Monthly Archive for April, 2010

Research continues to demonstrate that a large number of purchase decisions are made in-store. This is not only a result of impulse decisions. Often, shoppers who use lists (and the current economy has seen a substantial increase in the number of shoppers who do) lack a preferred brand or fail to locate their preferred brand on shelf.

Here are five tips that can help you capture these sales. The first four are a function of package design. The last relates to overall brand communications.

1) Defy Structural Norms
A new or unexpected structure is a great way to break the visual monotony of most retail shelves. Either due to packaging efficiencies or consumer expectations, package structures within a category tend to gravitate toward a common format. Breaking the rules can be a great way to make your package stand out, especially when the structure provides added functionality.

Campbell's Soup at Hand / Starkist Tuna Pouch

Soup and Sandwich: legacy products recast in convenient, idea-provoking formats.

Consider some of the newer “To Go” packs, like Campbell’s Soup at Hand (microwave, drop into your car’s cup holder, and sip away). How about tuna in a flexible pouch, an innovation that helps you prepare meals anywhere without the fuss of a can opener or messy liquid that you press out of a can.

Heineken designed a can that’s a keg, sort of, and any red blooded male will tell you that’s where real beer fun is found.

Heineken Barrel Can

Heineken: a barrel of fun in every can.

Sometimes what’s old can seem new again. Kraft Good Seasons still sells salad dressings as flavoring pouches you mix with oil, vinegar and other fresh ingredients in a “free” cruet. This legacy product plays smartly to today’s desire for fresh and homemade. Updated packaging for the cruet clearly differentiates this form from standard plastic and glass containers that dominate the salad dressing aisle (although I would prefer a package that does a better job of showing the cruet itself).

Good Seasons Dressing Cruet

Good Seasons offers a great value proposition: homemade dressing AND a free cruet!

2) Break the Color Barrier
Like package structure, colors often blend with one another. Sometimes color cues seem required, like green for decaf coffee, or red for pasta sauce. But research shows that color is one of the strongest visual differentiators. If everyone else is red, why shouldn’t you be blue?

Fiji water introduced color to a colorless product by printing the back panel of its bottle with a colorful tropical leaf.

Fiji Water Bottle

Fiji water bears the colors of a tropical island.

Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory’s Cookie Straws utilize a simple design scheme dominated by an unexpected and vibrant color palette. Combined with their unusual paperboard “gift bag” package structure, these packages draw attention and brand upscale from typical cookie fare.

Mississippi Cheese Straws

Color IS the story in this gourmet cookie line.

Similarly, Yellow Tail wines feature a bold color cue (signaling the type of wine) on each label, calling attention to the individual bottles and to the brand as a whole.

Yellow Tail Wines

Whether grouped by brand, or with other brands by variety, the colors of Yellow Tail bottles wine draw eyeballs.

3) Know Thy Customer
Equivalent products often appeal to different market segments. Lifestyle branding is a great way to develop niche appeal. Can you use humor or hipper graphics to make the next generation of homemakers yours? If your customer base is aging, does it make more sense to provide visual cues that appeal to a boomer or mature autience (larger type, health claims, easy open closures). Marketing tie-ins to worthy causes are another way to position your product.

New York drug chain Duane Reade recently introduced a private label brand called Apt. 5 to recognize and appeal to its base of apartment dwelling urbanites. [Images courtesy of My Private Brand blog (]

Apt 5 Private Label Packaging.

Apt 5 is not a food/beverage brand, but the lifestyle branding is terrific, and the same approach could apply in F&B.

Adult soft drink 420 Soft Brew, a carbonated, brewed beverage, uses a colorful and energetic design scheme to attract the 18-30 active lifestyle demographic. (Full disclosure: Goldforest created this brand.)

420 Soft Brew Bottles and Poster

420 packaging speaks to club goers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Lifestyle branding on the POP poster shown reinforces the brand message.

Publix feminine hygiene products use contemporary illustration to depict young women with aspirational lifestyle imagery. The result is a highly targeted message that identifies and speaks directly to its users.

Publix Panty Liners

Perky, fun and presentable. If you’re a young woman, this package is easy to toss in the cart.


Great Grains uses color and imagery to capitalize on and further the cause of breast cancer awareness with this limited time cereal pack. Limited time promotional packs are in general a great way to draw attention. If brands are like friends, this is like your friend with a new hair do!

Great Grains Breast Cancer Promotion

To millions of breast cancer awareness advocates, this package clearly distinguishes itself from alternatives


4) Play The Name Game
In food and beverage, names tend to be dry and descriptive and lacking in personality. While new products always have the option of differentiating through their choice of a brand name, even existing lines can use naming to their advantage when introducing new varieties or line extensions.

Consider Emeril’s Kicked Up Tomato and Roasted Gaaahlic pasta sauces. Or Publix private label Eggstirs.

Emeril's Pasta Sauce Names

Trading on the equity in Emeril’s distinctive lingo, these flavor names bring the chef’s own personality to the shelf.

Publix Eggstirs

Eggstirs: the name positions directly against Egg Beaters while upping the ante with double entendre

If you were going to drink Hemp Milk (and I’m not saying you are), which package would you choose: Tempt, with its clean, bold graphics, silky color palette and luxurious sounding name, or Hemp Dream, whose name and graphics presuppose you’ll have to step away from your bong before sipping?

Hemp Dream and Tempt Hemp Milk

Two distinct naming approaches position these products in completely different ways.

5) Use Off-Shelf Communications
People respond to the familiar. Given the proportion of purchase decisions that are made in store, being recognized when the customer arrives at the category is critical. Communicating through FSI’s, consumer advertising, in-store promotions (especially sampling), a meaningful Web presence, and in-aisle signage all helps to generate that familiarity.

For example, Milk Bone has a multi-pronged social media strategy (view it at You can click through dozens of adorable doggie pics uploaded from the flikr sites of fans around the world, read about Milk Bone’s support of service dogs, and become a facebook fan of Noble, a loveable pup who is being trained to become a service dog for some lucky and needy individual. Milk Bone supports this effort with both on and offline advertising efforts. Here’s a video they posted on You Tube about the program.

Another emergent phenomenon is Mommy Blogs. The number of women who participate in blogging is astounding. Various estimates put it in the range of 25,000,000! These highly influential women are reading and writing about many things, including consumer products. A number of firms have cultivated networks of these so called mommy bloggers, and for a reasonable fee – much less than the cost of traditional marketing – consumer packaged goods firms like yours can hire them to develop sampling and online review programs.

Stacy DeBroff, founder of Mom Central Consulting (, will notify her network of 450 bloggers that she’s looking to get the word out about your brand. She’ll select 40 of them (representing about 1.2 million readers), based on their passion for the product, and within 2 weeks of receiving samples and information, they’ll have spread their gospel in their highly credible, first person voices!

Stephanie Azzarone runs Childs Play Communications ( She maintains a “Team Mom” of 200 bloggers reaching 1.5 million loyal readers. These brand advocates will tell your customers what to look for and where to buy it. Talk about building awareness before the shopping trip!

There are lots of other ways to make your product stand out on the shelf, but follow these five rules and you’ll not only supercharge your sales but also make retailers and their shoppers alike into loyal fans.

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