Brands exist in our heads. You can’t see them, touch them, smell them or hear them.
And they are much more than the visual expression of the brand through its name, logo, trademark, artwork, pack, product or business.
So if that’s the case, what is a brand?
A brand is a collection of emotion of thoughts around our experiences related to products.
How an individual thinks and feels about a brand is the brand to them – not to everyone, just to them.
But in a large UK retail store there are 25,000 to 60,000 food and drink product lines, just about half the total number of products.
And research shows that a consumer’s repertoire is no more than 100 at any one time!
So how do consumers make their choices? How do brands break through the ‘brand noise’?
Engagement is the critical relationship facet of a 21st century brand.
Because buying is largely instinctive. Consumers don’t reason every element of every purchase.
They engage with brands that say something about themselves and buy into brands that they believe in.
When I started my life-long career in brand and marketing in 1973, the adage at the time was ‘communicate what the product is and what is does and do it an engaging way’.
Sounds a pretty complicated process to me – and sure, in the 70’s it worked in the era of big brands, mass communication and a significantly smaller range of choice dominated by the global brand owners.
And in the mass product and brand proliferation of 21st century, this approach simply does not work.
Brands today have to engage first and having won the privilege of gaining a few seconds of the most valuable commodity in the world, time, they can then rapidly communicate what the product is.
Think about this scenario. If you went to a party and walked into a room and didn’t see anyone you knew and didn’t talk the initiative to say hello, then you could have a very boring evening.
Brands have to do the same. They have to say hello, to give you a smile, to convey that they are worth you giving them some of their time, to persuade you that you’d rather listen to them than the brand next to them.
So smart brands know that they have to deliver’ their ‘pick me’ elevator pitch in seconds.
And to do this, they use numerous tricks and techniques that helps consumers understand what they are, why they are different and why they should buy them.
One of these techniques, is the ‘language of the category’.
It’s been proven many times that brands that try and do something so different that consumers don’t get it, fail.
But conversely, brands can cleverly use the language of one or more category, perfectly married in such a way that they can disrupt at the same time as engaging in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible – and in doing so create a powerful and differentiated relationship with a potential consumer.
My attention was drawn to a really well executed example of this technique in the oral hygiene space.
Sensodyne has long been associated with producing excellent products for sensitive teeth, but in fact, having look at their portfolio, they have a number of protective products in their range along with toothbrushes and mouthwashes.
However, the product that caught my eye was their ProNamel tooth product.
This is a super-premium product, typically selling at £6.50 compared to their other ranges where the price is somewhere between £4.00 and £5.00.
So what have they done in terms of brand and packaging execution to elevate this product to this top-tier positioning?
Cleverly, they’ve used the language of the cosmetics category. It starts with the carton which illustrates the structural differences of the tube, aided by the aperture which makes the cap visible. It uses vibrant, coloured foil and visible, yet discreet icons summarising the product benefits. Once the carton has been opened, one can see that the functional design of a regular tube has been replaced with a curved base variant. A tactile, silky smooth, semi-transparent, top-down cap using a contrasting colour has replaced the more common cap styles.
And rather than using standard polypropylene for the tube, they’ve used a pearlised material.
Not only does the complete design ooze premium but efficacy too – and by reinforcing these key product attributes with design cues from the cosmetics sector it reinforces to the consumer that ‘they know they’re worth it’.