Feb 132015

It is no secret that Valentine’s Day is upon us. The candy hearts and chocolates have been eyeing us from shelves across the country since New Year’s. With each passing year, the holiday has blossomed into bigger declarations of love encompassing significant others, family members, and even the pet dog. The average person celebrating Valentine’s Day in 2015 will spend $142.31 on candy, flowers, apparel and more according to the Valentine’s Day Consumer Spending Survey by Prosper Insights and Analytics. This is up from $133.91 last year. Total spending for 2015 Valentine’s Day holiday shopping is estimated to reach $18.9 billion, a record high. [1]

Not wanting to waste an opportunity to reach consumers, CPG brands have been pushing the growth of Valentine’s Day for years with expanded product lines and special edition packaging.

When it comes to declaring love for a significant other, candy remains the go-to gift before flowers and jewelry. 53.2% of those celebrating Valentine’s Day will satiate their sweetheart’s cravings by spending a total of $1.7 billion on candy this year.[1]

Brach’s, America’s Candy Maker, is a Valentine’s Day mainstay with its Conversation Hearts. However, not wanting to grow complacent in the category, Brach’s has challenged itself over the last few years. After introducing a new brand identity and architecture in 2014, Brach’s has been on a whirlwind of innovation and continues its upward growth in 2015 with new product releases that are breaking the boundaries of the candy industry. For this year’s special edition Valentine’s line, Brach’s introduced Gummi Conversation Hearts, Gummi Roses, and Strawberry Shortcake Candy Corn, among many others. With all the new product offerings there is sure to be a flavor that will please even the most difficult sweetheart.

Like every other holiday, Valentine’s Day has quickly become a family affair. Children share Valentine’s cards at school and parents shower them with gifts at home. YoCrunch yogurt has been inspiring families since 1991 with their fun toppings and limited edition flavor packs. This year, YoCrunch released a 12 count case pack featuring its Vanilla yogurt cups with Oreo and M&M toppings. The eye-catching themed package works to stand out on shelf against competitors and YoCrunch’s regular product line. It also promotes Valentine’s Day as an inclusive family holiday.

An estimated one in five Americans will include their pets in their Valentine’s Day gifting this year. On average, pet owners look to spend $5.28, which equates to $703 million nationally.[1] To celebrate the love of man’s best friend, Old Mother Hubbard—makers of bakery-inspired all natural dog treats, have introduced a limited time version of their P-Nuttier classic biscuit for Valentine’s Day. With a special edition package design and size, Bits of Love are adorable heart shaped P-Nuttier biscuits that will make any dog feel loved.

[1]  https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/cupid-shower-americans-jewelry-candy-this-valentines-day

[Disclaimer: Hughes designed the brand identity and architecture for Brach's, including the guidelines for the execution of seasonal product designs. Hughes designed the entire YoCrunch and Old Mother Hubbard packages]

Jan 232015

In today’s competitive retail environment, brands must consistently remain relevant and engage their consumers. Not an easy task when your target consumer is savvy, easily influenced by trends, and under the age of 14.

Today’s kids (those no longer a toddler and not yet a tween) have become masters in the art of filtering messages, due in large part to the influence of technology. The surplus of readily available global information has made them impulsive decision-makers. They’ve never waited for a dial tone to log on to the Internet or dare I say, remember a time when leather bound encyclopedias and dictionaries dominated.

Raised as equals and encouraged to express their opinions, these influential consumers have a stronger hold on the purchasing power of the household than ever before. In 2013, children accounted for $21.4 billion worth of their own purchasing power. [1] Considering that Global Industry Analysts, Inc. is estimating the Global Kids’ Food and Beverages Market will reach $89.3 billion this year,[2] the market for kid’s products is only going to expand and brands need to be prepared for the increased competition.

There are a few key strategies consumer packaged goods can employ to garner the increasingly fleeting attention of the youth market while appeasing the interests of the primary purchaser—the parent.


To feed the imaginative world of children, brands can develop characters that are used as part of the brand identity or used independently. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that children prefer cereals that have a cartoon character on their packs. They also prefer the tastes of those cereals—a significant finding for brands looking to introduce healthier products into a kid’s diet. [3]

YoCrunch Yogurt—a pioneer in separating toppings from yogurt by use of a clear domed cup lid—has created strategic partnerships through the years with brands like Kellogg’s, Oreo, and M&M’s. When YoCrunch wanted to introduce cereal bowls as an extension to their successful product line, they worked closely with Kellogg’s to use the Fruit Loops product, logo, and recognizable icon Toucan Sam as part of the packaging. For kids who had never heard of YoCrunch before, seeing the familiar face of Sam gave them the comfort to try something new.

For ascending brands that are unable to leverage an established brand’s mascot, forging an emotional connection to the child through a new brand mascot will create the long-term positive association with the brand they desire.

Skeeter Nut Free Snacks is founded on the basis of providing great tasting, nut-free snacks that can be enjoyed by all. The public face of the brand is a loveable, wide-eyed squirrel named Skeeter, who also happens to be nut allergic like many of his consumers. Skeeter features prominently on the vibrant blue packaging holding a nut-free placard, further strengthening the brand positioning of safe, no nuts snacks. The back panel is dedicated to his fully developed backstory and a web link directs kids to the Skeeter Snacks website, for kids wanting to learn more about Skeeter and his friends. These comprehensive touch points work to increase the emotional bond between the child and the brand.


Most parents would agree, kids struggle with keeping their hands to themselves. To engage this instinctual need to touch and understand, new kid-friendly products are being developed every day that make eating a sensory experience beyond taste and smell. However, a new product also introduces the challenge of attracting potential consumers. To differentiate against long established products, a distinct packaging structure can create a memorable brand experience and pop at shelf.

FunBites is a colorful line of durable curved blade food cutters that cut kid’s food into bite-sized fun shapes. The physical experience of the product, which engages the logic and creativity in the child, had to be translated into the packaging. Carefully placed windows showcase the cutter and allow for tactile interaction at retail. Colorful characters developed around each food cutter turn the cutters themselves into mouths and ears. The unique and distinctive structure adds variety on shelf. 


Most kid’s products need to satisfy the primary purchaser to grow sales, but still attract the consumers. A balance must be struck between the parent’s inherent desire for healthier options for their children, and designs that appeal to the child’s restless attention. The best avenue to accomplish this feat is through clear communication of benefits and a boosted, more vibrant color palette.

Black Forest recently relaunched their popular line of gummy products with new packaging. The newly established architecture works to strengthen their healthier brand positioning and brand promises. “Made with Real Fruit Juice,” is distinctly arched across the center of each package, while the other nutritional benefits (“Colors from Natural Sources” and “Gluten and Fat Free”) are called out at the top of each package, further reassuring the parent of the quality ingredients inside. To capture the child’s curiosity and build brand awareness, the Black Forest green equity color was leveraged and a bright engaging new color palette employed. The playful characters on the gummy varieties were refreshed to add energy and double as brand mascots, further engaging the child’s imagination.

[1] http://www.packagedfacts.com/about/release.asp?id=688

[2] http://www.prweb.com/releases/kids_food_beverage/childrens_food_beverage/prweb4253214.htm

[3] http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/R-D/Cartoon-characters-may-influence-kids-taste-preferences

[Disclosure: Hughes Design Group designed all packaging used in this article]

Jan 142015

Announcing the strategic partnership between R&D/Leverage and Hughes Design Group

Package Design Magazine November/December 2014


R&D Leverage is a structural design and development company that offers a full suite of capabilities for domestic and international clients in the Food and Beverage, Home and Personal Care, and Healthcare industries.

Hughes Design Group is a marketing strategy and design firm specializing in consumer goods packaging design, brand identity, and strategic planning, as well as name generation, and research.

By integrating this array of both creative and technical offerings, our world-class organizations seamlessly blend together to help clients identify and conceive design, construct, and product innovations. Through our unique strategic partnership we are able to drive fully leveraged brand solutions while increasing your product’s speed to market and decreasing time, energy, and cost. Our holistic approach—from idea through implementation—ensures each project is successful to you, your customer, and your company.

When you work with R&D/Leverage and Hughes Design Group, you work with professionals in package design, brand identity, marketing solutions, qualitative/quantitative research, industrial design, engineering, mold procurement, and manufacturing implementation – all committed to bringing your branding initiative to life—and to the shelf! We look forward to growing your business.

Dec 092014

Our stomachs are a little bigger and the bruises from Black Friday shopping are still fresh which can mean only one thing: the holidays have arrived. Everywhere you turn, products are donning new looks with special holiday themed designs. Nowhere is this more evident than the grocery store. From dairy to liquor, and even pet food, consumer-packaged goods are different.

But, why should brands embrace the holiday season?

In short, holiday-themed packaging can help a brand:

  • Remain relevant
  • Catch consumer’s attention
  • Increase brand value
  • Capitalize on impulse shopping
  • Connect to consumer emotions

Seasonal Packaging

The best bet for brands wanting to remain relevant during the holiday season without accumulating added costs and risks, is a seasonal package. Quite simply, the brand retains its same year round products but with fancy new exteriors. A new package design may be all it takes to catch a consumer’s attention and remind them of your great product.

Consumers who regularly purchase Garelick Farms milk are more likely to purchase Garelick Farms milk through the holiday season, even without holiday packaging. However, there is always the very real possibility an impulse shopping consumer may be attracted to another brands’ holiday package and switch brands as a result. In order to combat this possibility, Garelick Farms utilizes family-friendly holiday designs on all their milks. The brand not only keeps its legion of fans during the holidays, but it increases the consumer’s emotional connection by associating the brand with good times.

Earlier this year Wellness CORE Pet Food introduced a new line of treats, CORE Superfood Protein Bars. Instead of releasing a limited edition product, which would be both costly and risky given the infancy of the line, CORE chose to dress up one of its established products with a holiday themed design. The package maintains the brand identity while giving it a festive holiday touch. Opting to do a seasonal package will help draw consumer’s attention, allowing the brand to compete during the busiest time of year, as well as create loyalty. If the consumer enjoys the Chicken and Turkey with Sweet Potatoes recipe flavor, they have the ability to purchase it year round.

Seasonal Products

For only a few months out of the year, customers are able to purchase these special seasonal products. Limited timing forces a higher percentage of impulse buys at shelf and thus, increases sales. Having a shelf-ready seasonal product is one of the more advantageous and risky strategic decisions a brand can make. From time, planning, and production to design, marketing, and advertising, the costs are substantial. However, if successful, a seasonal product can increase brand value and maintain relevancy in the mind of the consumer.

New Flavors

Seemingly overnight, the Garelick Farms Egg Nog appears on shelves across the Northeastern US just in time for Thanksgiving tables. Introducing a new, limited-time flavor to its normal line of dairy products adds excitement and anticipation for consumers waiting year round for the novelty drink.

Another brand expanding their flavor portfolio during the holidays is TruMoo. Known for its flavored milk, Trumoo adds a twist to its Chocolate milk with the Chocolate Peppermint edition. The eye-catching designs of the package and playful flavor help grab the attention of the impulse shopper looking for a fun, limited edition product for their family.

Old Mother Hubbard Baking Co. started over 80 years ago and remains a top choice for pet owners wanting to provide wholesome, all-natural snacks to their pets. Knowing pet owners want to spread holiday cheer to every member of their family, Old Mother Hubbard introduced Jingle Jangle P-Nuttier. These crunchy dog snacks come in holiday shapes with a taste of peanut butter & molasses.

Value Sizes

Known for crammed houses filled with kids, friends, and relatives, the holidays are the time to stock up on consumer product goods.  Companies wanting to differentiate themselves beyond new flavors may introduce larger quantity packaging, such as value packs. YoCrunch offers a special 12-cup Holiday case pack, with seasonal designs on the cups and red and green M&M toppings alongside Oreo toppings.

Giftable/Collector’s Edition Package

As one of the most giftable items and a decorative addition to most dinner parties, alcohol and liquor brands must differentiate themselves against their competitors and their own year-round packaging to snag invites to all the best parties. One of the more unique, time consuming, and costly executions with arguably the most long-lasting effects is the giftable/collector’s edition package.

Many years ago Smirnoff, the largest vodka brand in the world, introduced the Smirnoff Nutcracker as a special collector’s edition bottle. With a new structure of a nutcracker, utilizing the hat as a decanter, Smirnoff was able to reintroduce its classic vodka in a convenient, gift ready package. Having a collectible package creates an emotional experience and ongoing relationship with the consumer. To this day, the Smirnoff Nutcracker package can be found in online auctions, ready to delight its next brand loyal consumer and their home.

With the National Retail Federation projecting this years’ holiday spending to total $619.9 billion and households spending an average of $1300 on gifts, food, decorations, and more*, the question isn’t, should you do holiday themed packaging, but really, why aren’t you?

[Disclosure: Hughes Design Group designed all packaging used in this article]


Nov 212014

From technology to consumer product goods, millennials are changing the landscape of the world we live in. Also known as Generation Y, millennials were born between 1980 – 1995 with technology at their fingertips and an inherent need to multitask.* Marketers look at millennials and see the nightmares that keep them up at night. Unlike the well-studied and understood Baby Boomers—the largest impactful generation previously, millennials appear to be eccentric and unloyal shoppers.

  • Rarely use a shopping list, decisions are made at shelf
  • Only one in five set a budget before shopping
  • View purchasing private label brands as socially acceptable
  • Task-oriented shoppers, purchasing products only when they run out
  • Don’t research products online
  • Main resource for product information are peers or customer reviews
  • Most shop alone at grocery stores
  • Prefer specialty stores to large box stores
  • Want tangible discounts such as 15 percent more product or BOGOs (Buy One Get One) instead of digital coupons**

So, what is it millennials are searching for when they browse the shelf?

Millennials have been the strongest advocates for health in CPGs. They don’t just want healthy options; they expect them. Their tech-savvy has given them unlimited access to information and now they expect the brands they buy to share the same transparency. They want to know every process of their product’s life cycle from where it was grown/made, who made it, to the quality of the ingredients and how many are in the product. It doesn’t stop there; they also want to know whether the company producing the product has corporate social responsibility and if the packaging is sustainable. Did I mention they expect the product to be affordable? With 80 million millennials, the sooner brands embrace the millennials’ expectations, the quicker their products will disappear from shelves.


Late July is a brand known for its always Organic and Non-GMO products. When they launched a line of mini sandwich cookies and bite size crackers—appealing to the growing segment of millennial mom’s choosing healthy options for their children—Late July included quality descriptors on the package. (Produced Without Synthetic Pesticides, No Trans Fat or Corn Syrup, No Artificial Flavors, Colors, or Preservatives). A USDA Organic seal and Quality Assurance International seal prove the organic product claims. Quickly and clearly communicating the quality of the ingredients is one way to win millennials purchase decision.


Elemental Essentialz, a Texas based eco-friendly household cleaning products company uses repurposed wine bottles to hold their safe, zero-waste household cleaners. This mindfulness to both product and packaging is exactly the type of sustainability and corporate responsibility millennials search for on shelves.


White Rock Beverages, an American brand since 1871, know consumers—especially millennials are looking for health benefits when grocery shopping. In order to convey the brand’s premium position regarding purity, integrity, flavor, and value, White Rock uses callouts to draw the consumer’s attention and differentiate from competitors. The callouts on the package include triple filtered water, use of cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup (mixers), zero sodium (club sodas), and zero calories (except ginger ale and tonic water). The health benefits of White Rock beverages versus other carbonated drinks is clearly represented and help consumers searching for a healthier option make an easy decision.


Apps like Instagram have allowed millenials to become powerful voices for products and packaging. Where once, a person may recommend a product to a few friends, now they can share their recommendations with the world. Hashtags like #foodstagram on cell phone images have created an obsession with the visual appeal of food. Companies like Udi’s Gluten Free have embraced this obsession. Udi’s products utilize windows and high quality photography to give the customer a clear sense of what they are purchasing.


YoCrunch embraces the fast health conscious lifestyle most Millennials lead. Their low fat yogurt, combined with the variety of toppings (from whole grain granola to M&M’s) in their separated domed top cups, is a perfect convenient option for the multitasking millennial.

With an enthusiastic push toward health, millennials are changing the way products are made and packaged, and it seems, brands are letting them.

[Disclosure: All product packaging in this article was designed by Hughes Design Group]


* http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-millennials-are-coming/

** http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/238211/getting-millennials-to-buy-cpgs-bring-on-the-bogo.html

Nov 132014

The heavily saturated additives and artificial flavors of the nineties are gone. Healthy eating has hit the mainstream and by all accounts, is here to stay. In a recent survey of 1,000 Good Housekeeping readers, 91 percent said, “If I eat right, I will probably stay healthy.”*

It may come as no surprise that the health food movement for humans has also expanded into the pet food industry. This is part of a humanization trend. The health conscious owners want to provide the same dietary nutrition to their four-legged friends.

Seeing this as an opportunity, pet food brands have embraced the change. They’ve updated their ingredients in regular lines and introduced premium, and in some cases, super premium options. They are right to do so. By the end of this year, premium pet foods will account for 42 percent of pet food sales, followed by regular pet food at 30 percent, and value pet food at 12 percent. When you compare these percentages to the $28 billion in pet food sales for 2013 alone and the estimated $33 billion sales pet food will have by 2018, it is clear their decisions were advantageous.**

Now, when a pet owner enters a retail location, they have the choice of real meat, grain-free, fruits and vegetables, vitamin enriched, and combinations of the above to feed their furry friends. Even treat lines, the long believed unhealthiest of animal offerings, have gotten a makeover. Besides being a reward, the new and improved bite sized treats are now supplemental to a pet’s overall health.

Wellness CORE recently introduced SuperFood Protein Bars, a nutrient-dense protein nugget without fillers or grain, and wholesome superfoods. It has already won the 2014 Editor’s Choice Award for Best Pet Food/Treat by SupplySide.***When a brand such as Wellness introduces their newest product to the saturated pet food/treat industry, they must leverage their brand and market it in order to succeed. Most pet owners can tell you that pet food, whether wet or dry, is nothing to look at. Unlike a head of lettuce, or an apple, pet food is not capable of selling itself. So how does a brand communicate the great benefits of its product when pet food shoppers have limited time to research brands and make purchase decisions?


When executed well, packaging targets a specific demographic, communicates the product benefits, and has a design and color palette that matches the product while unifying the brand.

Know the Demographic

Unfortunately, pets have yet to grow opposable thumbs and learn the monotonous task of buying their own food, leaving the purchasing power to their human companions. There are two variables a pet food brand must consider when leveraging their brand to new categories and varieties. These variables also have a direct influence over the packaging.

Firstly, the pet food is being marketed to the owner. What is the owner’s lifestyle? Are they willing to pay more for the added benefits and nutrition to their animals’ food? Do they shop at large box stores or small pet specialty locations? Are they brand loyal? If they are, would they be less brand loyal with treats and consider other options?

Secondly, the packaging must market to the animal that is consuming the product. What is the animal’s age? Is it active or inactive? Does it need to eat diet food? Does it have a restricted diet from food intolerances or sensitivities? Will it eat dry or wet food, or possibly a mixture of both? It is a large or small breed?

Wellness Complete Health offers balanced natural nutrition and overall health for canines and felines. From puppies and kittens to senior pets, and those with joint to digestive problems, there is a food catered to them. This specificity to the animal’s health and wellness needs helps elevate the premium quality of the brand.Communicate the Benefits

Having a great product is important. Knowing how to communicate this to the customer is equally important.

For a time sensitive shopper in today’s fast paced world, packaging is the primary marketing tool to communicate all the pet food benefits. It is important to make the benefits easy to find and read.

When Wellness introduced the CORE Grain Free line of pet food, they used a benefit checklist on the face of the package like many of their other lines. The checklist offers the customer immediate information on nutrients and ingredients within the product. It is a great tool to educate a shopper in the time it takes to browse a shelf.

Design Consistency

In pet food, a product line may be segmented by flavor, texture (soft and chewy, hard and crunchy), or category. Packaging must connect the overarching brand to these varying product options.

If a product line has multiple flavor offerings, a brand can utilize color to differentiate flavors. For example, Beef may be red while Salmon is blue and Lamb is green. In regard to texture, a brand can use different structures such as a box for crunchy treats compared to a re-sealable bag for fresh, chewy treats. For different categories such as cat and dog, or senior dog and puppy, the packaging can be differentiated by both size and structure.

Through all these decisions, the design must remain consistent. To accomplish this, packaging employs brand blocking. Maintaining a design across SKUs, the brand block can use color, type, icons, or logo to create consistency on shelf. Wellness has a reputation for their strong use of brand blocking.

For example the Simple line, created for dogs with food sensitivities, uses a blue color, icon of a dog, bright type, and the recognizable Wellness logo to maintain brand identity at shelf, whether in can or bag form. A color band at the bottom of the structures communicates the different flavor varieties. If a customer walks down an aisle, they will easily be able to distinguish the Simple line by its consistent identity across SKUs.

With expected sales to reach $33 billion by 2018, pet food brands must seize this time sensitive opportunity to expand and grow. If current trends in health and wellness are anything to go by, the premium and super premium pet food lines will offer the greatest ROI. However, for brands to truly succeed they must strategically focus on their product as much as their packaging by knowing the demographic, communicating the benefits, and maintaining design consistency across the line.


[Disclosure: All Wellness Brand packaging used in this article was designed by Hughes Design Group]





Nov 162012

The “packaging” in shopper marketing

We don’t need to convince you.  You already know how important package design is in the marketing mix.  But do you really know if your packaging is working the hardest it can at retail, delivering its very best at the “first and second moment of truth”?  Is it a key pillar in your shopper marketing strategy, contributing upstream in the planning process?  How much improvement and advocacy have you realized from talking with shoppers about packaging?

This article is about the “packaging” in shopper marketing.  It’s about delivering success through one of the most powerful mediums we’ve grown to witness.  It’s about packaging as a strategy, not a tactic.  Package design manifests ideas.

The relationship between packaging and shopper marketing

An admittedly rhetorical question: have you ever seen a retail aisle without packaging on products?  No, because packaging is marketing for shoppers.  And like any marketing vehicle, strategy and insights play a critical role.

List the objectives and core principles of shopper marketing, and you can use the same for package design.  A few examples to illustrate our point:

  • Accelerate trial and consumption
  • Drive perceived value and higher retails
  • Promote quick purchase decision

The design process is linked to the same objectives and research rigor as shopper need states.  In fact, packaging and shopper marketing share similar behavioral models with regard to human communication — from colors to shapes, numbers to words.  So, it’s reasonable to expect that package design is equally or even more important creatively than the images and call-to-action on POS materials.

 Package design is the first moment of truth at retail

To this point, we have been faithful to the “first moment of truth (FMOT)” retail concept.  Born several years ago by the team in Cincinnati, it has been an effective way to focus research and marketing resources on certain aspects of the shopping dynamic.  But having seen how packaging positively moves the sales needle over and over again, the FMOT concept to us has become much more specific.  Our belief is that the “first moment of truth” is not at-shelf — it resides at packaging, at-shelf.

This is not a play on words.  It is fundamental to integrating the role of consumer and shopper, as they are not mutually exclusive targets at retail.  Function, emotion and value are intersecting need states in-store.  Packaging is one of very few tools to deliver a visual hierarchy that integrates all three (3) of these purchase drivers.

With all the new, flashy marketing technologies available today, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the most powerful communication vehicle available to us is truly “analog”.  Packaging is a critical element of retail engagement, because brands and their products ultimately end up in the eyes and hands of shoppers.

Packaging is scrutinized at the second moment of truth

Products, along with their packaging, are taken home.  Intended benefits have been communicated, item purchased and the “second moment of truth” realized — use or consumption of the product.  As packaging is linked to the shelf at FMOT, so it is to product at this phase.  Packaging signals expectations, while the product itself drives satisfaction — they are forever attached.  Describing this connection more viscerally, it is a measure of how well the brand is telling the truth.  Done well, brand repeat and advocacy will grow, increasing direct conversations with consumers.  These dialogues will inspire continuous improvement and provide zero-cost awareness through “earned” media.

Better link packaging with shopper marketing initiatives

As a community of brand leaders, let’s make packaging a critical part of the shopper marketing discipline.  This is an invitation to review how well you are doing and to consider package design a strategic imperative — integrated early during marketing planning cycles, considered a key element to shopper initiatives and leveraged for consumer satisfaction.

As you can tell, we are passionate about packaging done well.  We’ve seen it work again and again (and seen it’s power destroy brands).  So, here are a few things we’ve learned along the way to help make your design initiatives more effective and better win at retail:

  • Move package design upstream in the research and planning process – make it a consideration within consumer and shopper strategies
  • Utilize “visual” briefs when developing brand creative elements – advertising to promotions, POS to packaging
  • Ensure packaging not only delivers brand positioning but makes a commercial difference on-shelf
  • Scrutinize how well you are telling “the truth” – does the partnership between packaging and product ultimately deliver satisfaction

Be hungry for consumer feedback – repurpose the positive and embrace every bit of the negatives

 Posted by at 12:06 PM
Aug 262011

When there is a seemingly infinite number of choices, “findability” is the KEY to your brand’s connection with consumers. As Wired magazine tech guru, Kevin Kelly, puts it in his fantastic article Better Than Free, “unfound masterpieces are worthless”. Not to compare a box of cereal to a Van Gogh, but if your package gets lost in the sea of products on today’s store shelves, it doesn’t even get to be a BRAND.

It’s a daunting problem, but creating brand loyalty isn’t impossible if you understand the obstacles your product faces to be noticed. Justin Crout’s seminal book Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Competition still paints the picture best. With printed knowledge doubling every 4 to 5 years, 4,000 books published daily and the internet growing by 1 million sites a day, the demands on a person’s time and attention are overwhelming to say the least. Since those statistics were first published in 2000, the pace has only quickened! So, even taking into consideration that Crout’s calculation that the average person has been exposed to an excess of 140,000 commercials by the age of 18(!!!) is somewhat softened by TV viewers’ ability to fast forward through those commercials with their DVRs; consumers are being bombarded by media in a relentless way. Standing out in such a competitive environment has never been more crucial to the “findability” of your brand.

Further complicating things are the mass of technological trends that have become a part of our daily lives since 2000. Smart phones, instant messaging, texting, Facebook, Twitter: these devices and apps all represent separate, individual content streams, often overlapping and competing for attention simultaneously. One recent market research study by Crowd Science found that about 10% of consumers under 30 actually follow brands on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, which certainly makes it a trend worth watching. The same research found that while younger generations, ranging in age from 16-49, are far more brand aware than older consumers, their loyalty to brands varies widely. Generation X-ers(those born between 1961-1981), tend to be the most loyal to the brands they like, sticking with them even if there is a cheaper alternative readily available. Whereas, the Generation Y crowd(born roughly between 1982-1995), like to mix it up and try new brands more often.

The most successful brands to clear these hurdles and be SEEN by consumers will be the ones best able to make, and maintain, connections that make people repeat customers. Strong brandmarks and packaging that communicate a clear DIFFERENCE from their competitors, will go a long way towards pushing through the clutter and achieving that “findability” absolutely necessary for today’s brands.

 Posted by at 3:47 PM
May 252011


I just ordered a pair of Tory Burch shearling boots because they were on end of year clearance, and much less than a new pair of Ugg’s would have cost me for next season. I have to admit I am a Tory Burch fan because of the logo-big, bold buckles of intertwining T’s…that’s what it’s all about.

The boots are a little understated, but the packaging they came in…WOW! Is there such a thing as overbranding? Logos on the box, signature orange box wrap with logo sticker; the invoice was in a boldly branded envelope with a coupon for future purchase and, of course, a logo on the invoice as well.

If there’s one thing Tory does right, it’s suck consumers in like me, who are in it for the BIG BRAND SPLASH….some may think it’s overkill, but to me, this is why I dig the brand!

Apr 192011


When was the last time you set foot inside a pet store and really took a good look around? Were you surprised at the variety of brands and the diversity of products? According to market research from the American Pet Products Association(or APPA), you shouldn’t be. APPA’s research has found that annual spending in the pet industry for 2010 was $48.35 billion. And that’s just here in the U.S. That is a LOT of kibble! But this consumer trend goes FAR beyond just pet food.

In a recent series of articles in the New York Times, an entire section on Health was devoted to the many ways pets have a positive impact on their owner’s health and sense of well being. For many of these pet “parents”, there is an unbreakable emotional bond with their pet “children” which makes them an integral part of the family. That bond drives pet owners in record numbers to the shelves of pet stores where they spare no expense buying premium food, treats and specialty toys.

Though the majority of pet owners typically have dogs or cats; small animals like hamsters and mice, birds, fish, and even reptiles, figure largely in the surge of pet industry sales as well. Which translates into an explosion of categories and brands that cater to each and every type of pet’s individual needs. And if the APPA projections are correct, this trend of a ballooning pet supplies market is just the beginning. According to their calculations, pet owners are going to spend an estimated $50.84 billion in 2011. So you can expect some pretty tough positioning for brands looking to stand out as leaders in this very competitive market.

 Posted by at 5:55 AM