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Consumer Packaged Goods

How CPG Brands Can Win At Shelf


Branding Strategy Insider helps marketing oriented leaders and professionals like you build strong brands. To that end we’re happy to answer your marketing questions. Today we hear from Bill, a Senior Brand Manager in Chicago, Illinois who writes…

I’m a long time reader who will be attending The Un-Conference. My question — After an initial success of our functional beverage product introduction, we have experienced a drop in sales within the retail channel. Our prices are competitive with other brands. We believe our label describing our functional benefits may no longer be resonating with consumers. We’ve tested various descriptive words in various decorative packaging design themes. We came away with a lot of information about what words and designs people like–but no useful information revealing why our brand is losing momentum and sales. What would you suggest we do next?”

Thanks for your question Bill. Fixing words on your packaging that need fixing is an easy thing to do. Influencing consumers to reach for your product at shelf rather than the other alternative is a very difficult thing to do. It’s tempting to go for the quick tactical fix – some clever copywriting and a few design tweaks. You must think bigger. To win the battle at shelf requires your product represent a greater, more valuable idea to the consumer than the words and decorations used on the label to describe its function and benefits.

Consumers must value “the reason to believe” your promise. Certainly, product attributes, functions and benefits form the building blocks that differentiate one thing from another. Being different from your competitors is not enough to win at shelf.

Consumers demand and expect products to function and deliver the promised benefits. Today everything is good. On the shelf, good = the same. Abundant choice and clutter has made today’s consumers deaf and blind. They’re immune to buzz words, descriptors, starbursts and flashy colors. To win at shelf requires your product represent a higher ideal steeped in shared values and a greater experience. If it doesn’t, it better be the cheapest price. (If that is not a goal — re-focus)

To get consumers reaching for your brand rather than your competitors requires they hold a perception in their mind of a desired experience that’s difficult to substitute.

If the product doesn’t represent a higher ideal and is functionally the same as everything else, copywriting and graphic design, no matter how clever and cool, won’t be effective in building long term sales growth and brand value even if you win some design awards.

To win at shelf consider these points:

  • Forget about features and benefits, they are most likely antes in the category. Reconnect your brand team with the core purpose and higher ideal the product was created for in the first place (besides making money).
  • What does your product represent to people that is highly valued and difficult for them to replace. Craft a clear and relevant value proposition based on that.
  •  Find out who really cares about this proposition and why. Determine if these people represent a sizable market opportunity for your product to grow on and win their advocacy.
  •  Develop a compelling positioning idea that focuses your organization and your marketing resources on the “one thing” your brand can own in the mind. This is the art of sacrifice. Define a high value target consumer segment and aim your creativity and marketing resources only at them.
  • Craft a relevant and credible story of value that people you serve really care about. Build your brand storytelling platform on the higher ideal rather than functional features and benefits.
  • Design product packaging around the primary ideal and experience your high value consumers really care about.
  • Rinse and repeat for future product introductions.

Bill, we wish the best for your brand at shelf. See you in San Diego.

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How CPG Brands Can Win At Shelf