I Know You’re Looking at Me

Observation is Mutual Between Brands and Consumers

The Package Design Matters Conference is just around the corner, and we’re getting very excited to hear what our expert speakers have to say on some of the subjects that are top of mind to the strategic design and brand development industry – subjects like relevance, culturalizing strategic design, consumer research and today’s branding practices. So we decided to pick their brands – whoops, I mean brains. Their responses make for a great preview of the dialog we can expect at the conference.

This post touches on our first question, which concerns the struggle for relevance in a consumer-centric society, and a few of the responses we got back. Overall, experts seem to agree – brands have no choice but to be buttoned up now more than ever. Consumers are scrutinizing brands almost as much as marketers scrutinize consumers. Brands and consumers are now watching each other. All. The. Time.

Here is what our experts had to say:

PDMC: What advice would you give brands that are struggling to remain relevant in today’s consumer-centric society?

CHRIS THALGOTT, Director, Brand Design Strategy, ConAgra Foods: Stay out in front of emerging cultural trends that will impact your consumer and your marketplace. Connect the dots between where future growth will come from and what relevant needs your brand has the potential to deliver on in distinctive or relevant ways. In short, create a vision for the future that leverages brand purpose.

DAVID SIMNICK, CEO and Co-founder, SoapBox: What we’ve seen in the marketplace is that consumers want authenticity and transparency. It’s no longer good enough to market your product as being a better potato chip or a better something. Now it’s about the story, mission and purpose. Why should I buy this product? What about its voice and authenticity makes it different? There’s such strive for authenticity with Millennials. They want their brands to reflect their values.

JODIE BREUER, Marketing Director, Beech-Nut Nutrition: My advice to brands that are struggling for relevancy is to get closer to your consumer and bring he or she into your innovation process.  Co-creation is a great methodology that allows brands to work side by side with consumers to develop products that are rooted in a consumer insight and fulfill an unmet need.

NANCY TWINE, Founder and CEO, Briogeo Hair Care: Definitely, it’s important to have a pretty diverse team, age and interest perspective. The Millennial demographic is at the forefront of most brand’s minds. Social media is a great tool to tap into that. It’s breaking down the traditional barriers of decision making.

TERRI GOLDSTEIN, CEO, The Goldstein Group: Begin with a visual historical timeline so you may glance backwards to gain clues and cues on how to move forward.  Next, learn the unaided brand equities and probe to see if “brand baggage” is present. This will reveal the brand equities that must remain and highlight the equities that are to be left behind. Now, and only now may you reinvent the areas of the brand that have “permission.” In this manner, the brand may once again resonate to both the lifestyle of the consumer and the category that it is designed to perform in.

So what have we learned?

Brands must truly understand what they are capable of promising now and in the future, and they need to have vision. They can’t rest on their laurels – constant innovation and engagement are paramount. Also it’s important to note that innovation doesn’t always have to mean a new product launch, maybe it’s just trying out a new way to start a dialog with consumers. One of our pre-conference sessions, “Marketing Your Content in the Age of Digital Maturity”, presented by Innovation Excellence’s JULIE ANIXTER, goes pretty deep on this idea.

And above all else, brands have to know their consumers. A brand is rarely relevant to everyone. Consumers, especially Millennials, want to intimately know a brand’s values, and they want to be confident that those values align with their own. Brands must be overwhelmingly transparent. If a brand ever tried to operate by the old adage, “fake it ‘til you make it,” then it truly has no hope of ever actually making it. A consumer is always watching.