Before You Redesign Your Naturals Brand, Do This

October 27, 2020 | by David Lemley

As we turn the last few pages on the calendar, you and your marketing team are working on your final initiatives for this year and planning for 2021. If you’re eyeing a redesign for your company’s natural food or beverage brand, allow us to make a suggestion:

Work on the brand strategy first.

No doubt, as a veteran marketer, you’ve worked on or overseen more packaging for consumer brands than you can count. You have an eye for design and a nose for trends. The systems you’ve created may have scored raves on The Dieline and generated a boost in sales.

And yet, the consumer landscape has changed. Brands are no longer built through communication and design tactics; they emerge from the experiences they create that produce a gut-level preference for a brand among its fans. Design, while important is transient, reactive, and subordinate to whatever medium you are using to communicate.

We’ve seen this play out in our 10-year transition from award-winning design firm to strategic brand-builders. And we can guarantee this: Your creative vision and design expertise will lead to Beloved & Dominant status when they’re layered on top of a strong strategic foundation for the brand.

Brand Strategy Begets Package & Logo Design

Typically, when brand leaders come to us for help addressing challenges or opportunities (tough competition, or potential growth or investment), they’re convinced that they need a visual makeover. Pretty quickly, we help the marketing and leadership teams understand that their need is strategic first. The entire communication roadmap—what we call the Brand Ecosystem—depends on three foundational elements:

The brand’s mission: the problem in the world or in consumers’ lives that it exists to solve.

The brand’s environment: competitors, retail space (both online and in-store), consumer behaviors.

The brand’s culture: the internal mindset that drives the organization.

A well-defined mission, a firm grasp on the brand’s world, and a unified internal culture provide focus—guardrails if you will—for every business decision. From a marketing perspective, strategy prevents arbitrary design decisions based on whim or preference or trend. Imagine developing an enduring visual identity for the brand that connects deeply and intuitively with a growing tribe of passionate believers. Imagine creating a packaging system that doesn’t need to be updated every 18 months when a new look dominates Instagram—but rather endures for five or more years and flexes to accommodate new products.

Brand Strategy Allows for Bold Design Decisions

Among all the communication channels in the Brand Ecosystem, packaging is extra important because it’s often the first touchpoint a consumer has with the brand. And it has a long tail: She’ll engage with it after she makes the purchase and brings the product home.

Designing boxes and bags and bottles for natural food and beverage products is exciting, energizing work. It’s also incredibly frustrating because you’re roped in by the visual and structural conventions of the category. A package has to communicate so much information from a distance (defining the category, like popcorn or energy bar or enhanced water) and up close (whispering in the shopper’s ear and convincing her to buy).

When everyone in the category plays by the same rules, it’s a recipe for sameness. Look no further than the “anti-brands” popular on Instagram, and you’ll see what we mean. This proliferation of products packaged in pale pink with simple serif type isn’t branding; it’s blanding. When the retail set is full of indistinguishable products, only big-budget advertising campaigns or bottom-line-chewing discounts will persuade the customer to buy.

Beloved & Dominant brands don’t chase trends. They use strategy—a higher calling, a deep understanding of their place in their fans’ lives, a passion for excellence—to make bold design moves that other brands are afraid of. Confident in their beliefs and engaged with their consumers, they break out of the category conventions to create packaging that not only makes a splash, it makes sense.

Creative Plays a Key Role in Strategic Planning

We believe that design and marketing rest on a solid strategic foundation, but those disciplines aren’t mutually exclusive. Creative input is mission-critical as part of our brand strategy process.

We engage key members across the client’s organization to collaboratively build insights that will fuel a creative translation. (That said – I’ve had experiences in my career when I’ve been tasked with design based on a strategy I had no say in. It’s simply not an optimal situation for creating great work.)

For us, brand strategy isn’t just about crunching consumer data, scouting the competition, and dissecting the R&D process. It’s about creating a common vision, a singular path, and a shared language. Those tools make it easier to develop creative output—whether that’s a logo or a social media campaign—because they innately define goals and outcomes. They streamline input and approval because everyone’s using the same playbook.

Building a Beloved & Dominant Brand

When a unified vision for the brand translates into breakthrough creative, the results are so much more powerful than an aimless redesign:

  1. Your brand will act, look, and sound different from everyone else in the category.
  2. Your value propositions will scare the daylights out of your competitors because they can’t achieve what you have.
  3. Your sales team’s pitch to retailers and distributors will be easier; retail managers will “get” the brand and look to your team as partners, not vendors.
  4. You’ll spend less on retail promotion and advertising because you look and behave differently.
  5. You’ll sustain or regain relevance with consumers.

Creating breakout results for the business you support, disrupting the category, building a brand that changes the world—brash goals like these require vision. Bucking the trends with clarity and confidence based on mission and strategy will elevate your brand to Beloved & Dominant. We’ve walked lots of veteran marketers down this path. Let’s talk about how we can help your team.