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Natural Products Branding and Packaging Redesign

By David Edmundson

Consumers in North America are waking up—I am one of them. We are increasingly trading up to better quality products and becoming more aware of our health and wellness. All-Natural and Organic food brands are becoming mainstream—consistently growing 2.5 times faster than conventional CPG brands. Whole Foods has major competition now that Kroger, Publix, Target and Walmart are investing heavily in their all-natural and organic store brands.

Sounds good right? What’s the bad news? Well, for one, it’s more competitive than ever. Remember the last Expo West you attended? In the battle for shelf space, how can you increase your market share and prevent losses due to intelligent newcomers or big players with huge marketing budgets? How can you wisely invest your limited marketing resources and get the most bang for your buck? One proven approach is to redesign your branding and packaging. How can you be sure it will increase sales? Will you lose hard earned brand equity or will it serve as a foundation to build on?

Based on new insights from the SPINS and Pure Branding Natural Products Marketing Benchmark Report 2015, packaging redesign, as part of a larger rebranding effort, pays off for most. Within the past year 62% of the natural product marketers had gone through a packaging redesign of some kind. Between 4 and 6 months after, 54% experienced an increase in sales. Compare that to 16% with no change, 2% with decreased sales and 28% who were not sure. If a new brand strategy and packaging redesign is what you decide to invest in this year, consider these 7 tips to improve your chances of success.

1. Be Authentic

To prevent your brand from drowning in the sea of sameness, you need to make sure your packaging is a true manifestation of your brand promise. Does your branding and packaging express it in the blink of an eye? Are you clearly articulating the product benefits as well as what’s not included? Consumers are skeptical and looking for the truth because of issues of obesity, health, nutrition, origin, sustainability, freshness and food safety. An example of an authentic brand story expressed well is Clif Bar created by Gary Erickson. A baker and former mountain bike guide, Erickson got the idea for his product on a day-long, 175 bike ride, for which he packed a variety of energy bars. He discovered a need and delivered a solution because he lived the lifestyle. The idea didn’t come from a corporate board room meeting. Clif Bar is an authentic brand that continues to lead the growing food bar category. What’s your true brand story?

2. Know Your Target Audience

Do you really know who your customer is? Is there a new emerging audience that shares your brand values that you could also be connecting with? How can you redesign your brand identity and packaging to connect with new customers while staying relevant with the one’s who’ve been there? These are good questions to ponder as you consider how to grow your brand and stay competitive. Most global brands are targeting millennials because they’re about 80 million strong in the U.S. There’s also tons of research on segments of this generation that might be a good fit for your brand. EVOL foods, for instance, seems to be targeting this younger, hipper generation with messages like “Taste Rules! All Natural Frozen Burritos and Meals.” They have an image of a burrito in a microwave with a prominent headline over it that states, “R(EVOL)UTION” with the EVOL logo cleverly placed within it. They aren’t shy in presenting their brand values and standing for what they believe in: “Bring down the broken food system. One bite at a time” and “Our cows live better than most college students.” How can you inspire your audiences with your branding?

3. Feed the Movement

There’s a revolution in the North American food system and consumers are fighting with their wallets. We’ve got grass roots, Non-GMO, Just-Label-It campaigns losing by slight margins against millions of dollars spent by the opposition. Consider the popularity of documentaries like Food, Inc, Food Matters and GMO OMG that are educating us on the facts that the establishment doesn’t want us to know. Social media is a powerful tool for the movement. How can you use the free media of your packaging to continue to inspire the cause? What brilliant ideas can you come up with like Clif Bar’s #MeetTheMoment campaign? It’s time to give them an inspired reason to connect with your brand.

4. Be Unique, but Not a Freak

Since the natural products business is booming, retail competition is fierce. How do you continue to attract consumers’ attention on the shelf? Be radically different right? Well, yes and no. By presenting a disruptive, visual anomaly compared to the context of the category, you will most definitely attract people’s attention. But will your brand’s visual voice be relevant to your target audience and express your brand promise? Imagine you walk into a bar hoping to attract the attention of the young professionals who frequent the place. I can guarantee that most eyes will be on you if you storm in with a pink mohawk, facial tattoos and a studded leather jacket. But will your packaging be relevant to the target audience of young professionals? I don’t think so. The same is true for how you package your brand. You need to be aware of the category cues as well as your target audience. Then develop packaging concepts that help your brand rise above the noise within that context.

5. Know Your Competitors

Big brands, store brands, start-ups. The world of all-natural & organic brands is constantly evolving. There’s an entrepreneurial spirit that keeps things fresh and alive. When’s the last time you investigated who your competition has become? How many new competitors will be present at Expo West? You need to know who you’re competing with for retail shelf space so you can strategically evolve your branding and packaging to maintain and grow your market share. If you can invest a small amount in market research, I recommend the report from Packaged Facts called “Natural and Organic Foods & Beverages in the U.S.” It will help you plan the growth of your share of the pie where retail sales grew to be $53.5 billion dollars in 2014.

6. Justify Your Price Premium

According to the SPINS and Pure Branding Natural Products Marketing Benchmark Report 2015, the biggest external challenge faced in marketing natural or organic products is justifying the price premium. How can a redesigned branding and packaging system help persuade consumers to pay a premium price? You need to balance the need for more consumer benefits on the pack with a clean, upscale aesthetic. This balancing act is not easy but when done properly can help persuade shoppers to spend more on your product versus other brands. It’s also imperative that your brand promise is expressed clearly so consumers immediately get your value proposition. Another idea is to walk through your local grocery store looking for what visually communicates premium in other categories. Take pictures. Be stealth-like because it’s frowned upon in most cases. Share your findings with your branding and packaging team so they can factor in your inspiration early on in the process and develop concepts that help tell your brand’s premium story.

7. Measure Your ROI

How will you know if all your efforts to redesign your branding and packaging were a success? You need to measure your sales before and after a redesign. It sounds like common sense but over 28% of those who redesigned their branding and packaging didn’t know if sales had increased or not. The odds are in your favor that a rebranding and repackaging will increase sales but you’ll never know the value of the investment until you measure it. How long after a redesign should you measure? Based on the SPINS and Pure Branding Natural Products Marketing Benchmark Report 2015, it’s wise to measure a few moments in time. Within the first 3 months, between 4 and 6 months and again between 7 months and 1 year. You can also measure sales between 1 and 2 years to determine when it’s time for another redesign to stay competitive with the ever changing natural product landscape. There’s too much at stake to not know.

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