Having worked in marketing for a little while now, I have to say FMCG is a category like no other. It has to be one of the most competitive spaces when it comes to brands. Each brand battling it out to carve out a different USP. From messaging around price, to ingredients, quality, health, the list goes on – all vying to capture consumer attention and stand tall amongst the crowd.

The small guys also have to compete with big global brands that have eye watering marketing budgets. Those budgets can also mean small and emerging brands have diminished voices when it comes to storytelling across PR, and even negotiating media partnerships.

To stand out from the crowd, crafting a compelling narrative around a brand has never been more important. Even in the most fiercely contested FMCG categories, an authentic narrative is a total gamechanger. Here’s why I think a powerful brand story wins.

Having an emotional connection with a consumer will trump all other decision-making elements. FMCG products at their very core often fulfil basic needs, making it challenging for brands to differentiate themselves solely based on functionality. But an emotional connection will mean a consumer sees a brand as a mere product – instead becoming a part of the consumers’ lives and representing values that they are aligned with.

We work with Melbourne based chocolate brand Hey Tiger. Born in 2017, Hey Tiger was born from a ‘do good’ mission that sought to break the cycle of the cacao industry. An industry that sees many women and children in forced labour and the average worker earning just 73c a day.

Committed to the ethical farming of cacao, the brand committed 2% of every block being donated to The Hunger Project, going towards women’s empowerment, entrepreneurship and social development programs. Customers can feel good about reaching for Hey Tiger when they shop and they also feel better about spending that little bit more on the product.

Differentiation and authenticity also play a critical role in setting brands apart.  In a crowded FMCG market, differentiation is crucial. A well-crafted brand story allows companies to carve out a unique identity, distinct from their competitors and make it easier for consumers to come back to their products time and time again.

Oat Milk Goodness (OMG) is a partner of we scout and a brand that has carved out its point of differentiation from its inception. Unlike the other Oat Milks in the category, OMG contains no industrial seed oils (ISOs) which means that it stands tall amongst the crowd for its health benefits.

Trust is the bedrock of successful brand-consumer relationships, and a captivating brand story is a powerful way to foster and grow trust. It humanises a brand and makes it easy to relate to. At we scout, we think trust can even be fostered in moments that a brand gets it wrong, and we have counselled many partners to stand up and own it when a mistake inevitably happens. If you get the apology right and you make the changes that are required to get it right, your consumers will see you as human and that is a powerful play in your brand story.

A well-told brand story also demonstrates transparency, showcasing a brand’s commitment to integrity. It also builds consistency and reliability, reassuring consumers that they can trust the brand to always deliver on its promises. Trust brings about loyalty, and in fiercely competitive FMCG categories, customer loyalty can make or break a brand’s success.

Finally, word of mouth and advocacy is still as influential as ever. This often plays out via a brand’s social and digital channels but it can also come to life at the family BBQ or via a supermarket conversation. We work with the uber cool ice cream brand Denada and as I grabbed a tub of the delicious salted caramel flavour one day in Coles a woman behind me stopped me to tell me that at $14 a tub Denada was a rather pricey addition to her trolley, but the sugar free deliciousness of the brand made it impossible to walk past.  We stood in the freezer aisle comparing our favourite flavours and I was reminded of the power of brand advocacy in influencing purchase decisions.

In an era of fierce competition and endless choices, a powerful brand story stands as a beacon of differentiation, trust, and loyalty in the FMCG sector. By weaving together emotions, authenticity, and memorable experiences, brands can rise above the competition (and competitor marketing spends) to take back market share.

Lori Susko is director of we scout.