participants will learn to:

• Guide a consumer through an engaging journey with effective packaging approaches
• Present a clear and fluent hierarchy of information for harried shoppers
• Balance creativity and strategy
• Create both rational and emotional impact with pet owners
• Appeal to multiple demographic segments

Petfood and Animal Nutrition 2.0 was developed to address the current “pet revolution” and next generation of science behind the formulation, packaging and distribution of pet food, supplements and treats. The conference will address topics such as pet nutrition, contract manufacturing, independent retail, sustainability, marketing and regulatory issues. For more information, please click here.

Today’s shortened news cycle and always-on social media demands that brands integrate PR, social media and SEO efforts. Respond to this trend with real-time PR that tracks daily success and adjusts accordingly.

  • Coordinate PR, marketing and social media activity
  • Leverage media and editorial opportunities
  • Integrate content strategies
  • Be part of the conversation


There is no longer a “typical” sports nutrition consumer. Category segmentation is key.

The Gracefully Maturing segment is motivated to maintain endurance longer, and want to have the energy to continue with daily activities as they age. Feeling good and staying active is more important to this group than improving appearance or achieving weight loss. Products that appeal to this segment include those that support bone and joint health and energy, preferably as RTD’s and fortified beverages.


REACHING THIS GROUP: This segment responds best to product messages that make them feel younger. Deliver information about energy and youthfulness as well as messages that support stronger bones and joints.

You know your stuff! Let the world know. Identify your thought leaders and industry spokespeople. Leverage their knowledge and expertise. Whether they are experts in technology, regulatory, research, specific ingredients or products.



  • Develop contributed content
  • Secure speaking opportunities
  • Publish bylined articles
  • Leverage research
  • Coordinate participation in industry events