4 Ways to Protect Brand Equity During a Redesign

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If you have a brand that’s been around for a few years, one of your biggest challenges from a design perspective is maintaining your current equity while making sure your brand is relevant enough for modern consumers. It’s a delicate balance!

If you’re not familiar with the term “brand equity,” let me give you an example.

My favorite breakfast cereal is Special K. You’d recognize it; it’s the one with the giant red “K” on the package. My favorite flavor is Red Berries, which is easy to spot on the shelf because of its vibrant red color.

Imagine that Kellogg’s decided to refresh the brand. Maybe they want to follow the minimalist design trend, so they shrink the size of the K. Maybe their research indicated that Millennials favor the color blue. So they launch a new, blue package with a tiny “K.”

There’s no way I would be able to find that cereal on the shelf. I might not even recognize it as my favorite cereal when I saw it.

Instead, Kellogg’s has been very intentional in how they’ve evolved their brands over time. The giant “K” of Special K cereal is so integrated in how their customers recognize the product, it has hardly changed in decades even while the overall aesthetic has been modernized.

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We like to call brands that have done this well “heritage brands.” They are able to maintain their brand equity over years and years by carefully updating their designs without losing the essence of their brand.

What lessons can we learn from these successful heritage brands?

1.     Be Authentically You

Your brand has a unique DNA that is truly one-of-a-kind. You have your origin story, your values, and your mission. If you haven’t already, take the time to define your brand values clearly and concisely. What does your brand stand for?

If you have a clear sense of your brand identity, that can serve as a guiding light as you go through any change. If you have a brand that’s all about serenity, mindfulness and the environment, it probably doesn’t make sense for you to use intense colors and wacky fonts, even if that’s what your competitors are doing.

2.     Maintain Your Individuality

It’s very tempting to chase design trends whenever the next new thing becomes popular. However, by saying “me too!” to those trends, you can become lost in the sea of sameness. While you want to look appropriate for your category and your target audience, don’t hesitate to be a little different from everyone else.

Look at Pepsi, for example. Their biggest competitor, Coca Cola, has indisputably owned the color red for almost a century. Pepsi, on the other hand, was the All-American brand that always had a red, white and blue can. Then, one day in the 90s, they suddenly owned the color blue.

By owning the color blue in their product category, Pepsi is now able to receive instant recognition on shelf. Being different from their main competitor was a brand imperative.

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3.     Strive for Timelessness

Your branding needs to stand the test of time so that your products will be recognizable for a long time to come. Especially in the CPG world, it’s very important that your brand doesn’t completely change overnight. In addition to your customers, you may deal with complications from your printers or your retailers if you change things too suddenly or too drastically.

This is another pitfall of chasing design trends. If you choose a very trendy design, you run the risk of looking very dated in a few years when the popular aesthetic shifts to something else. What will people think of “Millennial Pink” in a few years?

4.     Build a Cohesive Brand

Above all else, you want your brand to look undeniably like itself. This seems obvious, but disjointed branding is all too common and can lead to a lot of consumer confusion.

Perhaps your brand has been around for 10 or 20 years and now you want to launch a new, organic line. You may be tempted to use an all-new color palette, with all-new claims on the package. You may even take the opportunity to update your logo, since you’re going through a new design phase anyway. The result will be a package that looks so different from what your customers are used to seeing that it will be like you started the company completely from zero.

Instead, take the time to ensure that all of your branding and marketing looks cohesive. This can include your logo, your packaging, your website, your social media posts, your print ads, and more.

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Have you ever heard the fable of the boiling frog?

If you put a frog into boiling water, he will immediately jump out because he knows it’s too hot. But if you put that same frog into cool water and then slowly, over time, bring the water to a boil, he won’t realize the danger until it’s too late.

It may be a morbid analogy, but I often think of that frog when dealing with a long-term brand strategy. You want to make changes so carefully that your customers don’t even realize the difference, and yet you’re always perceived as a modern, relevant brand.

 

Good brand building takes planning and forethought.

This starts with building a strong, solid foundation for your brand.

Fill out the form below to download your copy of our Brand Experience Worksheet. This four-page, easy-to-follow worksheet includes questions that will help you clearly articulate the vision for your brand, consider how you want customers to perceive your brand, and craft an experience around your ideal customer.

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3 Tips for Creating a Lifelong Customer from Porsche

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The other day we were talking in the office and Kurt, our Creative Director, shared this picture of his son at a weekend car event. Kurt is a member of PCA (Porsche Club of America) and his son, at a mere 5 years old, is a member of PCA Juniors.

In seeing this picture, I was struck by the pure branding genius of Porsche. Here is a child that has been not only exposed to the brand, but has been immersed in a joyful brand experience very early in his life. This young boy is likely to be a Porsche fan for life – and, more importantly (from a business perspective), a future customer.

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“The probability of selling to an existing customer is up to 14 times higher than the probability of selling to a new customer.”

As parents, we enjoy sharing our favorite brands with our kids, and Porsche has made this easy and fun by facilitating a group of young brand enthusiasts. Organizations that can involve both parents and kids help to create memories, connections, and long-term brand love.

By looking at the example of PCA, brands can learn a few tips for how to create a lifelong customer.

1.     Make Your Best Customers Feel Special

PCA was started in the early ‘50s by a Porsche owner in the DC area, just because he loved the cars and wanted to meet other Porsche enthusiasts like him. In 1955, the club launched with 13 members and quickly received official recognition as the Porsche Club of America by the Porsche factory.

By encouraging and facilitating the PCA, Porsche allows its customers to feel a personal relationship with the brand. A card-carrying PCA member is granted access to special Porsche events and social activities, which provides a feeling of exclusivity to only the most faithful Porsche fans.

2.     Let Your Customers Contribute to the Brand Experience

By 1958, the club had grown to several hundred members and they arranged a trip to the Porsche factory in New York. The factory graciously welcomed PCA members and made a special offer for them to take delivery of a Porsche straight off the line. This proved to be such a popular idea that the tradition is still in place today.  

It’s important to note that the PCA and its activities aren’t run by brand executives, it was created by a fan and the endeavor was happily encouraged by the Porsche corporation. If your customers are eager to contribute to the experience of your brand, provide them the opportunity to do so and reward them for it. It will only make them love you more.

3.     Reward Your Most Loyal Customers

Today, the PCA has grown to over 100K total members in 144 regional chapters across the country. PCA members receive many perks for being a part of the club, including social events, tech talks, drivers education events, help with technical problems, and more. Kurt especially appreciates receiving special parking and access to Porsche hospitality at races where the brand is participating. 

Fans love to receive praise and gratitude when they go out of their way to express affection for their favorite brands. When you have a customer that loves your brand, be open with showing appreciation through gifts, special offers, and a public expression of thanks.

 

With four generations that have major buying power in the market today, brands have the ability to bring in consumers at a very young age and capitalize on their loyalty as they grow.

How is your brand building lifelong customers? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.

 

Earning lifelong customers requires a long-term brand strategy. 

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This starts with building a strong, solid foundation for your brand.

Fill out the form below to download your copy of our Brand Experience Worksheet. This four-page, easy-to-follow worksheet includes questions that will help you clearly articulate the vision for your brand, consider how you want customers to perceive your brand, and craft an experience around your ideal customer.

Name *
Name

Clean Label: Fact or Fiction?

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If you look at the food and eating trends that have existed over the last 100 years, it’s clear that we have come full circle.

Prior to the 20th century, everyone ate more natural foods. They ate seasonally grown fruit and vegetables, visited the local butcher, and baked their own bread. And then everything changed.

The two World Wars demanded food that could be preserved as it was shipped to the front lines. As more women entered the workforce, convenience became king in the kitchen. Industrialization and innovations in food manufacturing made it easier than ever to mass produce food.

Today, it’s to the point where 70% of the food we eat in America is processed.

And yet, over the past ten years or so, our culture has been making its way back to “real food.” With the help of new research in health and nutrition, food documentaries, and FDA regulations that expose what’s in our food, we’ve finally reached the end of our processed obsession and are back to believing that natural, clean food is best for our bodies, souls and overall health.

We want “Clean Labels.”

But is “clean label” real? Is it even possible? Isn’t everything you buy from a grocery store packaged, processed and shipped?

What does it mean to have a “clean label?”

Clean label means that we are moving toward ingredient decks and recipes that remove gums, stabilizers, preservatives, additives and more. It means that we are trending to make our food more recognizable, understandable and real.

It does not mean that manufacturing is dead or that processed grains, sugars and spices will wither away but that the ones we choose to eat will be closer to nature.

Should your brand move toward a cleaner label?

In short, yes. If your ingredients deck has some mysterious additives or confusing terms, you should definitely consider simplifying for a few reasons:

1. Modern consumers favor healthier foods.

Today’s shopper wants to know what is in their food and be confident that it is healthy. According to a recent survey, 27% of consumers say that health concerns influence their food choices and 41% believe that limited or no artificial ingredients or preservatives define “natural” food. Your product will better appeal to these customers if you formulate the ingredients and position your brand with health and transparency in mind.

2. Millennial shoppers demand good behavior from companies.

The Millennial generation, which is aging into their 30s and making up a larger percentage of the grocery-buying population, is very mindful that what they purchase is good for themselves and the world at large. They care about the impact of food on the culture, on the environment, and on their bodies, and they are more likely to buy your product if your label reflects clean, natural, sustainable ingredients.

3. This trend toward health and simplicity will benefit everyone.

Unlike other questionable low calorie, low fat, low carb fads and trends over the past few decades, the clean ingredient movement is undoubtedly a healthier alternative to food that is laden with additives and preservatives. As more families and more companies adopt the clean eating mindset, the healthier our country will be.

This is a wonderful and important movement for both the food industry overall and for our own families. I have been watching this trend truly blossom over the past few years and I’m hopeful and excited to see it become more prevalent, recognized, and celebrated.

Does having a clean label matter to your brand? Let us know in the comments!

How to Make Social Impact Marketing Work for Your Business

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Last night, I mentioned to my husband that I want to buy a handbag from FEED. For those who are unaware, FEED is a fashion company that provides food for malnourished children with each purchase. Their brand mission aligns with my desire to feed people and I like handbags.

My husband asked me, “Why is this social impact trend so strong today? Does it even work?”

The answer is a resounding YES and this “trend” is likely here to stay for many years to come.

I have been talking to clients and colleagues for years about the increase and prominence of social impact marketing on today’s buying habits. Many studies show that when all else is equal – price, promotion, product quality, etc - companies that give back to their communities win at shelf, both online and in brick and mortar stores.

We have also seen a rise in these efforts among both large CPG companies as well as in small startup companies. Whether they are introducing new products or new programs, companies today are focused on more than ingredients, process, and profit – they are looking to make a difference.

87% of Americans would purchase a product because that company stood up for an issue that they care about.

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How can your company successfully develop a social impact program?

1.  Stand for Something

Many CSR programs fail to make an impact because they don’t make their purpose clear. Donating a percentage of your sales to a random charity that you picked out of a hat won’t mean anything to your consumers. Any give-back program you develop needs to align with your company values and your brand mission.

Ben & Jerry’s, for example, has never been shy about their views on politics or social issues. During the contentious election season last year, they released a new product: Empower-Mint, a delicious blend of peppermint ice cream, fudge brownies, and fudge swirl. That flavor may be appealing to your taste buds, but it also vocalizes the company’s support for the Voting Rights Act and increasing voter turnout.

Sometimes when we’re passionate about something, we express it through ice cream. It’s our own special way of showing how much we care.
— Ben & Jerry’s

Whether or not you personally agree with their views, Ben & Jerry’s successfully sells more ice cream because they are vocal about the purpose of their social impact programs and their customers identify with their message.

2.  Communicate Your Efforts

Six years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the corporate offices of Johnson & Johnson and sit with the Chief Procurement Officer for lunch. He shared with me all the programs that Johnson & Johnson have in place, but I had never heard of them. They were clearly written in their annual report but not explained, promoted and delivered to the public.

Taking care of the community has, in the past, been more of a private endeavor for many large and small companies and it is now rising to surface.

If your company has a social impact program in place, support it with PR and get your message out there! For and CSR program to make any difference to your business reputation and your sales, people need to be aware that it exists.

3.  Don’t Forget About Profit

A few years ago, I read a book called Evolved Enterprise by Yanik Silver. It outlines 11 social impact models and talks in detail about why purpose-driven business models are not only growing in popularity, but are becoming a necessity to connect with consumers. I highly recommend that you read it.

The book inspired me to create an initiative called Labels4Good, which I launched at the Global Sustainability Summit last summer. The program was designed to give grocery packaging a purpose by donating food and resources to community food pantries around the country with every box sold. Companies could opt into the program and promote their involvement with a label on their packaging.

The challenge, I soon discovered, is that social impact models cannot be purpose driven only. They must first and foremost deliver clear profit. If it doesn’t strengthen the bottom line either by building goodwill and brand equity, then it must also deliver increase sales and revenue. Labels4Good was a purely philanthropic endeavor that I created from my own desire to feed people, which at the end of the day isn’t enough to build a successful company.

I haven’t given up on Labels4Good completely, but it’s an important lesson to always remember that businesses need profit in order to survive, even if the philanthropic intention is good.


Overall, I love this social impact trend, the purpose and the result. However, I caution everyone, business owners and consumers alike, to be aware about how you engage and interact with them. They can help us tackle global challenges, spread the word about social issues, and make us feel a little better about our desire to purchase yet another handbag.

How has social impact marketing effected your purchasing behaviors? What companies do you admire most? We’d love to hear!

3 Ways to Stand Out from the Herd

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In an effort to keep up with their competition, most companies dilute and devalue the point of difference that brought them to market in the first place.

Like a flock of birds that unconsciously follow in prefect formation, so do many industry trends. But why?

In today’s market, how do you truly differentiate?

My mom used to always say, “If your friend jumps off a cliff, are you going to as well?” and the response is obvious, “No way, that would be stupid.” Well, in business you would be surprised how this cliff-jumping mentality has crept into every category of product we buy wall-to-wall across the store.

Through flavor profiles, packaging sizes, pricing and formats, we want to be compared to others within our competitive set. Standing out raises too many questions and makes the purchase an effort. But isn’t that what the new consumers want today? A choice, with options that go beyond quality and price but also highlight a product’s purpose, mission and uniqueness? If so, then why all the mainstreaming?

It’s time to break through the clutter. Here are three ways we can transform lackluster brands into stand-out items on the shelf:

1. Remember where you came from and why.

We work with a lot of companies that launch products because of their love, passion and commitment. Some have recipes that were handed down from generation to generation. Others have inventions that are unique and solve a problem.

Companies need to remember their roots as a reminder of what prompted their products to begin with. That doesn’t mean that a product shouldn’t be innovated, improved or enhanced. But staying true to who you are will prevent your company from jumping on a bandwagon that doesn’t make sense for your brand.

2. Have purpose that people can relate to.

Even if your mission is just to create the best damn chocolate chip cookie ever, that needs to be clear to your customer. Decades ago, the Canadian supermarket chain Loblaws did just that. They aimed to deliver the best cookie anyone had ever had from a grocery store, which resulted in a decadent chocolate chip cookie that launched a loyalty that had never been seen in North American store brands before.

Today, store brands spend so much more time reacting than innovating. They want to meet national brand standards, but stop short of exceeding them. Why? At the end of the day, what do you build in equity and goodwill by always chasing?

3. Be bold!

The truth is, not everyone is going to like you. But guess what? There are over 200 million people in the US and if only 10% of those like you, that is ok. Often, those brands that take the biggest risks, who look ahead of the curve, they are the ones who will break out of the pack and become the standard that all others attempt to follow.

So, take a chance and make a difference! Play to your strengths, not your weaknesses. Stand up for the product or service you sell because it is differentiated, not because it compares well to others.

We all want to be special and not part of the herd. How does your brand differentiate?