How CPG Brands are Strategizing for the Gig Economy

The major disruption caused by platforms of the new gig economy (ie. Uber, AirBnB, Etsy) has been widely reported, and it’s still too early to fully understand the long-term implications that it will have for relevant industries. Robert Reich, former labor secretary, called the shift “the biggest change in the American workforce in over a century” and reaffirmed its unpredictability. What we do know is that these sorts of platforms are impacting increasingly diverse fields, and that companies are facing the prospect of either conforming or becoming obsolete. After several years of the gig economy going strong, CPG brands are finally responding and catching up.

 

 

In mid-May, Mars began recruiting event hosts for a new multilevel marketing campaign called “The Cocoa Exchange”. In the vein of Avon or Mary Kay, “curators” buy kits of samples to push at parties, and are awarded a percentage of any online sales that result from it. Mars has collaborated with chefs to create a unique line of products specifically for The Cocoa Exchange, meant to pair well with wine and suit a party atmosphere better than the company’s existing options.

 

Direct selling like this, Mars has said, has been a fairly safe and profitable channel for the past five or six decades. Additionally, this strategy plays into two well-documented facets of millennial economic behavior – first, the “obvious demand” (as Mars put it) for opportunities to earn supplemental income, and second, millennials’ propensity to invest more in experiences than in material goods. These factors combined convinced Mars that an interactive, entrepreneurial program like The Cocoa Exchange would be able to thrive.

 

 

Other companies are taking inspiration directly from popular digital platforms. Deliv, for instance, is a five-year-old startup that works with major retailers to deliver in-store purchases directly to customers using crowdsourced labor. Known as “Uber for the retail industry”, Deliv has managed to avoid the turbulent legal environment that rideshare services have faced because they don’t compete with regulated industries, unlike Uber and Lyft, which have been accused of threatening taxi services. Deliv has enabled companies like Williams-Sonoma and Bloomingdale’s to offer an added-value service to their consumers and aide in competing against companies that deal primarily in e-commerce, for whom home delivery is a major selling point.

 

 

Some retailers – like Macy’s – are collaborating with gig platforms to offer new experiences to a shared consumer base. Last year the Herald Square Macy’s (the company’s NYC flagship store) hosted a pop-up Etsy shop in an area of the store known as “One Below”, a section meant to appeal to millennial shoppers. At any given time, the shop featured around fifty products (including things like household goods and jewelry, which Macy’s also sells) that were constantly rotated out in order to conform to a specific theme. Prior to working with Macy’s, Etsy also collaborated on smaller projects with retailers like Nordstrom and Whole Foods.

 

Another strategy that CPG brands are taking on is challenging gig platforms for talent. According to an article published this month by the London School of Economics, self-employment is increasingly common among those who traditionally have a difficult time transitioning back into the workforce, namely stay-at-home parents and retirees. In order to retain skilled workers and prevent flexible gig platforms from absorbing these types of candidates, many CPG companies are implementing return-to-work programs. Pepsico has been a leader in this with their “Ready to Return” initiative, which accepts professionals who have taken a career break for more than two years and provides them with ten paid weeks of coaching and mentoring before they start their new position. On their career site, Pepsico tellingly specifies that they are seeking associates who can “make an impact in the Age of Disruption”.

 

Economists and commentators also refer to the gig economy as the “on-demand” economy, especially when discussing it from a consumer behavior perspective. Similar to the concept of “McDonaldization” that was so popular a few years ago, the idea now is that companies like Uber are conditioning users to expect quick and easy service from completely unrelated industries. Amazon is also largely responsible for the on-demand economy, and big box stores are strategizing for how to compete. For example, Wal-mart just opened their first automated 24-hour pickup kiosk, which allows customers to place online orders (of at least $30) and pick them up at a designated kiosk in-store. Last year, they directly partnered with Uber and Lyft for a home delivery pilot program, comparable to what Deliv currently offers. Now with Amazon’s startling announcement that they have decided to purchase Whole Foods, retailers are feeling the heat more than ever, and we should expect to see even bolder experiments from unsettled competitors.

 

 

In an article for Food Dive, industry reporter Keith Loria warned against transitioning to independent contractor-based hiring practices, as some food companies may be tempted to do. After all, companies like Uber don’t have to pay for employee benefits, nor do they have to pay for downtime. However, Loria said, the food manufacturing industry can be physically dangerous for those not appropriately trained, as improper storage and cleanup can lead to serious health concerns for both workers and consumers. Many within the industry feel that this is too big of a risk compared to the rewards offered by making the change. Further, it is important to note that Uber and companies like it have come under fire for what has been perceived as a lack of corporate and social responsibility. Many young shoppers are paying close attention to the way that companies treat their employees, and throwing away prized benefits like retirement savings plans and health insurance could potentially lead to problems with public image.

 

The gig economy has already radically disrupted service industries like transportation and hospitality, and it is gradually creeping into the CPG sphere. Its presence is still relatively new there, and brands should learn from what has happened within the service sector and prepare themselves for what’s to come.

 

Redesigns and Refreshes: Why Change is Crucial

 

Each year, new design trends emerge. It’s important for businesses to keep up with these changes in order to remain competitive, and those that are really good at it can even position themselves as change leaders within their industry. As our Director of Business Development, Kory Grushka, put it: “Be very curious and stay on top of the latest trends and news – particularly in your industry, but also outside of it.”

Adjusting to Fit the Times

 

 

 

 

 

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory completely rebranded their packaging and store design to better fit in with today’s aesthetic style and feel. Graphic design studio, Wedge & Lever, took advantage of the new chocolate culture by giving the branding an upscale feel, with a color palette inspired by the chocolate itself.

Rebranding Efforts Often Lead to Huge Success

 

If a brand has become outdated, is declining in sales, or needs to stand apart from the competition, then a rebrand can provide the facelift they need to bring the right attention to the product. Rebranding also keeps customers interested and shows them that people are still hard at work behind the scenes making sure the product is the best out there.

 

Target proved this when they updated their generic Market Pantry packaging to give it a hip, trendy vibe. It now feels like a standalone brand, rather than an affordable generic pick.

 

Each product has its own detailed packaging, down to the type. The heavy typography feels fresh, like something that could be seen on a Brooklyn storefront. The badges for health feel like modern stamps now, instead of boring nutrition facts or your typical callout.

 

 

The Crunchy Oats & Honey Granola Bars now have honey dripping onto the top of the type. With the Toasted Rounds Baked Crackers, the “O” and the round portion of the “D” have treatment that feels like the edge of the cracker. The mixed fruit flavored snacks now have the typography as the teeth of smiling grapes to appeal to kids. On the Woven Wheat crackers box, the type is written so that it looks like parts are weaving in the crackers.

 

Some products (like the marshmallows) are transparent with only the logo and bold type showing, letting the product be the star of the show, and saving ink at the printer in the process. Other products, such as the butter, half and half, cottage cheese, and American singles have very flat packaging focusing on the typography alone.

Holiday Packaging

 

Changing packaging to fit a holiday, theme, or season can lead to huge profits. It can make your product stand apart from the competition and help build brand loyalty with your target audience.

Learn to Accept Change

 

 

While redesigning Campbell Soup Company’s V8 packaging, our research process included multiple store visits to each of the three club store retailers, significant desktop research and interviews of club store industry experts. Further, we audited cross-category products as well as the beverage category, and conducted extensive color studies that ultimately informed the variety differentiation strategy. The final designs focused on color blocking, bold callouts for the brand, varieties and pack sizes, and photo-realistic 3D renderings of the products.

Change can be scary, and with the risks that it carries, it’s easy to see why. But with a clear vision and full understanding of trends and modernity, the resulting redesign should successfully bring a design into the present day.

The Rise of Minimalism in Package Design

The trend for minimalist package design continues to pick up steam, be it forgoing lots of wording, using simplistic designs, going without labels, or even utilizing materials that are plain and simple.

Many companies are opting for clear-cut product labels, which allow consumers to easily identify and differentiate the brands from others on the market. In an era of information overload, savvy CPG brands are realizing that their customers appreciate minimal packaging.

Matt Ramirez, senior designer with Adhere Creative, an inbound marketing and brand development agency in Houston, Texas, said it’s strict limitations or restrictions that sparks creativity.

“Minimalism is the style of the day. Companies can still bend it to fit our needs whether we use color, typography, or simple flat graphics instead of images to stand out,” he said. “Having a roadblock forces us to think up creative ways around it. Having to stand out from the pack with less and less to work with is just another roadblock designers have to think around in a creative way.”

Marketing veteran David Miskin, CMO of Lightstone, first applied the minimalist attitude doing window displays while working at the Gap, and he’s seen minimalism rise in importance over the decades.

 

“I think everybody is familiar with the term ‘less is more.’ It’s important to realize, though, that design is not about less or emptiness, it’s about impact,” he said. “A minimalist philosophy doesn’t just spare space; the designer works using pieces that tell a story. By focusing on what is essential, a designer can better exemplify a company’s or brand’s narrative by focusing on a few points that make a big difference.”

Looking at traditional advertising—whether it was print, television, or billboards—Miskin noted there was such a dominant design across all mediums from the ’60s to the ’80s, that it got to a point where there was so much clutter that designers needed to go to the other end of the spectrum and clean palates again, starting from the basics to develop new concepts.

“In fact, many modern offices have employed streamline, to varying degrees, using negative space to tell the story of their brand,” he said. “In addition, this approach has led to greater productivity, collaboration, and ideas.”

Going Minimalist

 

Some of the design elements that can help contribute to a minimalism feel include using lots of white space, bringing out a message on a small portion of the packaging; relying on bold colors and visibly appealing fonts; or using a simple photo that tells the story you want to tell.

Still, minimalism doesn’t have to be a white background with a gray apple in the middle, either. It can be an orange box with a white swoosh or even a burger made out of the simple bars of the letter “E” in the word “whopper.” All are examples of minimalism however, they use the style in very different ways.

“Color, space, shape, and typography are all very important tools we have at our disposal to make brands stand out and look different while using the same trend to communicate our message,” Ramirez said. “Having a well-thought-out brand identity is an essential tool that we must never forget about. Pepsi and Coca-Cola both use minimalism with simple packaging and on the bottles themselves. However, never in a million years could someone mix them up because they have vastly different typography, colors, and overall brands.”

Miskin said that consistency within a brand is important when pursuing a minimalistic strategy, and the elements of the minimalistic design should be across the board.
“A brand needs to know who they are and not stray too far from their formula,” he said. “By not drifting from their identity, consumers will become loyalists who seek out a brand, quickly recognizing them in a retail space.”

Le Labo, for example, designs all of its fragrance brands in the same way.

“If you look at their packaging, it’s consistent: minimalist across all scents,” Miskin said. “Maison Margiela is a stand-out fashion brand with minimal store build-outs and packaging. Their stores’ design features include books painted white, scraps of wood, reclaimed fixtures, and a consistent grit throughout the stores. Just by going to that white, clean place, they developed such a strong brand.”

Minimalism in Action

 

Another great way to get the most out of a minimalist design is to let a label make eye-catching, bold claims, such as Boxed Water, which simply has “Boxed Water is Better” written in black against a white background.

It was a decision that company CEO Daryn Kuipers said was important to getting its message in front of consumers. Furthermore, the company put great thought into its packaging materials, again opting for a minimalist approach.

“By packaging our premium water in recyclable cartons that ship flat to our regional fillers, Boxed Water minimizes our carbon footprint and increases efficiency compared to bottled water options,” Kuipers said. “The paper for our cartons is sourced from trees of well-managed forests, where new trees are continuously planted to replace the ones harvested.”

 

 

Vodka Mariette is a premium French spirit designed for bold and creative millennial women and a minimalist design was accomplished in-house by Winz Hospitality with assistance from design firm MX Landau.

“To differentiate, an antique neckless carafe was designed in a shape reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower and/or a woman’s body,” said Josh Winzelberg, Vodka Mariette’s president. “It was made completely matte black, opposed to ornate glossy or frosted bottles that are common. Rather than painted décor, a label of quality paper was opted for, similar to wines and champagnes that convey craftsmanship and class.”

Furthermore, the fonts expressed a general contrast, creating the aesthetic of the brand, which is French Modern.

“The female-oriented style of contemporary minimalism with homage to history and craft via details is truly relevant now as a hallmark for the changing landscape of luxury spirits,” Winzelberg said. “This gives the bottle a ‘fresh’ look many others lack.”

The philosophy of minimalism is to omit needless things, so by paring down packaging materials and pairing down the visual aspects of the design, a brand can do wonders and send a big message by doing what’s seen as little.

 

Top 5 Examples of Visual Texture

Visual texturing can be used to create unique, eye-catching packaging designs, through the exploration of layers, photography, illustration, and key graphic elements. This type of design plays off of elements of touch to connect with customers on a deeper level, building both general curiosity and brand loyalty. When done correctly, textural packaging can leap off the shelves, further enticing customers (particularly those who are attracted to abstract designs).

What Is Visual Texture?

Visual texture is not quite the same as actual texture. Actual texture is something you can feel, such as wood. Visual texture, on the other hand, is only implied texture using particular styles of design, such as marbling, layered texts and graphics, patterns, colors, lines, dots, or other repeated shapes.

Caribou Coffee

 

Caribou Coffee was looking for a new design that serves as “an evolution that leverages the distinct qualities of the previous packaging while incorporating new art work and design elements.” Colle + McVoy accomplished this with a burlap sack façade, which stands apart from other coffee options by simply giving the illusion of a different texture.

La Forma Saporita

 

 

This conceptual design – created by Yanko Djarov for his final bachelor’s thesis project – deserves to be mentioned for its successful use of visual texture throughout the branding. La Forma Saporita means “the tasty shape” in Italian, which is used to inspire the branding and packaging. The textural quality of the pasta is highlighted so that the design practically jumps off the branding and packaging. The design also uses a monochromatic theme to better highlight the colors of the pasta, which is also unlike most other colorful pasta packaging on the market.

Isle of Harris Gin

 

Stranger & Stranger added texturing to the Isle of Harris packaging, designed to reflect the unique colors and shapes of the landscape. It also represents a physical approach to texture design, as it entices consumers to pick it up and touch it. It stands apart without requiring a complicated (or costly) design or materials.

 

Lawyer’s House Wine

 

 

Brandient designed the new Lawyer’s House Wine packing, which serves as the perfect example of textural packaging using a simple sticker. The bottle is meant to appear like it is wearing a men’s dinner jacket using a pinstripe pattern, folded sticker, and small red handkerchief. It gives off a feeling of elegance from the shelf and is the perfect gift to take to any dinner party or client meeting.

Alternative Organic Wine

 

 

This concept created by The Creative Method offers an upscale design by focusing on the different textures found in nature. The labels use all organic packaging, from the raw twine, vine leads, and balsa wood to the inks, string, and wax used on the organic paper wrapping. Awarded the “Best In Show” at the Dieline Package Design Awards, the packaging is meant to focus on the premium nature of organic products, rather than focusing simply on the pureness of it. Along with serving as the perfect gift for any host, textural packaging designs like this one also offer a great talking point.

Amazon Squares Off Against Big Box Retailers

 

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Earlier this year, Amazon reportedly began reaching out to several major consumer product brands, telling them that they’d be better off ditching retailers and selling their goods directly to shoppers through its service.

Amazon’s outreach culminated with executives from General Mills, Mondelez, Nike and other packaged goods manufacturers gathering for a three-day summit in Seattle this month to listen to the company’s innovative pitch.

Analysts point out that with a user base of more than 300 million shoppers (a number that increases monthly), Amazon doesn’t necessarily need these brands to bite – that they could simply manufacture their own products if the CPG companies don’t want to sell on Amazon’s marketplace. For companies that wish to avoid competing with the e-commerce goliath, it makes sense to consider leaving the Walmarts and Targets of the world.

An Increase in E-Commerce

 

AMAZON

 

Randy Evins, senior principal of IVE Food Drug & Convenience at SAP Retail, said e-commerce sales are growing at rates far greater than sales through traditional channels, and is only just beginning to indicate future growth potential.

For example, recent studies show that e-commerce sales of consumer packaged goods grew 42% in 2015, faster than overall e-commerce growth of 30%.  And growth in specific categories is surging as consumers increasingly take advantage of on-demand and subscription-oriented services, either direct from CPG companies like Dollar Shave Club or from online marketplaces like Amazon.

“Fast growth in e-commerce is starting from a relatively low current base, but is expected to become a far more significant percentage of total revenue and sales volume for CPG companies,” he said. “While e-commerce today is usually less than 5% of revenue for some of the largest, most established brands, we see predictions that e-commerce sales will grow to roughly 30% of total industry revenue within the next 3-5 years.”

In 2016, Amazon sales made up nearly half of all online sales—and more than half of online sales growth.

Mihir Kittur, ‎co-founder and chief commercial officer at Ugam, noted that the rise of e-commerce sales in certain categories like batteries and baby wipes is extremely encouraging, and that it seems to reaching a point where e-commerce for consumer packaged goods is at an inflection.

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“With the rise of Alexa, chatbots and mobile apps, consumers have more convenient ways to order. Customers have proved time and time again they crave convenience, so to align with their needs, retailers are also continuing to offer speed delivery services and are improving their buy-online-pickup-in-store options,” he said. “Consumers can also save more money now, thanks to the rise of private label CPG products. In the next two years, we should see an acceleration of e-commerce growth for CPG.”

The Case For Amazon

 

The e-commerce transformation seems inevitable. By partnering with Amazon, companies will find that it’s a much faster and less expensive alternative to doing it themselves, which means higher margins on sales.  Amazon, being a single vendor, would be easier to manage with almost a turnkey platform with joint marketing dollars to promote products. It would also be easier and less costly to test products in markets, so CPG companies could double down on winning products and discontinue products that don’t sell.

“Amazon’s approach goes well beyond simply inviting CPG companies to sell their products online via Amazon but, rather, to partner with Amazon to re-imagine product design, packaging, pricing and distribution to capitalize on direct-to-consumer growth opportunities,” Evins said. “By partnering to address these opportunities, Amazon aspires to collaborate with CPG companies in ways that not only capitalize on e-commerce sales growth, but also help to re-imagine business models and business processes to engage with consumers directly, effectively and profitably.”

Jim Prewitt, VP retail industry strategy, North America at JDA Software, said CPGs have been building out their direct to consumer capabilities for the past several years and while they’ve been able to build out their web capabilities, fulfillment continues to be a challenge.

Amazon Fulfillment Center Opens In San Bernardino

“CPG manufacturers’ supply chains have been built for efficiency, shipping in larger quantities typically to retailer distribution centers, where the retailer became responsible for breaking it down to customer buying quantities,” he said. “They are facing the challenge of changing their supply chain to be able to handle shipping eaches to the consumers.”

Amazon could help address the challenges for the manufacturers by serving as their fulfillment mechanism, taking the responsibility of shipping eaches to the consumer. On the surface this is potentially a winning combination for the CPGs and Amazon. However, it could cause issues for the other retailers in the equation.

“The pressure from mass merchants, grocery, drug, etc., who comprise large percentages of current CPG volumes could derail this effort quickly,” Prewitt said. “It’s not reasonable to expect that major big box stores would accept this arrangement with Amazon.”

The Quandary

 

CPG firms are struggling to figure out Amazon, Kittur said. While Amazon is the dominant player in the market, most companies are confused on whether to treat it as a friend or a foe.

“The fear is that selling on Amazon could lead to brand dilution, extreme price discounting, and at some point the risk of an Amazon Private label,” he said. “Another point of concern is the conflicts that arise with existing channels when sellers begin to carry their products on the Amazon marketplace. Overall, CPG brands seem to have good relationships in place with store retailers, but their e-commerce readiness is not as mature.”

As the CPG industry adopts e-commerce, they are more or less running blind, as they have no clear idea on transaction and shopper metrics. Adding to the challenge is that CPG firms are soon likely to be caught in a pricing dog-fight between Walmart and Amazon.

“Amazon needs to improve its trust with CPG firms. Amazon can gain some of that back by flagging pricing violations to CPG firms,” Kittur said. “In many instances Amazon has taken action against some sellers and it needs to continue to demonstrate this in a more widespread manner. It also needs to work with brands on specific propositions for certain customer segments like Amazon Business or on exclusive available-on-Amazon-only products to help them drive growth.”

Looking Ahead

 

CPG companies have begun to take a closer look at the e-commerce landscape to better understand what is going on, but so far, they have been in a situation of “they don’t know what they don’t know.”

Operations Inside the Amazon.com Fulfillment Center On Cyber Monday

“They will need to move fast and test and iterate their e-commerce game plan,” Kittur said.  “There are no clear answers, but doing nothing is not an option. They will also need to build meaningful relationships with companies like Amazon and arrive at the right balance of store and online to be relevant to their shoppers.”

E-commerce growth will continue to become more pervasive across categories, driven mainly by changes in consumer demand. Evins noted that in response, CPG companies will continue to transform their operations to participate more fully in the new direct-to-consumer economy through partnerships with online marketplaces like Amazon, or by developing new models that enable a consistent brand experience via online channels, sub-24-hour order processing and fulfillment, and warehouse and logistics operations to enable deliveries directly to consumers.

One tactic Prewitt said could happen is the creation of Amazon-only products, package sizes, or bundles, similar to what CPG companies do for individual retailers today.

“Since Amazon has identified CPG as a growth driver, in time we can expect them to impact the marketplace the way they’ve disrupted apparel and are working to disrupt the grocery industry currently,” he said.

The reality is that the CPG core competency is innovating on the product side, not on the supply chain side. It’s best for CPG companies to leave it to the online retailers to optimize their supply chain to deal with the last mile.

Brand Stories: Buzzfeed

BuzzFeed is an American “social news and entertainment company” with a focus on digital media and digital technology. It has expanded from quizzes and lists to become the “first true social news organization”. What is now “the web’s most beloved new media brand” was once a small “viral lab” side project for founder Jonah Peretti. Since the inception in 2006, they’ve also progressed from kittens and internet memes to serious reporting (with plenty of kittens and internet memes still sprinkled in).

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While they commit the majority of their resources to videos and entertainment, BuzzFeed News has also become a trusted, engaging news source for millennials. The site tackles hard-hitting issues and presents them in layman’s terms, and their coverage of last year’s campaign season was so well received that CNN poached an entire Buzzfeed investigative team in October.

 

It All Started with a Chain of Emails

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Source

 The idea for BuzzFeed started early on when Peretti was communicating with a Nike representative after they denied his request to customize a pair of shoes with the word “sweatshop” on it. He forwarded the email chain of messages exchanged with Nike to 12 friends around the globe. The email chain was forwarded on and went viral. Peretti was flooded with media inquiries regarding the viral messages, as well as his stance on labor practices.

After working with Arianna Huffington to launch the Huffington Post in 2005, Jonah Peretti decided to form BuzzFeed in 2006. He always had an interest in how and why people share things through the web and experimented with viral projects.

BuzzFeed Labs first experimented with BuzzBot, which used algorithms to message users with targeted links. They also used a site to highlight some popular links that BuzzBot found, but the company wouldn’t hit its true stride until they hired human editors.

 

Finding Success Through Social Media

 

Successful social media marketing, social sharing, and content creation can have a tremendous effect on any business. BuzzFeed is a prime example of this. They found enormous success by focusing more on sharable content, rather than trying to stay within Google’s stringent guidelines. Finding content that users want to share with their friends and family has always been BuzzFeed’s ultimate goal.

 

Avoiding Banner Ads

 

While many sites rely primarily on banner ads for income, BuzzFeed doesn’t have a single banner ad on its site. Instead, they generate revenue by working directly with brands’ chief marketing officers to create unique advertising campaigns that people will want to share and talk about. They have been remarkably successful in using content as the primary advertising strategy.

 

Branding You Can’t Ignore

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The bold red logo and simplistic, clean design and user interface are hard to ignore amongst an ocean of Old English-type news source branding. The bright yellow buttons featuring fun, social buttons like “WTF”, “LOL”, and “OMG” in place of the standard “Like” makes the site feel more like a gossip mag than Peretti’s original venture, The Huffington Post (which is now commonly known as HuffPost). The red trending arrow icon from the BuzzFeed logo is also used to represent when something is trending or “buzzing” to give further meaning to the logo.

 

The Future of BuzzFeed

 

BuzzFeed Community allows BuzzFeeders to now contribute content to the site that’s approved by editors. This allows BuzzFeed to capitalize on free sharable content. In order to stay successful, Peretti said, “we have to continually surprise people, we’ll have to continually evolve and change what we do”.

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Source

 After publishing an unverified dossier pertaining to Trump’s ties with Russia in January, Trump responded by deeming BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage”. But with a $1.5 billion valuation, over 200 million monthly unique visitors, and 75% of the traffic generated from social referrals, it doesn’t seem like BuzzFeed has anything to worry about.

Package Design Trend: Dramatic Callouts

As consumers become more resolute in their preferences for trends that have been growing over the past few years (“simple” ingredients, environmentally-friendly production practices, etc.), brands are responding by dramatically highlighting these traits in their packaging. This has proved successful for many breakout brands, and this strategy should be considered in order to show potential consumers that their needs are the primary concern of the company.

rxbar

 

Protein bar manufacturer RXBAR took a pretty big gamble when they shrunk their logo by 60% in their 2017 package redesign. Their risk paid off enormously – by making the ingredients (which are easy for buyers to understand, a valued feature for modern shoppers) the star of the design, they launched their product into third place in its category.

 chia

KIND chose a similar strategy with their line of pressed bars, minimizing their brand name in order to free up room for the ingredients to shine. The company states that each bar adds two servings off fruit to one’s daily routine, and that the snack is made with just fruit and vegetables or fruit and chia. The packaging callouts emphasize this “simple” makeup.

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This packaging from design agency mousegraphics reads like a recipe, taking what RXBAR has done a step further. While the funky hand-drawn typeface is a little difficult to read, the flavors are easily distinguished because whichever ingredient is most present in each bar gets a corresponding color and small illustration at the bottom. The project won a 2017 Dieline Award for Outstanding Achievement.

halotop

Halo Top majorly disrupted the ice cream category with its loud display of its outrageously low calorie count. The treat is made with stevia instead of sugar, meaning that the brand is able to differentiate themselves from fatty, indulgent competitors. Here, this fact is the hero of the packaging, as the calories-per-pint count is the first thing that draws the consumer’s eye.

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Water for Change, which donates 10 liters of water to villagers in need for every carton purchased, won an A’Design Award for this packaging. The hand-to-hand illustration clearly calls out the value that the product offers beyond its basic function, and floating words like “eco friendly” and “sustainable” further express the image of environmental health that the brand is trying to promote.

 

 

The Present and Future of Alcohol

Alcohol is a multibillion-dollar market in the US, one that must constantly evolve in order to keep up with changing consumer needs. The category has seen some serious innovation so far this year, and our understanding of where the industry is now has provided us with some pretty significant clues as to where we can expect it to go in the near future.

The Present: Millennials Don’t Have Brand Loyalty

 

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According to a recent Nielsen study, last month only 24% of millennials knew what brand they wanted to purchase when they entered a liquor store. This is in stark contrast to 52% of baby boomers, who tend to have more developed, concrete preferences in this category. The study also found that just 11% of millennials bought alcohol on impulse.

What This Means for the Future

 

Alcohol brands can look at millennials’ lack of brand loyalty as an opportunity to have greater influence in-store, which means more investment in assets like package design and in-store advertising. Additionally, brands can be expected to make stronger attempts at building relationships with consumers via social media engagement.

The Present: Heineken Just Debuted a Non-Alcoholic Beer

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Heineken just released “Heinken 0.0” in order to compete with industry giants like AB InBev, which has made it their goal for 20% of their beer to be low- or zero-alcohol within the next eight years. Non-alcoholic beer manufacturers are also seeing the product as a potential rival to soft drinks, which have been losing retail momentum to lower-calorie options (Heineken 0.0 has half the calories of Coca-Cola).

What This Means for the Future

 

Beer brands – as well as other alcohol manufacturers – are going to start considering the financial promise of alternative markets. While producing non-alcoholic beverages may seem like an odd departure from convention for Heineken, research has shown that the European market for non-alcoholic beer has grown over the past five years as the overall beer market shrank. In Spain, zero-alcohol beers have as much as 10% market share. The future of the alcohol industry is going to depend on identifying and supporting niche trends like this that show potential for going global.

 

The Present: “Poptails” are Taking Off in the US

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The recent trend of “sloshies” (frozen alcoholic slushies, usually with a white wine base) has now evolved into “poptails”, frozen alcoholic popsicles. Initially introduced into the UK market, the treat has just become available in the US through brands like FrutaPop. Each pop in this particular brand has 5% alcohol and comes in thirteen flavors, including Sparkling Prosecco, Cranberry Mojito, Pina Colada, Rum Punch, and White Coconut Sangria.

What This Means for the Future

 

Innovation in the alcohol industry is trending towards understanding the consumer’s environment. Both poptails and sloshies appeal to young people drinking outdoors – summertime parties, poolside lounging, and beach trips are all served well by these products. Additionally, freezing the drink allows brands to incorporate the kind of special cocktail features that one could find in a bar, like the sprig of mint encased in the boozy Watermelon Mint Lemonade Pop. Finding ways to include these types of added-value traits is going to be imperative for new product development.

 

The Present: e-Commerce is Changing the Game

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The explosion in popularity of both online shopping and subscription box services is affecting the way that alcohol brands are packaging their products. Bulky, heavy glass bottles were never especially ideal for shipping from warehouses to retail locations, and they are doubly impractical for direct mailing. UK startup Garcon Wines has been in the news lately for their ingenious flat bottle design, intended to make the wine easier to fit through a traditional English letterbox.

 What This Means for the Future

 

Alcohol manufacturers (particularly wine companies) will begin straying from classic bottle designs and will start looking towards new solutions that preserve the product in a lightweight, yet functional way. It can be as simple as following Garcon Wines’ example with more compact structures, or brands can go as far as Bota Box has with their award-winning cartons, which are both much lighter and far less prone to breaking than standard wine bottles.

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As more brands begin to focus their attention on e-commerce rather than retail, design strategy will move away from what looks best on the shelf and will instead consider what will provide the easiest means of quickly transporting the alcohol to the consumer.

 

Brand Equity is Overrated

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Andy Warhol once famously claimed that America’s tradition of mass production was what made it a great country. He said:

“You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke…all the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it…and you know it.”

This kind of thinking, that every unit of a product should be exactly alike forever, has been part of the foundation of branding strategy for decades. Consumers had, in the past, relied on consistency as a measure of quality. But in 2017, the relationship that shoppers have (and what they want to have) with the brands that they buy has changed. Consumers are less trusting of big brands, and overreliance on sameness may be costing companies business with modern shoppers who are looking for more personal experiences.

Even Coca-Cola, Warhol’s shining symbol of mass production, is embracing the trend towards customization in their bottle designs. They took a huge risk with their enormously successful “Share a Coke” campaign, where they replaced their legendary logo with 1,000 different names.

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Not only did this create a smart, personalized experience for consumers, it also showed that the company understood the need for branding that lends itself to social media engagement. A big part of the customization trend is that the evolving media landscape has transformed company-consumer interactions, so that there are more conversations and less one-way dialogue. The “Share a Coke” bottles made consumers feel excited about drinking something that has been in their family’s fridge for generations, and by risking their brand equity, Coca-Cola saw soft drink sales rise more than 2%.

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The company has taken this concept one step further with their “It’s Mine” campaign. Using HP’s SmartStream Mosaic software, Coca-Cola produced millions of glass Diet Coke bottles, each with a completely unique design. Purchasing one of these bottles means owning the only Diet Coke in the world that looks the way that it does – no movie star or President can drink one like it. This is the future of branding.

When Tazo tea first came onto the scene in the 90’s, the spiritual, mythical look was considered innovative and modern — as The Dieline put it, the packaging “really represented the times”. For years Tazo was associated with that new-age image, and the design remained virtually unchanged for about two decades, even after the brand joined forces with Starbucks. Once the coffee giant completed their own redesign in 2012, they decided that it was time to bring Tazo into the new millennium. What was once a fun standout in the boring tea market was now corny and outdated, and nearly every visual element that defined Tazo was thrown out. In its place was a clean, white background,  with the flavors present in each variety clearly displayed in a neat little picture. The rebrand here was so successful because the company understood what was valuable about the product and maintained its spirit with the new look, while still being unafraid to go in a radically different direction than what fans were used to.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATazo pre-redesign

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Tazo post-redesign

What is also interesting about the redesign is that nowhere on the packaging does it make any claim to be affiliated with Starbucks. Starbucks is one of the most recognizable and beloved brands in the world, and if the company was trying to introduce the tea to a new generation, then the association could have been a potentially valuable asset. The fact that they distanced the packaging from the Starbucks brand could indicate how the company anticipated consumers may come to feel about big brands.

Unfortunately, years of pink slime exposés and soy chicken sandwich scares have conditioned consumers to be wary of brands that could be considered “Big Food”. Today’s shoppers are drawn to brands that seem to care about them and their families, and the reputation of national brands as a whole is that they care far more about finding ethical shortcuts in order to increase profits. One of the core tenets of brand equity is name association, and if all shoppers can think of is artificial flavors and hormones, then brand equity is worthless.

Hellmann’s has also recently had a redesign to better appeal to contemporary shoppers. The “deli-inspired” look and feel of the product gives off a more wholesome vibe, and the photographs of eggs play into consumers’ desire for fresh, easily understandable ingredients.

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The color palette isn’t an extraordinarily dramatic change from what Hellmann’s had before, but the jar does look different enough that many longtime buyers searching for that distinct yellow label will have a more difficult time finding it. Some may even abandon the brand altogether, afraid that Hellmann’s is either now “too fancy” for them or that the change in design signifies some kind of major difference in flavor. Hellmann’s knows that they face these risks, and yet has chosen to ditch their iconic packaging anyway in order to stay relevant.  Ultimately, relevance does matter more than consumer loyalty.

Some companies are forgoing their usual branding in order to compete in a specific local market. For example, Airbnb, which has been hugely successful in this new anti-big-brand economy, just announced that they are not even keeping their name consistent across all markets. In China, they are now calling themselves “Aibingyi”, which is meant to be easier for Chinese users to pronounce. While it is not unprecedented for businesses to change their names when entering different markets, Airbnb faces unique risks in that this could cost them users that travel internationally, a group that is quickly growing. If a frequent Airbnb user from Sweden is vacationing in Shanghai, they may overlook the unfamiliar Aibingyi.

Brand equity, while important, is overvalued by big brands. More than consistency, today’s shoppers value niche traits like individuality, freshness, and smallness. Scarred by many years of health scandals, consumers do not have faith in big brands that way that they used to, and brand recognition is no longer the coveted feature that it once was. In 2017, companies that hold on too tightly to their same old branding risk falling behind in the new economy.

How Packaging Can Tell a Story

Effective product packaging can shout from the shelves, even as they grow increasingly crowded. It can instantly answer any question that consumers might have, so that they easily understand the product. Packaging should tell the story of what makes the brand unique and what the product’s purpose is.

First Impressions Matter Most

Consumers are creatures of habit, so they tend to choose what they know and opt for familiar stories, recognizable brands, and engaging packaging. By conveying a story through packaging, a brand can feel more accessible and relatable, instantly building brand loyalty and enhancing the customer experience.

While you can use more than just the packaging to convey your story, the packaging is usually the first thing people see. Considering that the average first impression is made within seven seconds, it’s crucial to hook your customers immediately.

How to Tell Your Story

The packaging design needs to lead consumers where you want them to go, so they understand the story you’re trying to tell. Through the use of colors, materials, textures, type, and copy, your packaging can evoke certain feelings and emotions that draw consumers in.

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A picture is worth a thousand words, and packaging can speak volumes with no words at all. As an example, Scanwood instantly tells the story of the wood’s history with their simple, yet effective packaging design. The award-winning design from Goodmorning Technology Team appeals to global retail markets by telling a story without using words or any additional packaging. As the team put it: “This branded story is now visible and understandable across all different markets and languages”.

Know Your Target Audience

Once you know your target audience, your packaging needs to resonate with that group of people. For example, emphasizing that you run a family-owned business through approachable, “down home” packaging can entice your customers by making them feel like the product is more relatable and could have been made by someone like them.

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Stonyfield displays this perfectly with their storytelling packaging. By displaying cows grazing in an open field, they instantly tell the story of happy cows on a family ranch. It evokes positive feelings and emotions, making consumers more likely to choose it over the competition. By featuring one of the family farms that supplies milk for Stonyfield, Webb Scarlett de Vlam created packaging that Stonyfield feels “now reflects who we are and what we have stood for for over 25 years.”

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Coca-Cola is frequently referenced as one of the best examples of storytelling through branding and packaging. Their effective personalized packaging instantly encourages sharing with friends and weaves a story in the minds of consumers.

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Holiday and seasonal packaging is another great example of telling a story through packaging. By emphasizing the holiday or theme (such as adding a simple bow or wrapping), it makes the packaging feel special enough to share or gift with others.

Your packaging should share a story with potential consumers about what benefits the product can offer them. Taking the time to create a remarkable design can result in long-term profits, a loyal customer base, and an effective brand culture.