The branding of consumer goods isn’t just about quick sales and short shelf life. It is as much about the need to remain agile and continuously evolve. Many brands, however, only realise the need to evolve too late in the game. As a result, a recurring client challenge goes something like this: We have lost the connection to our brand’s target consumer and somehow our products now seem obsolete.
Before throwing money at isolated campaigns to gain some momentary attention, you might want to revisit your position in the market altogether. To do so, you need to combine three critical components: target customer wants (relevance), competitive differentiation (distinction) and company strengths (credibility). When first defined, here are a few tricks on how to take your position in the market:
1 – Change the look
It might seem like old wine in new bottles, but redesigning a product is an effective approach to cement your new position. Designing for design’s sake, however, won’t cut it. When brands try to reach new customers through redesigning the packaging, it is important that the new design communicates the brand’s new position and illustrates why the new packaging isn’t simply window-dressing.
In 2016, Budweiser began a global roll-out of their new design. A stripped-back, elegantly crafted look, showcasing their attention to detail. Adhering to their status as the “King of Beers”, the actual content stayed the same but the new product experience not only ensured greater shelf stand-out, it also positioned Budweiser as a quality beer with a proud American heritage. The move didn’t come as a surprise. Not being a US-owned brand anymore, many American consumers had started to turn their back on the beer giant, favouring smaller craft brands instead. To win them back, Budweiser grabbed the bull by the horns with a clean and proudly American design. The result is like a canned Bruce Springsteen, showing everyone else who’s the boss.
2 – Change the conversation
A product’s tone of voice can change the conversation in your favour, making you more relevant to your target audience. You speak the same language as your customers so to speak.
Building on the informality of the likes of Innocent juice and Pret a Manger, Froosh is a Swedish 100% fruit drinks company. Their mission ticks all the hygiene boxes (sustainable, responsible, aid through trade, etc.) but their main attraction to me is their tone of voice. With flavour names such as “Your dreams crushed”, “More immunity than Berlusconi” and “More bite than Suarez”, Froosh adds a fresh and informal tone to the juice landscape and conveys a shoulders down approach to themselves, yet not necessarily their products.
3 – Change the product portfolio
Companies are always hunting the next big thing. Be it a food trend, packaging format, a new exciting flavour or other product innovations. As when suddenly cold brew, not iced coffee, became the only way to get your cosmopolitan caffeine kick.
Product development is the creative process of improving a product to meet or define new consumer needs. It is in many ways what drives a category forward and may eventually change our habits and behaviour. Without product development, Coca-Cola wouldn’t have thought of making a sugar-free version of their popular soft drink and Kodak would still be the leading camera manufacturer.
A few years back, H&M decided to do something about their bad reputation by launching their Conscious Collection. In an effort to appear more conscientious, H&M now launches an annual collection of clothes that is more eco-friendly and mindful of the planet. Today 26% of the company’s products are made with sustainable materials. There is still some work to do to kill their unconscious 74% of their collection, but it’s a start. And most of all it underlines their desired position as the responsible brand on the high street.
4 – Change the experience
Brand is experience, experience is brand. One is the promise, the other is the proof.
The darling of in-store branded customer experiences is the Australian skincare label, Aesop. With its product packaging simulating old apothecary bottles, sleek wood and stone boutique interiors tapping into the neighbourhood vibe, botanical ingredients, stylish staff, hip locations and elegant gift boxes, Aesop is the Chanel bag of skincare, making the likes of Nivea look like a worn-out tote bag in comparison.
Digital has also offered more innovative approaches to reaching new audiences through experiences. One example is the NYC-based mattress startup, Casper. With an outset in a, let’s face it, pretty boring category, doing things just a bit different has had a very big impact. Tapping into the trend of sleep as our generation’s scarcest resource, Casper has gone all-in on the experience of “engineering” a bed to end them all: One mattress, matching bed linen, 100-night trial, free delivery and the rather ambitious mission to “help everyone achieve their best life possible”. While Casper entered the market by breaking a new mold for its category, they weren’t faced with the issue of losing relevance. They simply challenged the conventions of their category and elevated the bed-buying experience from the very beginning.
5 – Change the context
Changing the context in which your product is sold is the last point on my list.
There are numerous ways to go about this. From celebrity endorsements, brand collaborations and genre crossovers (like country music with your crackers!), to carefully orchestrating a whole new global scene for your brand to act on. And that’s exactly what Adidas did when they repositioned themselves from a traditional sports brand to a creative-lifestyle brand. The reposition now successfully balances the addition of fast-fashion with its athletic performance roots. Alongside their design philosophy that often starts with extensive research into the mindset of their target consumers, Adidas has immersed itself in fashion, music, art and design contexts with prominent celebrity and partner collaborations. From New York Fashion Week and Kanye West co-labs (Yeezy) to pop-up workout spaces in trendy locations like East London’s Victoria Park.
While the extension into fashion, creativity and lifestyle isn’t completely new to them (their bond to youth culture is part of their heritage), the brand has found renewed relevance with an audience that previously would have dismissed Adidas as a brand for the jocks or fitness freaks.
So, where to start? First of all, the above ways to cement a new position doesn’t have to be a choice of one or the other. Often it’s a mix and match depending on the challenge at hand. And you’ll quickly learn that the five different tools go hand in hand.
Perhaps the most important lesson here is that repositioning isn’t a quick fix. In order to stay relevant, consumer brands need to constantly evolve. Repositioning shouldn’t be a reactive exercise, but an ongoing endeavour. Proactive brand management is about not allowing products to become obsolete. It’s the art of looking to general movements in society and tangential categories to remain one step ahead of the competition in addressing consumers’ constantly changing needs.
Need help to reposition your brand? Get in touch with Strategy Director Christian Halsted at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk about your opportunities.
Photo credits: Budweiser, Froosh, Pearlfisher, Adidas