The growing proliferation of multiple different brands in the market place has made customers spoilt for choice, but often at the expense of easy decision-making.
As most of us know, shopping has become a far more arduous affair where we frequently find ourselves overwhelmed and sometimes confused by the array of products on shelf and amount of decisions we’re required to make.
When presented with an assortment of options in which nothing decisively stands out, with a compellingly clear message that speaks to a customer succinctly, analysis paralysis sets in. It’s when faced with this situation that a confused shopper will typically default to making decisions based on price alone.
The question here is, where does your brand sit in the mix?
Does it stand out from the crowd with a really strong message that attracts its ideal target audience with laser edged efficiency? Or is it guilty of the ultimate sin . . . hybrid mediocrity, blending in with every other competitor and lost in the crowd!
The question for under performing brands becomes how to differentiate themselves effectively from among their competitors in a way that makes it much easier for them to attract the attention of their ideal customer and convince them to buy, all in the blink of an eye.
Part of the winning formula of these high performers lies in that fact that those leading brands have absolute clarity over who their ideal customer is. Consequently they’ve developed a really strong brand message, which irresistibly appeals to their particular customer who in turn sees that brand as different, distinctive and memorable in a way that’s totally relevant to their specific preferences.
A really distinct brand has a unique brand profile, with a clear position and purpose, which helps it cut through the competing noise so it stands out, head and shoulders above the rest.
By not only being perceived to be unique but also solving problems, making life easier, supplying exclusive solutions for a particular kind of customer and communicating this uniqueness through subtle and overt on pack messaging a brand can outperform its competitors.
However don’t make the mistake of thinking that packaging design aesthetics alone are going to provide you with repeated lotto wins! Effective design must be underpinned by a well-developed strategic focus, which provides the required creative direction. It’s when you have those insights, understanding and a fully developed brand profile that a brand can speak directly and distinctly to its ideal customer through great design.
Leading brands cut through the visual and cognitive noise created by an oversaturated market full of aggressive competitors and hook their ideal customers by meeting their needs both emotionally and rationally.
Evaluate Your Market and Define Your Brand Position and Purpose
Before any of the above objectives can be met, brands must first define their ideal customer or customers and then develop their brand strategy to reach those customers. Their branding strategy will be guided by how they respond to several key factors that help set brands apart from one another.
1. Fit for Purpose
What function does your brand serve? Does it have a deeper purpose beyond the obvious — what’s its ‘big why’? Successful brands dig deeper beyond the superficial and glaringly obviousness of their product category, to something which meets the needs of their customers in more emotionally engaging ways.
A toothbrush might seem rather hum drum and ubiquitousis. It’s certainly used for cleaning your teeth, but is your toothbrush especially effective with its new cutting edge technology making it far more thorough than the competition in removing dental plaque? Is it made with materials which have been chosen to appeal more strongly to your customers with a particular set of values? Define your unique purpose, align them to your brand values and amplify these through your messaging so your brand is separated from the rest in a meaningful way.
2. Emotionally Engaging
An emotional connection might be seen as a secondary factor, but in reality, it’s equally important and often more important than functional benefits. Is your toothbrush commanding a more premium position that not only reduces visits to the dentist, but represents the preferred choice of professional dentists and oral hygenists, making the customer feel more confident and happier with their choice? Will your extra-thorough, VIP celebrity endorsed toothbrush, the preferred choice of ‘those in the know,’ help your ideal customer feel better and more assured they have made the right decision?
3. Commercially Viable
Your brand’s positioning must be congruent with your budget and marketing strategy. Your pricing strategy, for instance, could fill a gap in between existing competitor prices or command a premium. Perhaps your toothbrush is perceived to be so much more superior compared to its nearest competitor that a higher price point is justified.
Remember that pricing can be seen as a direct value-added relationship, but higher price points or margins can also be achieved by altering brand perceptions in relation to the brand’s position to appeal to a more upscale market through premiumisation, also known as premium brand positioning.
4. Translates Regionally, Nationally or Internationally as Required
Brands looking to scale must plan for regional or national differences combined with having absolute clarity of their buyer personas, also known as customer profiles or pen portraits of their primary target audience, if they intend to penetrate other markets. A brand positioning and profile that works well for one region may not translate so well to another, even on an island as small as Ireland or the UK. Will your ultra-premium toothbrush, which appeals to high end Londoners, be seen as irrelevant by customers in Leeds?
Combining answers to these factors and questions will help you create an overarching brand profile that matches the needs of your core customer profile. A fully developed brand profile will typically include how your brand communicates its unique:
- Vision — The way your brand sees the world and consequently stands out
- Values — What matters to your brand, its aesthetics or the social causes your brand cares about the most
- Personality — The characteristics of the humanised way in which your brand speaks to your market
- Experience — The customer’s journey from discovery of your brand to usage, referral and repeat business
- Promise — A combination of values and experience that you pledge to uphold to your customer
- Story — Your brand’s purpose explained through both narrative and aesthetic choices
The development of your brand profile under all these key headings are what provides the much needed direction and rational for your brand packaging design. It’s one of the most important stages in the branding process and one we engage in with every client we work with before moving on to design or communications strategy, assuming the research or brand audit work as also been completed before hand.
Every considered detail in your packaging design from the colour palette to the typography, messaging and copywriting, graphics, photography or illustration references these factors to ensure the design route chosen is relevant and effective — or what’s known in industry jargon as being ‘on brand’.
To give you a better idea of how this process informs packaging design, here are some examples of strongly-positioned brands aided by unique package designs in order to establish a compelling shelf presence and wholly original brand position.
Three Examples of How Effective Packaging Design Can Influence Customer Brand Perceptions and Buying Decisions
Dutch brand Lovechock recently underwent a major rebranding overhaul, pulling off their transition beautifully. Their new package gives them a unique shelf presence, atypical to competitors in their category, through a simple shape and strikingly singular vision. The overall effect of the packaging is one that engenders trust amongst those customers looking for “free from” products of natural origin.
Image via www.lovechock.com/en/
Plain, brown kraft cardboard boxes not only speak to environmental values, they also conjure up the rich tones of the chocolate itself. A band of vibrant and natural-looking colours on the differing product labels ensures each variant is clearly distinguishable from the next while also enticing the palate with colours that excite the senses.
The simplicity of the outer pack hides a wonderful surprise inside. Open the pack to find the beauty of illustrative patterns reminiscent of decorative hardcover book end papers. This subtle design element surprises and delights, connecting to their “happiness inside” tagline whilst broadcasting the brand’s personal value set that something simple and natural can hide a deeper inner beauty.
Image via www.lovechock.com/en/
Continuing with their “raw” theme, Lovechock uses clean and modern sans-serif fonts but with a “chunky” look that reminds you of the products natural and ostensibly handmade origins. An all-lowercase logo and “happiness inside” tagline are contrasted with the all-uppercase “100% RAW CHOCOLATE” to clearly indicate the product’s difference from the majority of its competitors.
A simple logo in the style of the hand drawn whimsical feeling typeface continues the product’s handmade, printmaking aesthetic. The little Aztec man speaks to the chocolate’s Central American roots. He holds a “molinillo” which is a two-handed tool for whisking chocolate and blending cocoa beans into an even mixture. The end is covered in chocolate to form a heart, blending “love” and “chocolate” together. Small hearts emanating from this first heart show how positive feelings can emanate from a single, natural source.
Structural Packaging Design Details
Lovechock uses a simple shape and an unfolding box to hark back to a time when packaging was of a more handmade aesthetic. The long, blocky shape also reminds customers of the mouthwatering, log-shaped product inside, so that each bar’s box is delicious-looking by association. A tiny visible patch of the inner pattern is also used to tease the mind about the hidden pleasures and secrets the box holds inside.
Packaging Digest called this approach “seductive,” and when the ideal customer opens the pack to see the product and beautifully patterned paper lining inside their expectations will have been exceeded, assuming of course the test excels too!
The package also uses 100 percent recyclable materials to give back to the earth that produced the chocolate while also helping customers spread the love rather than their love of chocolate hurting the planet in return — all of which is totally congruent with Lovechock’s core brand values, vision, story and brand promise.
Marmite is a brand with a rich historical legacy stretching back to the nineteenth century and yet it’s managed to maintain primary consumer relevance combined with tradition throughout the decades. Admittedly this is a very British brand with an almost a cult like following between consumers who love this spread with its distinctive, powerful, salty flavour and those who don’t — and not much in between. Marmite knows this and plays to its polarising factor to the full in its branding strategy — to great effect.
This is a brand with a strong personality, individualistic and singular in its outlook and a clever sense of humour that is very British in its quirkiness and eccentricity. It has a really distinctive brand voice that is unmistakably memorable ensuring it really stands out, indeed proudly shouts out its idiosyncratic and unrivalled specialness!
Image via www.marmite.co.uk
Every pack successful expresses this brand’s unique personality. Its’ bulbous shaped jar is a very distinctive shape and it has been sold in this shape since the 1920’s. Even without a visible brand name it’s entirely recognisable and consequently a very definitive unique part of the brand’s identity. An owned asset, which can’t be copied!
Part of Marmite’s incredible success can be attributed to its limited or special editions brand packaging strategy, which it started in 2002 with its 100th year anniversary. Each limited edition jar has successfully encapsulated more of the brands uniquely British personality through its messaging and choice of language, and personably use of the British vernacular.
Image via www.marmite.co.uk
Since then the brand has released a significant number of limited editions packaging design lines with great success. The brand has also aligned with other iconic brands in its limited editions packaging strategy. A great example is the limited edition Marmite Guinness range produced in just 300,000 250g jars using 30% Guinness yeast in 2007 which elevated the brand in terms of profile and positioning.
Image via www.marmite.co.uk
The brand’s most recent limited edition packaging is themed around ‘Summer of Love’ and ‘Summer of Hate’ Marmite jars which are only available from July next month until September. Only ninety-four ‘Summer of Hate’ jars will be available across the UK (one for each day of the UK summer). Such scarcity will make them even more appealing as collectibles amongst its fans. Made with a ‘lighter summery blend’, the packaging takes its inspiration from Woodstock and the summer of love in 1967, playing on its nostalgic provenance to the full.
Image via www.marmite.co.uk
Boss Monster Card Game
Sometimes, a packaging concept can be so powerful that it stands in as a major selling point of the product unto itself. American card game designer Brotherwise Games struck a chord of nostalgia with Kickstarter funders.
Image via www.brotherwisegames.com
Accuracy of design was absolutely crucial to this concept in order to win over the right type of fans. The box containing the card decks looks uncannily identical to a product box for original Nintendo Entertainment System games of the late ‘80s, all the way down to the shape of the illustration border and the placement of badges.
Card game enthusiasts were so enthusiastic about the nostalgic element of this packaging design that they funded the game’s initial Kickstarter campaign well beyond all the initial funding goals.
Image via www.brotherwisegames.com
Many buyers were adamant about getting the special packaging sleeve that slid over the original package and mimicked Nintendo’s famous first “Legend of Zelda” game box. Products like these create strong emotional connections, develop cult followings and invite “unboxing” videos galore on social media.
Conclusion: Plot Your Unique Brand Path Then Journey Down It Fearlessly
In an ideal world all agencies, organisations and companies would invest resources into developing their brand strategy to ensure that it is fit for purpose, emotionally engaging and commercially successful in the short and medium term while also ensuring that it translates nationally and internationally as required across all its relevant markets.
With so many choices and options available be it at the local supermarket or online, brands cannot afford to be unclear or equivocal about their brand’s positioning, promise, personality or the way in which it communicate its values. Instead, the brand packaging must be like a lightning rod drawing energy and enthusiasm towards the shelved product.
Our experience working with many clients over the years has repeatedly brought to the fore that one of the many challenges organisations and businesses face is evaluating and developing the most effective positioning and profile for their brand — the best way in which to engage their primary target audiences and give them a compelling reason to engage and become loyal brand advocates. It’s the uppermost issue that challenenges brand owners and managers all the time, and the reason why we developed the Personality Profile Performer™, a systemized process to provide them with a much needed solution.
People buy with emotion, regardless of gender, and justify with rationale. Consequently, every brand needs to be grounded in emotional appeal by tapping into the emotionally motivating factors that most readily engages their primary audiences. After all, there are very few, if any, truly new-to-the-world ideas anymore. To be perceived as truly distinctive, a brand must convey more compelling, sustaining differentiation, and the best way to do so is through emotion, as evidenced masterfully by Apple. Tying service, product details or even ideas to emotional values and seeking emotional connections with your primary audience cultivates more meaningful, sustained customer relationships.
In order to forge this type of relationship, your organisation needs to create an emotionally compelling, humanised brand through a highly-developed brand strategy. Part of this task includes shaping your brand, defining it and articulating what it is “all about” as well as what it stands for in the global scheme. Developing your brand’s profile involves defining: vision, values, personality, experience, promise and story, coupled with hierarchy planning — all focussed around the needs of your primary target audience. This process is accomplished using a system like the Personality Profile Performer™, which we use when working with our clients.
Applying a strategic approach in this way provides stronger direction and the essential brand foundations required for positioning, differentiation and directing the creative expression of the brand or design outputs — e.g. brand logo design, brand collateral design, web design, packaging design, etc. All of these elements can only come after the brand foundation work has been completed. The outputs from Personality Profile Performer™ help identify, and amplify differentiating brand messaging which is also used to shape the bespoke nature of integrated marketing communications as well as PR focused around the needs and preferences the primary target audience.
In the end, your brand must be able to speak to the world through its packaging in a clear, distinct voice that not only resonates with a clearly identified group but impels them to take action. Successful brands are able to reinforce emotional customer behaviours to the point where repeat business almost becomes a ritual in loyalty. Unsuccessful brands are faceless generic packs gathering dust on a shelf before they disappear forever.
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So what do you think?
• Does your product packaging design accurately distil your brand’s promises and the values they hold dear?
• Are you doing everything you can to reduce your packaging’s carbon footprint or impact on the environment?
• Are there elements of your current packaging design that no longer serve your brand appropriately, or no longer fit with current trends within branding or packaging and would be best eliminated as part of your rebranding strategy?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!