We all know the thrill of finding a new and intriguing product on the shelf, but the journey from idea to aisle is a long and complex one when viewed from the business side. In order for a product to reach consumers, it needs to be the right idea at the right time, and it needs to be delivered in an appealing way. And now that COVID has substantially impacted disposable income and shopping patterns, brand planning has had to adapt to reach what may be a more hesitant, fiscally anxious audience.
Product Versus Branding
One of the first issues companies need to address to deliver a product successfully is the distinction between the product itself and the brand connected to it. We all know, after all, that people express a great deal of brand loyalty when it comes to certain products, whether that’s the great Coke versus Pepsi debate or runners who will only wear a particular brand of shoe. Many of the biggest brands, no matter how often they release new products, rarely rebrand because of the strength their name or slogan carries.
Take Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It” – the company has stuck with it for over 20 years because it resonates with people and is synonymous with their brand name. The name goes with all of their products, not just a single pair of sneakers, and is mentally paired with the checkmark logo. People buy into that brand, not necessarily a specific product.
On the other hand, there is also a growing non-consumer movement made up of people who are repelled by what they view as the excesses of big brands. For people like this, the pared down aesthetics and concept underlying product lines like those made by Brandless and other sustainability-minded companies are more appealing than splashy marketing programs. That doesn’t mean such simplicity is not also strategic, though.
Another major part of turning an idea into a saleable product is devising packaging that will be enticing to buyers. Brands work closely with packaging experts to transform a brand’s strategy and basic product concept into functional and compelling packaging. Packaging is exceedingly important for several reasons, including as an extension of overall branding, At the same time, packaging needs to protect and preserve products during transport, preventing breakage and spoilage while still looking good upon arrival.
Many brands are also partnering with packaging developers to reduce the environmental impact of their product packages. This may not always be immediately, outwardly noticeable, but when it’s indicated or promoted, consumers do take note. Much like developing a slogan, addressing product sustainability is part of an overall strategy. Brand strategy sees the big pictures – it isn’t a list of actions or a goal – and it speaks clearly to what a company knows about its consumers through focus groups, surveys, and sales data.
Brand strategy sometimes focuses on novelty or innovation, but often, the emphasis is actually on consistency and maintaining a recognizable persona. After all, brands put a lot of effort into establishing themselves in the marketplace. Consistency has its own power, and success in the marketplace falls somewhere between the same old thing and the sparkle of invention.