A great product does not maketh the brand, warns Brett Goldhawk
Whether it’s ‘Innovations in packaging’ or ‘Packaging Trends of the Future’ it’s still the same old question.
People always ask me: “what’s the next big thing Brett?
FMCG CEO Magazine wants to know, the IFE Expo at Excel wanted to know. But there’s only a few people that have made a living out of predicting the future. The late, great Mystic Meg or maybe ‘Pet Psychic’ Russel Grant; and I don’t own a crystal-ball so couldn’t possibly join the hocus pocus world of soothsaying. I could, if I fancied it, give an expert view, built on 25 years of branding experience.
But I don’t think you are ready. And I mean that kindly. Because as harsh as it sounds, most businesses just haven’t grasped the concept of brand.
At my recent Expo in London (IFE – an event I truly love, the event organisers do a stellar job) there were 6,558 exhibitors trying to promote their brand. That’s 6,558 different companies paying to be at a tradeshow hoping to get their brand noticed through new listings/distribution deals, hoping to catch the eye of at least one of the 25,000+ people walking the event with the buying power or authority to make their dreams come true.
The problem. 6,500 of those exhibiting truly sucked at brand.
Great products of course but the branding wasn’t fit for purpose. The packaging design was lacklustre. And the people managing the stands – most sat on their phones not even glancing up, while those that did had no idea about anything – Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum blindly passing you products to taste hoping that you’d magically place an order.
How can that be?
If you want to sell packaged food or drink it really is super simple to understand the category and your competitive mix. Click a mouse and browse the internet, put on some shoes, and walk the aisles of the supermarket or better yet have a night away and enjoy a nice meal at a restaurant. The benchmark for what your brand needs to be is all around you, in every fibre of society.
And that’s my issue with Trends and Innovation; most companies just need to focus on their core, like completely double-down on it. Make it the only thing you care about. Do the basics so well that you build a solid foundation and don’t even need to contemplate the latest trend or innovation. It’s about making something that some people want to buy (including looking good by the way) and then consistently, with conviction telling those people why to buy it.
But forget everything that books tell you about how to construct a brand – backstory, purpose and values are all codswallop. We are at a juncture for companies to stop talking about themselves and grasp the opportunity that is wide open in front of them. The simple notion of putting the consumer first. Everything you ever do should be about the people who would buy your products. And those people change their behaviours based on macro level influences. Think for a moment about how they are feeling, what pressures they might have in their daily life, where might you add genuine value – a moment of joy, a sense of achievement, a release of the mundane, a helping hand. Because a backstory for example doesn’t help navigate a global pandemic. A set of corporate values don’t translate into a cost-of-living crisis. A war in Ukraine doesn’t fit nicely into a brand purpose. Real things that affect the fabric of our culture, yet brands are frankly too centred on themselves.