Once a niche industry with a small audience, it was possible to launch a specifically vegan product or service & be the only one. It was plausible for this, should you have found yourself in such a position, to be your only value proposition and you could be forgiven to expect your audience to support your offering on the basis you were the only show in town. As veganism has progressed into mainstream culture however, this narrative alone is no longer serving as your sole selling point. Yet, we still see well-meaning entrepreneurs launch companies, and make it all about the fact they’re vegan. They then become frustrated when they don’t receive the support they expected. The problem lies in the positioning.
A number of factors come into play. Firstly, and most obviously, competition dictates that alternative solutions are now more available. As such, the mere fact the offering is vegan is no longer unique. Moreover, as veganism becomes more mainstream, a new wave of vegans don’t want to feel “special” at all. On the contrary, the objectification is seen as an obstacle & therefore they might favour brands that seek to normalise the lack of animal products.
Instead, when putting a product to market that caters to vegans, brands are better poised to focus on solving a problem and cultivating a community that shares that same problem. In the process, meeting customers at the intersection of their wider interests & the relevance of the product moves away from the simple reliance on the fact it’s vegan. This could be, for example, a vegan leather boxing glove that builds a brand identity around being the underdog.
For mainstream brands that launch vegan products, promoting the fact the product is vegan is necessary to effectively communicate to customers that it differs from their core offering. However, this can also be done effectively in creating sub-brands. See Tesco’s successful collaboration with Derek Sarno on their vegan range “wicked kitchen.” Taking this approach allows for brands to free themselves from the bounds of how they may be perceived in contradiction to the product.
For brand strategy & positioning in the vegan space, my advice would be to focus on the problem that’s being addressed, how it’s being solved in a unique way, and most importantly, why. Veganism is reaching a tipping point & a product by the very essence of being vegan will attract customers. It’s the flexitarians & mainstream consumers who are important to tap in to, and finding a way to motivate this audience is key. Brands that “crossover” are successful, and most have learnt that just being vegan isn’t enough.