ORLANDO, FLA. — When it comes to marketing, both retailers and food manufacturers need to challenge the status quo to keep relevant with today’s changing consumer as well as new ethnically diverse demographics, multiple income levels and emerging technology that is altering the way people shop.

In a no-holds-barred presentation during the American Bakers Association annual convention, held recently in Orlando, Fla., John Rand, senior vice-president, retail insights for Kantar Retail, urged attendees to rethink about how they merchandise and market their products as well as how they romance their brands.

“People don’t buy bread,” he said. “They buy sandwiches. Tell me your story. They buy toast. Tell me your story. They don’t buy cupcakes. They buy a birthday party. Think about where it’s going. Tell a story. They don’t buy label claims, but they will buy trust.”

That means telling the truth in a clear way, he added.

Mr. Rand cautioned against generalizing about millennials, boomers and other demographic groups. Rather, he encouraged attendees to look at today’s consumers as highly fragmented. Focusing on “mom” or “millennials” who are 18 to 35 as a cohesive group is a highly simplified approached to marketing baked goods or any other product, Mr. Rand said. Rather, today’s market is highly “fractionalized.”

“One out of every 10 kids born is a first child from a person who is over 35, so what does that do to your system?” he asked. “It’s just a different world. Gen Y is coming in large numbers. That’s good. They want different things; that’s probably good. You need to stay ahead of the curve on this. They’re also economically split. We need to recognize that not only is there a new generation in town, but it’s also not coherent. It’s not consistent. It’s not one big thing. It’s lumpy.”

Mr. Rand noted that bakers should also focus on a “have/have-not world” where “60% of America hasn’t had an effective raise since Lyndon Johnson was president.”

He suggested that marketers should incorporate ethnic diversity into their strategies.

“One out of three people born in the United States had at least one immigrant parent,” he said.

In many ways, traditional marketing doesn’t work in a technologically advanced society.

“If you at all are doing the marketing that you did 10 years ago, you’re wasting the majority of your effort,” he said.

He noted that technology radically has changed the way people communicate and how companies build brands. Old World marketing doesn’t work anymore.

“If you are buying circulars, the largest portion of your audience is the parakeet,” he said.

All too often, sales and marketing experts have a preference for “the devils we know.” Top-down thinking, he added, must be replaced by bottom-up information.

Suppliers to the retail market also need to eliminate the brand-first, market-afterward mentality. Mr. Rand recommended thinking outside the traditional marketing mantra of “market what we sell because we made it” and instead create products that cater to the specific preferences of customers.

Consumer attitudes — and behavior — are quickly changing. Mr. Rand cited one of his client’s research findings that indicated 70% of people didn’t read labels four years ago.

“Four years later, it’s completely reversed (and) 70% now do care,” he said.

The biggest danger, he noted, is assuming everything will remain the same.

“We really need to rethink things,” he said.