To certify, or not to certify, that is the question
We’re pretty sure that’s what William Shakespeare was contemplating when writing Hamlet. Well, maybe not, but if you listen to the debates some brands have when contemplating the time, effort and resources needed to get their products certified, it may seem like these questions are life or death.
When faced with such challenging questions, it’s easy to look for justification for this investment in the easiest possible way. Will certifying my product drive an increase in sales? Unfortunately, that may be the wrong way to think about it. Certifications may drive sales for some products among select consumer groups, but more broadly we believe the best way to think about certifications is the indirect role they play in building your brand and demonstrating trust among consumers.
If we look at the behaviors of innovators and entrepreneurs exhibiting their products at Natural Products Expo West, it’s clear they believe certifications add value, because the vast majority have invested in one or more certifications for the product(s):
Source: NEXT Trend Database of products exhibited at Natural Products Expo West 2019 (among Food and Beverage products).
In fact, for many brands, one certification isn’t enough. Over half of all products exhibited at Expo West 2019 carried two or more certifications. Furthermore, the number of products exhibiting at Expo West carrying certifications grew 34% between 2016 and 2019.
So, how should you think about the value of certifications?
Consumer survey data suggests that certifications are influential in decision making, but much less so than other factors, and more so among select consumer segments.
Source: NEXT 2019 Certifications Micro Survey utilizing a generally representative convenience sample of 900 U.S. consumers.
So what does this cluster of observations tell us about the value of certifications? We believe it suggests that when considering whether “to certify, or not to certify,” you should…
Shift your perspective:
- Think of certifications as a marketing investment, not a sales driver
- Recognize certifications communicate indirectly to a broad and specifically targeted audience
- Use certifications to build trust and signal fit to targeted audience
Use certifications to:
- Provide quality assurance
- Reinforce brand value
- Build trust
- Create competitive differentiation
- Signal the presence or absence of qualities that consumers seek or avoid
- Which certification types may be of most relevance to your brand and target consumer
- The patterns in certification among innovative products in your product category
- Unique ways of using consumer research and analytics to identify the best combination of two or more certifications to reach the broadest audience