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  Ted Minini Become One of the All-Too-Few Brands that Matter
by Ted Mininni
January 15, 2010

In their book “The Brand Bubble,” Young & Rubicam’s John Gerzema and Ed Lebar demonstrate that consumers have decided most brands don’t matter anymore!


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.

   Ted Mininni is President of Design Force, Inc., the leading package and licensing program design consultancy to the consumer product and entertainment industries. He can be reached at 856-810-2277.

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Become One of the All-Too-Few Brands that Matter
 Great article, and packaging not only "refers back to the brand" it is one of, and in many cases, the most important element representing of the brand in the marketplace at the critical moment of decision. > 
steven, sessions, SessionsGroup - January 16, 2010
 Great article, and packaging not only "refers back to the brand" it is one of, and in many cases, the most important element representing of the brand in the marketplace at the critical moment of decision. > 
Steven, Sessions, SessionsGroup - January 16, 2010
 Brand excitement, engagement and innovation all start from the inside. Beyond the products themselves, far too few marketers think about the people behind them. It is amazing how much a brand marketer will spend on these sorts of valuable efforts mentioned by Ted without spending a nickle trying to engage and inspire the very people who are responsible for bringing that brand to life in marker. Good brand transformation moves from the inside, out. Reconnect your brand to the people who work on it day-in and day-out, reminding them not just what you do, but why you do it, and I think you'll be amazed at the smart, insightful and inspired innovations that follow. 
Bill Baker (StorytellerBill), Chief Strategic Officer, Envisioning Storytelling - January 23, 2010
 Nice piece, but much of it sounded disturbingly like Adam Werbach’s ‘Strategy for Sustainability’ by Harvard Business Press – which I might add is quiet a good read – right down to the concept of ‘disruptive technology’ and I think all of the case studies. I would be interested to know if you have read it? If not this could be a great case of global think in the marketing sphere. In which case I suggest you grab the book as I imagine you’d enjoy it. Though his manifesto bent towards a much more expansive outcome. Either way I feel your main premise is that innovation in approach and product is sorely missing out there, and agree. Just don’t forget that only when innovation and passion are ingrained into the heart of the business (i.e. CEO 
Michael Locke, Managing Partner, LOCKE pty ltd - February 21, 2010
 I'm concerned when you say, "old marketing approaches aren't working".
Which old marketing approaches don't work anymore? Especially when you've highlighted marketing tactics that are still in use today - redesign, repackage, rebrand - doesn't just the "re" imply been there before?

As to your references, I have a different opinion, just to highlight a few:
OXO - Product redesign because the vegetable peeler and other such products are in a saturated and mature market. It is the market conditions that lead them to redesign, not because they wanted to be disruptive in their branding
Apple - New Product Introduction, not branding and the buzz is called PR. More importantly, the pressure is on Apple the company, not the brand to produce great and innovative products. Did you notice that people know Apple's product but not the company tagline? 
Theres Perin, Owner, The Marketing Boutique - February 22, 2010
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