Category rules: rebel or adopt
The marketplace has changed.
Private label is on the rise. Promotions and new offerings abound. But the fact remains, in most categories consumers spend little time making purchase decisions. So how do you get them to choose your brand? Do you break category rules to stand out and be noticed, or in the on-shelf chaos is it better to adopt familiar cues?
Of course, there are no hard and fast rules. Here are some thoughts on each approach.
Breaking the rules.
The infiltration of private label and its insistence on adopting a category’s markers has forced the hand of many brands.
To grow and flourish, brands need to be brave and illuminate their differences, rather than mimic other players’ and category cues. There is a temptation to be safe and conservative to appeal to the mainstream buyer. But derivative design only aids private label, and contributes to devaluing a category.
Breaking category rules is a valid strategy to pursue if your brand is at risk of being perceived as commodity, or the category itself is being commoditised. The egg section has reinvented itself over the last few years to combat just that. And white milk is not far behind.
It is also particularly relevant if you are a new entrant, or wish to communicate a unique proposition when entering into an established category. A good example here is the single serve fresh juice segment, which has undergone radical changes from the days of staid fruit depiction. This was sparked by rule-breaking entrants who introduced personality and superior offerings. Muesli bars are undergoing a similar transformation.
Similarly, Rhino Coffee saw an opportunity in packaged coffee and wasn’t afraid to break category norms to get noticed. A new brand positioned to deliver ‘coffee with oomph’ to a more adventurous and modern coffee drinker, Rhino steers clear of conservative coffee packaging punctuated by browns, heritage cues and quality seals. It has invested in a bold, vibrant colour palette, a memorable rhino graphic and hard-hitting copy to tell its unique brand story.
Adopting category language.
Blatantly copying category language is a risky strategy, but there are instances where adopting certain cues may prove beneficial.
This is often the case in categories driven by a specific consumer need, such as convenience, health or even escapism – pack graphics that don’t talk directly to this specific need may exclude your brand from consideration. Category breaking visuals might get you noticed on shelf, but being purchased is another thing altogether.
So, when creating an adult chocolate offer, sensual, premium and emotive cues are far more likely to capture the imagination of a shopper craving ‘indulgent me time’. After all, the category language for this segment wasn’t established by accident. The trick here is to apply the visual language in a unique way, one that highlights your brand’s unique point of difference.
As mentioned, category language usually evolves as the best means to address a specific consumer need. So if you’re a market leader, chances are that the category language you have helped create and develop, is working for you. Building on that language, and linking it to your brand’s offer is far more powerful.
Another instance where category language can work in your favor arises when there is a need to re-assure consumers. For example, a new beer label that includes embellishment, detail and craft cues that evoke a brewing tradition is probably more likely to gain the trust of drinkers.
Similarly, when Vitasoy revamped their entry level Soy Milky range they looked to reassure consumers by using familiar cues. Soy Milky targets the growing numbers of people who for health or lifestyle reasons are finding traditional milk a little hard to swallow. The new packaging strongly leverages familiar dairy cues; green pastures, blue skies and a delicious milk splash, and serves to reassure consumers that this product is closer in taste to dairy milk.
B Brand Design
B Brand Design is a strategic packaging agency driven to achieving brilliant brand outcomes.
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