The Branding of Lab Grown Meat

Screen Shot 2016-12-07 at 1.52.17 PMLaboratory-grown meat is projected to hit grocery store shelves within the next few years, and the benefits are easy to understand. Meat that has been grown in a petri dish requires no animal slaughter, produces little waste, and results in the emission of 90% less greenhouse gases, among other environmental bonuses. The risk of contamination or undetected bacterial exposure is dramatically reduced, and, purportedly, it tastes basically the same as “real” meat.

There is one major problem that plagues researchers and developers, however – how to get people to actually eat it.

People are just naturally squeamish about eating meat that did not come from an animal, although it is technically generated from livestock cells. This is an especially stressful time for lab-grown meat to enter the market; all packaged food trends point towards more “natural” ingredients (real sugars, no chemical additives or antibiotics, etc.), a movement that is unlikely to relax any time soon. If General Mills can’t even get parents to buy cereal that has red #40 dye, how will manufacturers get them to buy chicken nuggets that were never part of a chicken?Screen Shot 2016-12-07 at 4.48.11 PMThe answer, of course, is branding. The lab-grown meat industry is very aware of public perception, and, as a result, has invented a new term that consumers may find easier to stomach: “clean meat”.

For example, Clara Foods, which produces chicken-less egg whites from genetically modified yeast, does not call its product “artificial” egg whites – instead, they use the much nicer-sounding “clean egg whites”. Technically accurate words like “fermented” and “cultured” probably will not be featured the branding of these types of goods, and anything too sci-fi or futuristic is unlikely to make a positive impression on potential buyers. “Clean meat” plays to a lot of traits that consumers are already looking for, as the name seems to allude to health and physical wellness, as well as environmental friendliness.Screen Shot 2016-12-07 at 1.51.10 PMThe “clean meat” angle is a controversial one – for starters, companies that work with and rely on livestock resent the implication that animal meat is somehow unclean, and claim that there is no reason why both animal agriculture and “cellular” agriculture cannot both be part of the plan to move to more sustainable meat consumption practices. Some have pointed out that past pushes for sterile, manufactured foods have lead to unforeseen health consequences, which the “clean meat” label fails to suggest. An example that has been cited is the movement for factory-produced enriched white bread in the early twentieth century, which is probably at least partially responsible for today’s mass gluten intolerance problem.  Critics are concerned that an overstatement of the benefits of “clean meat” could lead to reliance on a product whose long-term effects cannot be fully understood until after it has been on the market for years, and that this new name goes too far in the opposite direction of public suspicion.

Again, consumers have a few years to get used to the idea of lab-grown meat before it will be available in stores. We will just have to wait and see whether or not a fancy rebranding effort will be what is necessary to get customers to bite, and if the environmental impact will be enough to see a change of public opinion.

The History of Holiday Flavors

Screen Shot 2016-11-23 at 10.11.54 AMThere’s no way around it — 2016 has been a strange year.

Olympic athletes swam in questionable green pools. Clowns terrorized the nation for over a month. Pringles has three different dessert-flavored chips out at once… Screen Shot 2016-11-23 at 9.47.43 AM

Photo from Pringles’ official twitter

Pecan Pie, Sugar Cookie, and Salted Caramel. Count ‘em, that’s three sweet Pringles for the holiday season – limited edition, of course, as are most gimmicky flavored snacks.

Now that we are about midway through the season in which everything from chips to ChapStick has to have some pumpkin spice/gingerbread/peppermint variation, we can’t help but wonder…how did we get to this point?

Oreos are probably the treat best associated with limited edition flavors. After all, their experiments in novelty cookies are not just bound by holidays – they play the game all year long, with nearly ten new selections produced in 2016 alone (including Swedish Fish and Lemon Twist). Consumers could first buy a limited edition Oreo in 1985, when the company debuted the decidedly mild and normal Mint Crème.

Since then, it has been the Wild West in the snack flavoring world. Most companies seem to stick to the holiday season for major shakeups, and all traditional taste conventions go flying out the window the minute the temperature starts dropping. It isn’t just savory foods going sweet – in 1994, Jones Soda put out Turkey and Gravy cola (imagine the possibilities, Pringles!), and it was only a few years ago that Accoutrements put out a Thanksgiving gumball pack that included turkey-flavored gumballs.

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Photo from Amazon

Of course, the most pervasive and beloved flavor of the season is pumpkin spice. The first reference to pumpkin spice is believed to have come from the 1796 cookbook American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, and the recipe called for molasses, allspice and ginger. McCormick’s and similar brands shortened the name of their spice blend from “pumpkin pie spice” to just “pumpkin spice” as early as the 1960s, after the blend had been on the market for a decade. Trader Joe’s began carrying seasonal pumpkin goods in the mid-90’s, and as the flavor continues to get more and more popular, their selection grows – there will be ten more pumpkin-themed items for sale this year than last year. Pop-Tarts, cream cheese, vodka, cereal, bagels, coffee creamer, popcorn, even salsa and hummus – all can be found in a pumpkin spice variety this fall.

Starbucks is largely responsible for the phenomenon, as their pumpkin spice latte, which has been around for thirteen years, is by far their most popular seasonal item. They have sold over two hundred million “PSLs” since the drink debuted, earning hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the company. Social media has played a huge role in this, so much so that the drink has its own separate verified Twitter account: @TheRealPSL.

This is not to say that seasonal flavors are all about the traditional – at the height of the cupcake craze of the early 2010s, Target released a popular “holiday milk” flavored like chocolate red velvet. So there is definitely room for brands to incorporate trends into their seasonal flavor selections, and we should expect to see more creativity in the coming years. After all, 1796-2016 is a long reign for pumpkin spice. If Pringles has given us any indication, future tastes can be unexpected.

[INFOGRAPHIC] Branding the POTUS: Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton

Political branding can be a little stale, and often follows the same tired template. That is not the case, however, when the politicians involved are running for President of the United States. We were inspired by some of the things we’ve seen throughout the 2016 Presidential campaign, and we wanted to share some of the branding highlights and lowlights for each of the candidates. Just like their campaigns, the branding of Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton has been truly extraordinary, and below are some of thoughts that are worth sharing. donald trump vs hillary clinton branding infographic

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Retro Packaging Is All the Rage

Today’s world is fast, non-stop, and all about constant communication and information gathered through our phones and tablets. But even in this modern, technology-driven world, sometimes looking back to simpler times is the best way to draw customers, and that’s where retro packaging comes in.

Retro packaging hits people’s sense of nostalgia, and also implies longevity. When a well-known company brings back old designs, or designs a new look that looks vintage, it reminds people that the brand has been around a long time. For example, M&Ms are marking their 75th anniversary and is rolling out several designs inspired by its packaging over the years, but at the same time are also introducing new flavors of the beloved chocolate candy.

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New companies are also savvy enough to take advantage of the retro look. In 2012 for instance, Small Town Brewery, in Wauconda, Illinois, introduced Not Your Father’s Root Beer, an alcoholic beer with a root beer taste, with packaging featuring a man dressed in 19th-century clothing. Other features of the logo included a barrel and old-style fonts. Even the cardboard container for the beer’s six-pack is designed to look like a small wooden crate.

“Retro packaging and labeling carry the appeal of quirkiness and nostalgia, and they project authenticity to shoppers,” says Bruce D. Sanders, a consumer psychologist, retail consultant and author of “Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers.”

He notes that during a three-week stretch in 2011, Heinz Ketchup re-introduced its eight-sided glass bottle from the 1990s; Hostess Cakes used retro packaging; and PepsiCo rolled out throwback versions of Pepsi and Mountain Dew.

“But trends do have a freshness date,” he says. “The special edition of Heinz Ketchup disappeared after five months. The Hostess Cakes items made their Brigadoon-style appearance for one month.”

The bad economy that has marked much of the 2000s is one reason for all of this looking-back, according to Sanders.

“Nostalgia is more attractive to shoppers during times of uncertainty, such as from economic downturns or social isolation,” he says. “Consumer behavior researchers find that when people are feeling lonely, they get interested in nostalgia. In one study, when consumers were made to feel socially uncertain by the experimental manipulation, they became more likely to prefer automobile makes, food brands, TV shows, movies, and even shower soaps which reminded them of their personal history.”

He adds that some brands are “perennially retro,” such as L.L. Bean and Restoration Hardware.

“They aim to project authenticity via continuity,” Sanders says. “A retro image is associated in shoppers’ minds with a store being in business for a long time, carrying trustworthy merchandise and staffed with reliable people.”

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Isaac Cohen, Chairman of the JNCO clothing line, says the company has embraced its retro roots.

“Back in the ’90s, JNCO was an international sensation thanks to its comfortable wide-legged jeans and non-conformist philosophy that represented the best of retro SoCal culture,” Cohen says. “When we revived the brand in 2015, we tried to reinvent the brand and the style of our clothes to match the modern trends. This approach yielded moderate success, but after answering the pleas from our followers asking for a return to our ’90s styles, our revival really took off. For our die-hard follower base, our retro products and packaging have worked to our advantage and helped strengthen our overall brand.”

Randy Gunter is the owner of the Gunter Agency, a marketing, advertising and design firm. His company acquired a consumer company, McNess Consumer Products, last October. McNess has been selling home, health and cleaning products since the early 20th century, and Gunter is emphasizing the company’s long history with its packaging.

“McNess has been around since 1908 and we are in the process of changing some of the packaging, but everything is with a retro design,” Gunter says. “When we took over, there was a lot of inconsistency. There are still some products that need to be changed yet, but we’re doing that when we need to replace inventory… We’re in the process of also bringing back several old products that had been discontinued.

So when it comes to retro packaging, you could say that everything old is new again.

Packaging for Millennials

Millennials are the next wave of influential shoppers. Born between 1981 and 2000, studies show they will be 50 percent of the workforce by the year 2020 and will spend more than $200 billion annually, starting in 2017. Millennials are loyal to brands that treat them well, offer new experiences, and are aligned with their beliefs. That’s why it’s important that packaging appeals to this generation in the best way.

Joseph Anthony, a millennial marketing expert and CEO of HERO Group, has worked with some of the world’s leading brands such as Pfizer, Nintendo, Pepsi and Nike, says Millennials look for a personal connection to their preferred brands and are more likely to buy a product if it makes them feel special through this personal connection or the idea of exclusivity.

A new report from Mintel, Marketing to Millennials, revealed limiting the availability of a product creates a unique purchase experience in which brands effectively satisfy the pronounced desire of Millennials to have the latest, greatest and most exclusive products. It notes that offering a limited-time-only rollout of personalized packaging has the ability to create unique connections with consumers who might be mulling a purchase.UnknownDigital Plays a Role

The role of packaging in the digital space plays more of a brand-building role than in traditional brick and mortar shopping environments. In social media, packaging may not have to do the job of shelf impact and differentiation, but there’s an opportunity to play with brand elements in a simpler, more iconic way that makes consumers want to share across their social channels.

For example, packaging that includes quick-response (QR) codes right on the label gives consumers immediate access to a community that is also participating and purchasing the same products as they are.

Recent examples of brands doing this include Coca Cola, Frito-Lay’s and Heinz.

Lorrie Frear, an associate professor in package design and packaging science at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, N.Y., says that when communicating information about a brand, it is critical that brand managers and designers consider mobile as a key component of the entire brand strategy and not as an add-on

“Consumers use devices in making buying decisions quickly, so be sure that information is easy to find on the packaging and not small or hidden,” she says. “The user experience is critical to acquiring return customers, so be sure that any interaction takes less than a few seconds to accomplish and that the destination is reached within three clicks.”UnknownIn Vogue

A big trend in packaging with Millennials in mind is reseal. Over the last few years, the snack aisle has seen more and more packaging with reseal tabs to allow consumers to eat a handful and then reseal the packaging for later.

There are a few main benefits to this type of packaging, particularly for Millennials. It’s convenient and portable for their busy lifestyles; it promotes healthy snacking as many of these items are pre-cut, peeled fruit; and the food stays fresher longer using a moisture vapor film barrier.

Ryan Lupberger, founder of Cleancult, which delivers non-toxic laundry pods, designed his packaging with Millennials in mind. The company’s market research has shown that Millennials want to buy responsible products, but are actually 23 percent less likely to purchase a “green” brand.

“We saw that Millennials wanted two things. They wanted packaging that could be recycled, but they also wanted this packaging to be durable and design focused,” he says. “Most were not interested in packaging that signified it was cheaper or just eco-friendly. They care about purchasing products that combine design, convenience, and responsible packaging. They are not willing to sacrifice one of these things for a more eco-friendly package.”

Millennials also seem to care about humor in the opening experience of the packaging. Companies like Naturebox and Dollar Shave Club have done well because they combined all three things with a focus on humor.

Sustainable Packaging

While packaging design is crucial to set your product apart from competitors, a recent Asia Pulp & Paper study found that packaging appearance, including design, is less of a factor for purchasing than one might think. According to the research, Millennials are placing less focus on packaging design and demanding more functional and sustainable packaging. In fact, only 21 percent of Millennials surveyed indicated design as the most important feature when making purchasing decisions.

Reducing the volume of packaging – and the types of materials used – continues to be a good way to improve functionality and the sustainability of a product’s packaging and a goal of many companies around the globe. It not only makes sense from a business standpoint but also from a sustainability and customer relations standpoint.

Companies are discovering that one way to ensure and build customer loyalty is to prevent situations that may cause a delay in opening their packages. The simple solution is to utilize packaging that can be easily opened – no tools required. Paper-related products are not only the most frustration-free type of packaging, but they’re also one of the most recyclable and sustainable at this point.

Busch + NASCAR = Awesome Branding and Packaging

Busch Light No. 4 Car

Anheuser-Busch is creating limited-edition packaging throughout the 2016 NASCAR season and celebrating the brand’s return to the sport of racing by leveraging its packaging assets via its racing platform.

“Busch obviously has a great track record and strong roots in NASCAR and the sport of racing overall. We’re thrilled to be back,” says Chelsea Phillips, senior director, US Value Brands, Anheuser-Busch. “Our marketing efforts already focused on our long-running association with outdoor pursuits, especially those who enjoy hunting and fishing. We’re able to leverage the racing platform to amplify these initiatives, taking advantage of the natural synergies that take place across our interests in NASCAR, hunting and fishing.”

For example, the paint schemes for Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet are heavily inspired by the look of its iconic can. Every time Harvick’s car is seen—whether it’s during a race or on social media—fans make an instant connection to the Busch product.

Harvick has been very involved in the process since Day One. The goal was to create highly visual cans that would resonate with the company’s core target—passionate outdoorsmen and fishermen. The cans display some of the most popular species of fish that are found in our nation’s lakes and streams.Busch Fishing Angler + Trophy Cans_“When we approached Kevin with the idea of using the No. 4 car as a platform to launch our fishing campaign, he was instantly on board,” Phillips says. “He’s an avid outdoorsmen himself, so it just made perfect sense and feels super authentic to us.”

Overall, Busch’s “Here’s to Earning It” tagline and overall brand persona are a perfect fit for NASCAR, and this sponsorship has resonated strongly with racing enthusiasts.

“Due to our brand’s deep racing roots and dedication to outdoor pursuits, we’re able to put some eye-catching designs on the track on race day,” Phillips says. “In addition to the standard Busch and Busch Light paint schemes, we fielded a Busch fish car paint scheme at Talladega, and we’ll have a retro car for the Southern 500 at Darlington in September, reminiscent of Cale Yarborough’s iconic 1979 Daytona 500 car.”

Busch-Fishing-Meets-RacingSince its initial design, the branding and packaging has evolved. For instance, it’s cut down on the number of species featured on the packaging so that folks can attempt to collect all varieties. Specifically regarding the limited-edition packaging—which inspired the look of the Busch fish car that ran at Talladega—all Busch and Busch Light packaging was converted beginning May 8 to feature one of four unique fish cans, or the ultimate prize: the brand new gold trophy can.

5 Unheralded 90′s Brands

In recent years, 90′s nostalgia has been finding its way into new branded products, motion pictures and various other areas of daily life.  Particularly among 30-somethings, this nostalgia has become a mega-trend, and its hitting a fever pitch with the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and Coke’s recent limited re-release of Surge soda.  Hollywood is talking about a 90′s film remake frenzy, and no doubt food and beverage marketers are starting to comb through their history books to find old cult classics to re-introduce.

Given all that, this whole 90′s thing got us thinking… what are some 90′s pop culture icons that we could see re-emerging in one form or another?  Or alternatively, what are some icons that have flown under the radar during this 90′s renaissance?  Below is a list of our 5 favorites – some might present brand licensing opportunities, and others are just fun for us to talk about again.  Enjoy.

5. Dunk-a-Roos

dunkaroos brand licensingDunk-a-Roos were a kids snack from Betty Crocker that first launched in 1988. They consisted of a snack-sized package containing cookies and icing - the cookies were dunked into the icing before eating.  As the jingle stated, you dont just eat, you dunk a rooooooos.  Dunk-a-Roos basically represent the complete opposite of most current food trends such as simple food, natural, organic, etc.  That said, they have two things going for them.  First, they were delicious.  Cookies and icing go together like… cookies and icing.  And second, they likely have extraordinarily high brand recognition among 30′s somethings, and no doubt evoke fond memories of lunch boxes, cartoons and on the go junkfood eating.  Not sure from some brief google searches whether these things are still in production, but if not they should be.

4.  Urkel

urkel brand licensingSteve Urkel was a fictional character on the ABC/CBS sitcom Family Matters, and was portrayed by Jaleel White.  Rivaled only by Screetch from Saved by the Bell 90′s TV fame, Urkel was a one of the most lovable and iconic nerds in television history.  Not sure exactly how he could be incorporated into a modern day campaign or product or brand, but most people in their 30′s can identify with the name, and the Urkel brand seems to have slid under the radar with the tidal wave of 90′s nostalgia.  Other than a brief Dancing with the Stars gig, Jaleel White has similarly stayed under the radar.  Urkel suspenders anyone?  (kidding)

3. Babysitter’s Club

BSC brand licensingThe Baby-Sitters Club  is a series of novels written by Ann Martin and published by Scholastic between 1986 and 2000, and sold 170 million copies.  It spawned countless spinoffs and licensed properties, including a TV show and a movie, among other things.  No doubt this franchise was much more popular with girls than boys during the 90′s, and probably retains more equity with today’s 30-something females than males.  Given that I am a 34 year old male, I couldnt tell you anything about the plot, characters, background or any other details about the franchise – but the name still resonates with me.  Even if this franchise doesnt inspire a new book series or movie, someone has got to be able to do something with this brand.

2. Carmen Sandiego

carmen brand licensingCarmen Sandiego was originally a computer game which would get kids interested in geography, and it evolved into a media franchise of educational computer and video games, television series, books, and other media featuring a  villain of the same name.  I remember this brand as a computer game that was introduced to me in computer class in 3rd grade – which I would play as an alternative to reading about computers – and as a TV show that I watched when nothing else was on.  Im sure many of my contemporaries probably have the same memories.  One way or another, if you are a 90′s child, you know the name and the jingle… where in the world iiiiiis Carmen Sandieeeego??

1. Reebok Pump

reebok-pump-brand-licensingThe Reebok Pump is a line of sneakers that became a phenomenon in the early 1990s.  It was released in 1989, as a basketball high-top shoe.  The shoe was much more expensive than most sneakers at the time, and it often was 150% more than the next most expensive sneaker on the market.  It became  of a status symbol first on urban basketball courts and then later in suburban high schools.  The Reebok still seems to be making the Pump, and while I am no sneaker afficionado, this brand seems to have retained a pretty prominent following and cool factor with the both children of the 90′s and the millennial generation alike.  Hipsters love these things.  Given the cross-generational appeal, and particularly the millennial appeal, and you have to imagine there are some new and interesting cross category marketing opportunities for this brand.  Its not nearly as ubiquitous as it should be in popular culture today.

5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Branding Agency

Choosing the right branding agency

There is never a shortage of things to worry about when running a business.  As a result, even for large companies branding is an often-neglected piece of the marketing puzzle.  Moreover, even when companies decide to invest in their brand, the field is a specialized one that can be hard to navigate.  Choosing the right branding agency should not only address an urgent business need (i.e., a new logo), but it can also change the way you look at your business.

There are a variety of things to look for when choosing a branding agency, but below we highlight five of the most important ones (in our humble opinion).

1. Do they (or can they) understand your business?

This may be the most important thing to discover about your shiny new agency candidate.  Most branding agencies will roll out their most impressive examples of prior work, and they will showcase their largest clients.  You should be looking beyond the sparkly exterior and really probing their business acumen.  Its easy to create beautiful and impressive looking designs and brand identities.  But beautiful and impressive are frequently not the solution to your business problem.  Do they have the ability to understand your consumer, your industry and your position in the market?  Will they lead their ideation and design process with those things, or will they focus first on creating visually engaging and cutting edge design solutions?  Not that there is anything wrong with beautiful and cutting edge, but those should be arrows in the agency’s quiver – not arrows that they shoot every time.

2. How creative are they really?

There are no (good) cookie cutter solutions when it comes to branding – or any other creative work for that matter.  Choosing a branding agency that comes up with fresh ideas and creative solutions will help set your business apart from the rest, stay current, and identify both problems and strengths with your business positioning.  Great creative will allow you to stand out from your competitors.  Obviously you want to look closely at their portfolio, and evaluate how pretty, cool and fresh their design work is.  You want their work to stand out in those areas from other agencies that you are interviewing.  That said, you also want to consider (and have them explain) how their portfolio projects compare to other brands in the relevant industries.  You want an agency with a deep understanding of branding, design and marketing trends.  While the most creative work is not always the solution, you want an agency that can always deliver the most creative work.

3. What are their past results like?

It shouldn’t be a secret what your branding agency can do for you, and what their past results look like.  Can they meet your goals? Ask for metrics, analytics, reports, and take a look at their measurable results.  ROI has become an overused buzzword, but it is definitely relevant in this context.  Ask for case studies where they detail the ROI that a client experienced in connection with their work.  Can they point you to the success of a past client after a rebrand project?  Can they point to a product that was a big hit after a packaging design project?  Can they give you numbers?   This will help you determine what their past results have been like, as a whole, and will also give you insight into what the agency finds most important (based on what and how they measure).

4. What is their process like?

Branding a product or service can be nearly impossible without a set process.  Accordingly, most agencies follow certain processes for their projects.  Many have trademarked or otherwise named their processes.  While these are often cheesy catchphrases, they at least give you a look into your prospective agency’s creative process.  If they don’t offer up details about their process, ask about it.  Most branding processes start with some form of creative brief – ask to see a sample creative brief.  Dig in and don’t feel bad about looking behind the wizard’s curtain.

5. Are they a versatile bunch?

You need to have a real understanding of your business problem, and you should have expectations in terms of what services and deliverables you will need.  Obviously you will look to your prospective agencies for their feedback on those points, but the first step is understanding the problem.  In that regard, very few branding agencies can solve all of your problems on their own, with their in-house staff.  Most branding agencies rely on freelancers to complete certain aspects of their client projects (designers, web developers, copyrighters, etc).  Be sure to ask what their core capabilities are internally, what they would need to outsource as part of your scope of work.  The more they can control in house, the better.

Choosing a branding agency – or rather, the right agency – will take some time.  Ask for references, google them, compare portfolios, and take your time researching agencies.  And last but not least, make sure you like who you will be working with and are confident that they are the right cultural fit for your company.

Brand Positioning for Men’s Grooming Products

dollar shave club brand positioning

The personal grooming market is experiencing healthy growth boosted by innovative packaging and viral marketing campaigns, and a large number of competitors that are very skilled in brand positioning.  To that end, male consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of using grooming products, according to Kline’s 2012 research report.

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