Dr William Caruso (Lead Image), a Senior Marketing Scientist at Adelaide’s famed Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, looks at the pros and cons of redesigning packaging for the festive season.
The festive season is almost upon us. Yes, that time of year when retailers decorate stores and play Christmas carols on a continuous loop. Here we go again, the shelves are bursting with seasonal packaging, and many brand managers are planning and hoping for a spike in sales. But can your brand look festive and distinctive at the same time?
Getting on the festive packaging bandwagon
Many brands switch to a festive pack design for the silly season. While it seems beneficial (or even harmless) to tie in with holiday shopping and the Christmas excitement, if all packs in the category start to look similarly ‘Christmassy’, it makes it harder to find any brand. Christmas has its own very strong Distinctive Brand Assets, and borrowing these can be at a cost to your own brand’s distinctiveness. By directly activating the season (and not the brand) in someone’s memory, you indirectly prime other (often larger) brands.
How shoppers shop
Shopper purchases both in-store and online are largely automatic, often built on years of habitual behaviour to make quick decisions. Additionally, shoppers are often distracted when they are in the supermarket. They are in a hurry, have budgets and children to worry about. As a result, shoppers use past-learned visual cues to save time and help them quickly get what they need.
These visual cues are also known as Distinctive Assets – non-brand name elements which trigger the brand name. Distinctive Assets can be shortcuts for buyers in a busy, cluttered in-store environment. Buyers learn them over time through past exposure to advertising, packaging and/or product experiences. Examples include character assets, like the M&Ms characters, colour assets include the Cadbury Dairy Milk purple and product forms such as the Lindt Ball.
It is vital to understand what assets buyers use to find your brand and keep these consistent in seasonal packaging designs. Let’s imagine a shopper is shopping for their favourite chocolate. What happens if the familiar purple becomes red and green, or the M&M’s characters are dressed to look like Santa Claus? With the familiar visual cues missing, so too is the quick recognition that normally comes when the shopper quickly scans the shelf, so they just grab another brand instead.
How different should seasonal packaging be?
A shared name should mean a shared brand identity, otherwise you risk confusing category buyers. Therefore, any seasonal pack should first be easily recognisable as an offshoot of the normal packaging that is found on the shelf for the majority of the year, even when the normal packaging is not present. ‘Look like the brand first, and the season second’, should be the mantra.
Seasonal packs should work alongside the parent brand, and not clash with it. A strong, similar identity enables the seasonal packaging to contribute in a positive way to the overall mental and physical availability of the parent brand that is on the shelf for most of the year.
Dr. William Caruso is a Senior Marketing Scientist at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, the world’s largest centre for research into marketing. His area of expertise is packaging redesigns and Distinctive Asset research. If wanting to understand how you can redesign packaging and not hamper the brand’s identity, we will have a report released for Ehrenberg-Bass Institute sponsors in the new year. For more information about Ehrenberg-Bass visit www.MarketingScience.info