If you were to use one word to describe the personality of your brand, what would it be? Once you come up with the perfect fit, consider it from the view of your audience. Would they categorize your brand under the same or a similar trait? Striving to portray a specific personality trait and actually conveying that to your target audience are two very different things.
There are generally 5 categories of brand personalities. Under those categories are several more specific traits used to identify a brand and their messaging. Do you pursue SINCERITY by coming across as friendly or family-oriented? Maybe your brand lives a life of EXCITEMENT with its cool and daring actions. Then again, your technical reliability and confidence may lead you down the road of COMPETENCE. But wait, the charming glamour of SOPHISTICATION sounds quite nice. If you’re too tough for that, you might belong in the RUGGEDNESS of the outdoors.
You might have read through my very clever descriptions of each of these categories and realized you don’t really fall into one or the other. If that is the case, your audience is placing you in one of those categories for you. A wise individual once said “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will”. I don’t know who originally got the credit for that, but it is a solid quote to live by in business. More specifically in branding and marketing.
In the preferred scenario, you as a business and a brand have identified your personality trait and the general category you belong to. In addition, your customers or target audience agree with you and are able to identify that on their own based on the messages and actions of your company. Mission accomplished! On the contrary, you may think that you know which category you fall under and which personality traits you convey, but your audience disagrees. This is not a great situation to be in. It means that you are putting in effort to get a message across, but the message is not being received how you intended.
Brand personality decisions can shape many aspects of a business from operations to marketing efforts. Similar to personal relationships, the recognition of personality traits will attract your audience to your brand and influence purchasing and continued use. Not only will your audience be buying and interacting with a company that they feel understands them, but they will also gain comfort in knowing they are part of a like-minded community.
Along with the demand of sustainable and natural products that has gained traction over the past few years, there seems to be an appearance that brands presume consumers want to see from them. You could say this look gives the product an eco friendly appearance. It is along the lines of a natural brown (kraft) look with a matte texture, and maybe some sort of green recycle graphic or text. I agree, this screams natural/organic/recyclable/sustainable. The problem is, that’s about all that it screams.
As brands, we are successful by standing out and telling our story. We feel the need to look the part to show our commitment to this trend, but is it worth the cost of your brand image? I once read: “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible” (Seth Godin, Purple Cow). If everyone is telling the same story and blending together, who is succeeding?
With the consumer driven push for environmentally friendly products, material and substrate manufacturers have come a long way. Most wax and plastic based coatings and inks are fading out while water or plant based options take their place. Paper boxes are generally recyclable and biodegradable while containing more recycled content than ever before. What does this mean for branded products and packaging? We don’t have to blend in! We have the ability to be sustainable and well branded simultaneously.
In 2005, Procter & Gamble coined the term “FMOT – First Moment Of Truth” relating to their product packaging. This is described as the first 3-7 seconds a shopper encounters a product on the store shelf (likely among similar products). In this moment, brands have the greatest opportunity to convince a shopper to buy their product over the competition by appealing to their senses, values and emotions. Without your brand jumping out at the consumer through packaging design and story telling, your product may not even be noticed in those 3-7 seconds.
As important as it is to meet consumer demands, it is just as important to maintain brand identity and points of differentiation. As brands begin to look the same in an effort to appear sustainable, they start to become invisible. Once you lose your brand identity and image, what is left other than competing on price? Quality might vary from one to the other, but how would anyone know that without being told or shown? Our job as brands is to tell consumers what we do, how we do it, and how they should feel about us. Don’t allow that to be taken away from you.
What do your customers or consumers feel when they encounter your product or a marketing campaign about your brand? Is it the feeling you were hoping they would experience? Maybe it is a feeling of excitement or relief that they have found something that does exactly what they wanted or needed. What if they felt something beyond that? A deep emotional connection to the story behind the brand or the lifestyle the brand represents. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it can be magic.
An emotional connection to a brand will often be the leading influencer behind a purchasing decision. This doesn’t typically mean falling in love at first sight with a product on the shelf (although that is a possibility). The connection is developed over the actions of the brand, the message it delivers, and how the product is presented to consumers.
Have you ever seen an ad or marketing campaign and realized at the end that it didn’t even show or describe a specific product? You certainly have, but you may not have noticed. Odds are you knew exactly who they are and what they sell. If you were in their target audience, you probably felt something that you couldn’t explain. A connection to an interest or lifestyle; A spark of motivation to accomplish something great; A burning passion that you thought only you had. The experience you felt was emotional. That brand understands you, and for that, you will be loyal.
We live in a world full of innovation and incredible product design. Each trying to be better than the last or out-perform the competition. This is important to a point. Beyond that point comes the brands responsibility to help consumers discover why they should choose theirs over another that is so similar. A good products with a deep emotional connection will almost always beat out a great product that is disconnected from its audience.
I will ask the question again.. What do your customers or consumers feel when they encounter your brand? Is it the feeling you were hoping they would experience? Are you branding at the heart strings?
With so many new initiatives surfacing regarding switching from plastic to sustainable (paper) packaging, there are many questions and concerns arising as well. It is always difficult to make significant changes to our brand image, and it is even more challenging when it hasn’t been tested much in the market. With that said, limited options in the market lead to market share opportunity!
The first questions to come up always seem to revolve around price. That makes sense, considering we are all in business to maximize profits and limit our expenses. However, changing over to sustainable packaging does not automatically mean higher cost or lower margin. There are several factors to consider with making this change. It can be anything from material costs to labor to storage and so on.
Understandably, there is some doubt that sustainable packaging will hold up as well as plastic. This does depend on the conditions and the packing processes, but more often than not it will get the job done just as well! Not only does it work well structurally, but it offers the opportunity for marketing with high quality graphics and unique cutouts/vent holes to maximize the brand and product image.
Another concern with moving away from plastic packaging is maintaining visibility of the product. This is especially important in the produce industry as freshness is often times determined visually. Unfortunately visibility will be slightly more limited, however with some creativity and the capabilities with paper boxes, it is still possible to show product while protecting it simultaneously. There is some trade off in this regard by offering environmentally friendly packaging to go along with market and consumer demands.
Once your team has gotten past the concerns and hesitations, it is time to realize the opportunity. It seems like every week a new retailer is announcing their pledge to limit plastics and drive sustainability. With that in mind, how often are you seeing new sustainable packaging in stores? Not many at this point, right? Those who lead with this trend will likely lead in market share as well. Take the first steps toward sustainable opportunity, and we will be ready to run along side you!
A customer shared a story with me a while back and it has stuck with me ever since. We were looking at some new labels that we had recently produced for them, and I asked why they decided to change their artwork and come out with this new look. I wasn’t expecting it to be because of a specific incident, but surprisingly that ended up being the case.
She proceeded to tell me a story that would result in completely changing the look of their brand. The company had maintained shelf space for several of their products in a healthy food grocery market for quite some time. All things were going well until the grocery store notified this produce company that they were no longer going to be carrying their products. The reason was not because it wasn’t a great product at a great value. The reason revealed that there is something more important than that to be considered.
Product packaging drives a large percentage of consumer purchases in the retail and grocery setting. In this case in particular, the focus was on the labels. As nice as they looked, they didn’t stand out enough from the others that were being displayed in the store. The branding of the item just wasn’t what the grocery store was looking for. Wow.. Just like that, without an opportunity to make changes, the products were replaced by another brand in the store.
Immediately after this took place, we went to work with our customer creating a new brand image. The changes had to happen quickly as no time could be wasted with the product off of the shelves. We were hustling to get mock ups printed for review until they felt it looked just the way they wanted it. A short time went by, and the products were back on the shelves at that market!
We are not always in the position to decide when it is time for our brand to make a change. Sometimes the market will tell us when the time has come. Fortunately, with good partners on our side, we can react quickly to avoid missing out on opportunity. Innovation and creativity are highly sought after in today’s market, so that is something we all must take into consideration. Not only do we have to be pleased with our own image, but we have to consider what consumers want to see as well. Whatever it is that sets you apart just might be the reason you get the opportunity over another brand.