As a design firm principal involved in package design for two decades, I can clearly see that in today’s evolving marketplace, the same old marketing approaches aren’t working, and they won’t in future, either.
It’s disquieting when companies seek new or revitalized package design solutions for their products when they aren’t taking a serious look at their overall branding efforts. Packaging, when properly developed, refers back to the brand. But if that brand has lost its relevance or has never established clear differentiation -- if it needs to reconnect with consumers or has become a commodity -- simply refreshing packaging will not lead to desired results.
For brands to be truly resonant, new thinking must permeate the entire company from top to bottom. Today’s successful brands must:
• Be disruptive and creative. OXO has redesigned the most mundane of objects like the measuring cup and vegetable peeler in a whole new way to make it easier for everyone, especially aging and handicapped people, to easily execute household chores, creating strong brand adherents.
• Generate excitement. The master at this, Apple, has built buzz about the imminent launch of its new, long-awaited multimedia tablet device… ambitiously stating the company is going to carve out a new product category—yet again!
• Entertain. Unilever’s Axe brand of grooming products ingeniously aims at a young men’s market by focusing on building a brand that ensures positive experiences between them and young females in a modern version of the Dating Game.
• Engage. Crayola continues to engage even today’s high tech kids. By moving away from its former branding as an art supply company to a provider of childhood creativity, the brand remains vibrant and relevant.
• Add convenience to consumers’ lives. Staples Easy button infers home offices and businesses will easily find the products they need; enjoy expert service, advice and substantive help like computer repair service. Simple, direct, effective branding.
Brands that do not meet the expectations of today’s consumer are being summarily dismissed. Brands must be fluid and dynamic. Since the consumer is rapidly changing, as well as consumer culture, the research suggests that marketers need to stay on top of their brands, constantly adapting in a proactive manner, rather than reacting when their brands start losing relevance.
Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen coined the phrase “disruptive technology”. Disrupters think of a better way to offer simpler, better performing or problem-solving products -- and product packaging -- for consumers. They create excitement in the process. Excitement leads to buzz. Buzz leads to customer engagement.
People are attracted to the brands that deliver creativity, excitement, or entertainment value; an invitation to engage or a promise to help simplify their complicated lives. That’s why some brands -- but fewer and fewer these days -- command so much attention in the marketplace.
But here’s an important point: brands can’t simply launch one exciting concept and then sit back. They have to continue to create excitement. If that sounds tough—not every company can be like Apple right?—it may not be as hard as it sounds. Creativity and innovation feeds on itself and brands can borrow a page from companies that are far smaller than Apple or Google.
Think of smaller companies that have strong brand adherents. They’ve consistently delivered due to the ongoing energy they create:
• Method cleaning products. Strong point of view: “A Cleaner Clean”. Unconventional, see-through packaging; very unlikethe rest of the cleaning category. The inferred message: we have nothing to hide. The Method brand is about: “efficacy, safety, environment, design, fragrance”. Result: consumers are turning to Method in increasing numbers.
• Stonyfield Farm yogurt. “Cause” branding a commodity like yogurt took it from limited natural store distribution to a mainstream player. The message: “Health for you. Health for the planet”. The brand represents unflagging commitment, passion and vision to ideals consumers can trust and believe in. And how about the packaging? The iconic cow and Stonyfield Farm banner with the word “Organic” beneath it are highly recognizable— to its many brand loyalists.
• Green Mountain Roasters coffees. This company gets more Internet searches than the largest purveyors of coffee. Surprised? High quality, good corporate citizenship and Fair Trade practices have created consistent energy for this brand. The packaging’s dark green cartouche and the Green Mountain Coffee logo within it, with its signature coffee bean in the “O” in Mountain, is distinctive. Artwork depicting a steaming cup of coffee against a backdrop of mountains reminds us about the simple enjoyment of good coffee.
Bottom line: new vision and approaches can add significantly more value to brands over their competitors. The brands I’ve cited could easily have become commodities but they didn’t fall into the ho-hum, business-as-usual brand management trap. They chose to brand with more creativity and energy than the norm. They stuck to their vision, while changing with their customers to remain relevant, continuing to generate positive energy. They’ve been richly rewarded by consumers, as a result.
My advice: if your brand is less than exciting, reposition, re-brand and then repackage. Deliver positive energy and relevance to consumers and they’ll not only become loyal, they’ll engage their communities to become loyal, too. Become one of the all-too-few brands that matter.