Packaging and identity design is kind of like fashion. You can pick up that cute and trendy sweater for not very much money at H&M. And with fast fashion, you expect that the seam will rip or you’ll get a hole in the elbow or that nice mustard yellow color will be completely out of style in six months.
Or you can invest in a high-quality sweater made from fine cashmere, constructed using longstanding principles of tailoring, with a timeless design. And you’ll still be wearing that sweater 10 years from now.
Tactics Without Strategy
As they grow, natural food and beverage brands have a tendency to take a fast-fashion approach to their branding. CEOs and CMOs update their communication plans or redo the packaging or push into new sales channels or reformulate to catch the new ingredient wave. But they don’t do the hard work—laying a strategic foundation for the brand. They think they don’t have time or budget to spend on strategy.
But that’s a mistake.
You may not miss the 20 bucks you pay for the trendy sweater and take to Goodwill six months later. But you’ll surely miss the 20 grand your company spends on marketing tactics that don’t return the investment. Execution without strategy is just throwing money away.
We understand because we see how this plays out. Brand leaders come to us when their companies are facing something big—an opportunity to go from niche to mainstream, interest from investors, or a significant challenge for a well-funded competitor. They need to get this right. And they realize in working with us that previous investments, smaller ones, to update packaging or add a new gourmet flavor, didn’t pay off.
If you’re a naturals brand leader weighing a decision—do we spend less on tactics or more on strategy?— here are a few things to know.
First, execution is dessert. Everyone loves to dig their spoons into the ice cream. Strategy is the vegetables: not as delicious and kind of tough to get through. But you can’t have dessert until you’ve eaten the veggies.
Execution is fun! It’s tasting new products or having a meeting at your design firm where they have a beer tap and ping pong table. It’s deciding which shade of purple is right for the logo.
Strategy is hard. It’s digging into consumer research to ask the right questions of the right people in order to generate real insight about what people need and what from your brand in their lives. Thinking beyond line extension to determine where your real product innovation opportunity lies. Homing in on your true brand—your WHY, your reason for being that transcends trends.
Second, there is a hidden cost to those cheap packaging or identity design projects. Because generalist branding and packaging design firms don’t have expertise in food, beverage, and wellness strategy, you as the client will do all the heavy lifting to determine audience, figure out opportunity, establish a strategy. Your marketing team will pour tons of energy and time into the project when a truly strategic-minded partner would take that work on entirely. Don’t overlook the monetary value of time.
What’s more, if you short-circuit the process and move forward without strategy, that new packaging or product extension will last you 12 to 18 months, tops, and then you’ll have to do it again because you’re chasing trends, not making decisions with long-term insights.
Third, putting a bandage on the brand won’t fix underlying strategic problems such as staffing outages, R&D misses, audience blind spots. And you may not even realize you have these underlying issues. Passion brands, where employees are part of the fan base, often fall prey to navel-gazing. It takes outside expertise and a neutral set of eyes to point out problems the internal team overlooks.
And by the way, while you’re spiffing up your logo, your competitors (primarily store brands) are taking all your IP and creating knockoffs and dropping their prices and eating your lunch. You’ll be out the cost of the new identity plus all the lost revenue that’s now going to competitors.
Smart Investments Are Those That Pay Off
Sure, you could hire the design agency with the beer fridge. Or you could give us a call. We’re as fun as the next guys, and we’re also a smart investment in rebranding your naturals brand. We’re that cashmere sweater.
Perhaps you’ve hired an outside agency in the past, with not-so-great results. You may worry about making the wrong choice again, risking time and money and credibility. Perhaps your previous agency experience brought you to a group of order-takers instead of strategic thinkers who were willing to give you the tough news and guide you on what to do. Maybe you figure you can do a rebrand in-house.
Think about a rebranding product not as a line-item expense on the budget but rather an investment in the future. We’re a smart investment because we promise that it will pay off; we’ve helped clients across the spectrum of the naturals category record exponential growth, dominate their markets, reverse years of downward sales, launch from DTC to big-box retail in six months.
We bring over 50 years of brand reinvention experience to solve your unique business challenges. What’s more, you’re hiring us to take the hard work entirely off your plate. Our competitive audit will open your eyes to issues you didn’t even know you had, setting the stage for strategic solutions that touch every corner of your business, from culture to supply chain to retail relationships—and, yes, to identity and design. When we help you do brand strategy right, you won’t have to do it again for five years, or more.
With all humility, we guarantee that when you go through our process and you follow our prescription, you will absolutely crush it. See what that has meant for other brands we’ve turned around. Get a sense of what it’s like to work with us. Check out David’s book, Beloved & Dominant Brands, for a peek at our thinking. And, when you’re ready, let’s talk.