Many things have shifted since the pandemic ranging from a consumer thirst for convenience over loyalty, to the explosion of DTC strategies for all brands, be they digitally native or traditional. While the jury is still out on which behaviors post COVID will snap back and what others will be lasting, one core trend we have seen emerge over the last several years that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon is brands leaning heavily into nostalgia. This is likely due to a hunger for some of the more simple times and joys of the past, particularly when thinking about Gen Z, and smart brands are figuring out new and innovative means of harnessing the concept of “borrowed equity” as a result. Unique and different partnerships that tap into this trend in ways that reignite consumer passion and engagement have been pervasive this year and likely will continue to be so in the weeks and months ahead.
For my most recent column, I wanted to speak to someone who has done some interesting work with nostalgia driven partnerships that I thought could be illustrative of this thinking. Kallie Goodwin is VP of Marketing, International Delight Creamers at Danone. Having been with the company for over a decade and prior to that at Post Foods, she brings a unique perspective on these topics and more. Following is a recap of our conversation:
Billee Howard: Your enthusiasm for your work with the portfolio of creamer brands you represent is palpable. Tell me about the intersection of your personal and professional passions and how that plays out in your day-to-day role?
Kallie Goodwin: I’m obsessed with coffee creamer, and even before I became the Marketing VP for the business, I was an avid fan of International Delight. It’s a critical part of my daily routine and the perfect intersection of my personal and professional life.
When it comes to making important brand decisions, I always obviously think through business and financial implications, while also putting myself in the mindset of the International Delight consumer. I always question: Would I like this flavor and taste? What is iconic and interesting about our latest partnership? Would I buy this new offering?
It’s incredibly fun and motivating to work on a brand that is loved by so many creamer fanatics, including myself, and be able to drive decisions that bring so many people joy every day.
Howard: Many brands are using disruptive models of licensing and partnerships to create new means of consumer engagement. Can you talk about your approach to this, and the recent FRIENDS launch?
Coffee is a special moment in people’s days. International Delight creamers help transform the room we leave in our cups of coffee for creamer into ‘Room to Party’ moments – making our consumers days and allowing for self-expression with a burst of flavor through International Delight coffee creamer. We’re on a mission to deliver exciting creamers that consumers will love and can’t be found anywhere else. We not only do this through our everyday bold, delicious flavors, but also through unique, culture-driven partnerships.
Our International Delight FRIENDS Manhattan Hazelnut Mocha creamer, created in partnership with Warner Brothers Discovery Global Consumer Products, is a recent example of this. When the idea came up for a potential limited edition FRIENDS flavor, especially with the coffee ties with Central Perk in the show, we knew the synergy made perfect sense. Not only is FRIENDS one of the most watched TV shows of all time, but you’re also being transported to Central Perk’s orange couch. Nostalgia and experiences are powerful macrotrends that transcend generations, and that’s what guided this pop-culture inspired flavor offering and collaboration.
In the last three years, International Delight has released several limited-edition flavors that leverage licensing and partnerships including FRIENDS (2023), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (2022), Fruity & Cocoa Pebbles (2021) and Buddy the ELF (2020) with Warner Brothers Discovery Global Consumer Products, and The Grinch (2022) with Dr. Seuss Enterprises. Seasonal products and limited time offers continue to lead growth for the brand, and with the first half of the year behind us, it’s exciting to say that FRIENDS was International Delight’s most successful limited time offering yet.
Howard: The trend of nostalgia, or “borrowed equity,” is playing out across the consumer landscape. Tell me why you think this is happening and why its super prevalent with Gen Z in particular?
Goodwin: Nostalgia is a very powerful feeling, especially when elicited through food and beverages. It evokes fun and comforting memories through senses like smell and taste. It also plays an essential role as consumers today increasingly seek comfort and security (Mintel-US Coffee Market and RTD Coffee Market Report).
With International Delight’s most recent limited time offering, inspired by the beloved TV sitcom FRIENDS, we served up a mug of nostalgia to both consumers who tuned in live as the show aired in the 1990s and 2000s, as well as those who re-discovered it as the #1 show during the pandemic. With an iconic borrowed equity, we drummed up excitement and delighted consumers with a flavor inspired by a Central Perk menu item on the show and a beautiful bottle featuring show-inspired iconography.
International Delight is committed to delivering consumers of all generations flavors steeped in nostalgia and pop culture, creating memorable experiences in every mug. Again, we want to delight our audience – it’s in our name.
Howard: Individualized experiences must be everything as we continue to move consumers from transactions to relationships. You mentioned coffee as an extremely personalized experience. Can you share some best practices others should keep in mind when thinking about how to improve their CX in the year ahead?
Goodwin: Individualized experiences not only foster relationships, but also have helped personalized at-home coffee habits stick post-pandemic as younger generations come into the category. Coffee culture is so exciting and relevant right now, with 83% of past day coffee drinkers preparing coffee at home, re-creating coffeehouse experiences and customizing their hot or cold beverage with the breadth of options available in the grocery aisle. Much of this inspiration comes from social media, especially Tik Tok, where the brand has further engaged with consumers and invested in media spend over the last year. For us, it’s a reciprocal relationship – we know how inspired consumers can be from trends they see and create on Tik Tok, and we are inspired by them too.
That’s why we’ve created endless options for our flavor-obsessed fans. From pop culture inspired limited-edition creations to sensational seasonals to a vast core portfolio, the brand has become synonymous with fun and flavor innovation in recent years – all centered around the ability to provide a coffeehouse experience at home. At Danone, we understand coffee and creamer culture and habits. We stay ‘one cup ahead’ when it comes to the flavors, formats, and function we deliver to consumers across brands, generations, and occasions. When thinking about how to improve CX in the year ahead, make sure you understand your consumer and what drives them.