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Importance of printed materials in branding of packaging and labelling

1st April 2013


A brand can be defined as a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer. Brands offer the consumer something more than just the tangible product. They make people feel secure, accepted, and in a better state of mind than before they purchased the product. Eric Russell reports.

In any competitive market, the supplier with a co-ordinated marketing strategy will sell most goods. This includes the packaging and labelling, which act as the visual magnet to a customer. But the strategy has to start with out-of-store advertising so the product message is embedded in consumers before they reach the store.

Once inside, the theme of the advertising has to be continued in the packaging and labelling of the product in order to trigger a recognition response in consumers, encouraging them to move towards the product.

So the logos, colour and overall design on the product have to match those that predominate in the advertisement, the web site, the mobile phone screen and the promotional leaflet through the door, even though each media platform has its own design criteria. But the colour and design combination also have to make the product stand out from its competitors on the shelves.

top-up shopping

Products that do stand out, sell well today because purchasers are less formalised in their shopping than in the past. People shop more frequently, perhaps on the way home from work, so shopping has become more of a topping-up operation rather than a once-weekly major session. And fewer shoppers use shopping lists, for example, which all encourages grazing around the store and impulse buying.

A coherent design theme has to flow through both advertising and marketing as a primary concern.

But the theme also has to include sales vouchers, freebies, point of sale material and all promotional aids so the brand message is continually reinforced in the consumer's mind. The message also has to be globally acceptable.

Expectations

Many times, consumers feel a deep connection with a brand, and will remain loyal to the brand until it no longer lives up to their expectations.

With any brand, there are distinct attributes behind the name. Usually, brand attributes are designed by the producer and expected by the consumer.

Eventually, they become part of the product's aura. Attributes define the brand.

Attributes of a certain drink, for example, could include its refreshing nature, its fabulous flavour, or its ability to be enjoyed anytime, anywhere. But these are basic attributes and, since every product on the shelf should offer them, they do little to separate one brand from another.

This calls for special brand attributes and the foundation of a successful brand identity is the establishment of points of difference. A valued point of difference is crucial to increasing market demand.

brand values

Brand values can be either demonstrated or perceived. Demonstrated value is tangible; you can smell, taste, or see it. Incorporation of new-and-improved packaging technology and improved product texture are both good examples. But perceived values are intangible attributes of the brand. So it is possible for consumers to make purchases over competitors' products based solely on perceptions.

But a challenge exists with perceived values, since a customer might perceive a certain product attribute as a strength when actually it is a weakness. Overall, a brand must have a clear, spoken voice that identifies both the demonstrated and perceived brand values without stretching the truth.

Human example

It may be easier to understand how a product can be branded if one considers the human equivalent, when one meets a person for the first time.

We receive an impression before we arrive in the other person's sphere of influence. The first input is visual and includes body language, facial expressions and dress.

Once face-to-face, the second input is the tone of voice used. What is said then begins to build a more qualitative impression although that part of the process takes longer.

The most powerful and enduring factor is the way the person acted. Did they do what they said they would in a way that was consistent with all the other inputs that were received. If there is an inconsistency then it can be unsettling and at worse lead to a complete breakdown in the relationship.

In a commercial context, the relationship is between a product and its customers. But it could be between the company and the customer if the company image is stronger than that of its products.

Perhaps the greatest misconception is that a brand is simply a logo. The brand has to create a dialogue with its target audience.

This was a key issue when 4i Group created a new brand from scratch for the Yo! sushi bars in London. Mark Norton, of 4i, says the brand has already attracted worldwide attention without the massive outlay that a corporation would normally associate with global presence and is now opening internationally.

The starting point was to create an attitude and lifestyle that appealed to a contemporary audience who are open-minded to technology, creatively inclined, with personal integrity and plenty of cultural headroom ­ the youth of today. It just so happened that the concept was built around a sushi bar.

Now, the brand image extends to an extensive merchandise range varying from Yo! Scooters to watches; a aYo! To Go' delivery service. aYo! To Wear' clothing line and aYo! Baby' range.

Norton says successful branding happens when the consumer engages with the product and this principle applies to supplying food ingredients as well as finished products. The brander has to create a relationship between product and purchaser

Once the relationship is created, a manufacturer can then introduce new products from the same brand platform, benefiting from the existing attributes. If the brand platform is used to shape the new product, that will enhance the strength of the original product. But Norton warns that the product has to deliver the promise of the brand. Once customers feel cheated, the brand dies.

Pauline Amphlett, director of intellectual property at Brand Guardians, says a key issue in branding is to ensure that problems do not arise with any of the ideas that are proposed.

Classic problems include the product name that has an unfortunate meaning in another language. With global distribution well established, linguistic and cultural screening is vital to ensure that product labelling and packaging does not offend in any country. This includes the use of symbols that may be banned in some countries or have undesirable connotations.

Although a manufacturer may intend to sell in a limited number of countries, goods can still be shipped to other countries, especially where a grey market prevails. While the manufacturer has little or no control over these activities, it may still face negative repercussions that affect the brand strength around the world. Brand Guardians also screens packaging and labelling for legal pitfalls.

The company says brand positioning is all about creating a single organising thought for the brand. And, once created, does it reflect a truthfulness about your business and are you able to deliver it.

Branding is not about a quick fix. Branding is about the long haul. It is about creating a resilient and robust business, whether that is about products or services. Branding is about performance. It is a tool for delivering your business objectives and is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Research needed

Chris Ellis, a director of Brandragon, says branding exercises often fail because of the lack of research into consumer reaction and behavioural analysis. This may be because of limited budgets. The cost today of creating a new brand is huge because of the existing competitive market.

New products have to offer a number of unique selling points to outclass their rivals and there is huge demand for shelf space in retail outlets.

But working to a limited budget is self-defeating. The objective of branding is to increase profit, and insufficient investment in the project will result in a limited return.

Experience has shown that a product launch which is only half implemented can result in fewer sales than for a product that is quietly introduced.

Creating a brand also takes time and today's flatter management structures may deny people the time to fully think through a strategy.

This is where an end-to-end consultancy such as Brandragon can provide a useful input to the food manufacturer.

Ellis adds that the agency's close relationship with major retailers means it can help smaller companies get their products onto shelves cost effectively.

Printers also have often gained experience in brand management by seeing how their successful customers operate. Jade Press has moved into this area by adding a digital design studio to its printing capability. It can produce concept designs from business cards to a full suite of corporate stationery and colour brochures including point-of-sale material.

artwork data

For large customers the service includes an artwork data management system so different offices can call off their individual needs while ensuring compliance with the organisation's corporate guidelines. Its brand management service extends to bespoke computer consumables and marketing products such as ashtrays and teabags.

So the message for packagers and labellers is that the visual element is key in brand creation. Perception is in the eye of the beholder.





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