5 Essential Truths Your Brand Needs to Know to Win at Retail

By John Parham

March 17, 2014

The retail environment is tougher than it has ever been before. There are countless other brands vying for your shelf space at major retailers. And once you’re there, the competition around you is tough. Not to mention the economic challenges being faced by retailers and shoppers alike. So how can a savvy brand win at retail? We've uncovered five essential truths to help put you on the path to success:


Truth 1: Retail Success Is Holistic

At our agency we look at ANY retail packaging design assignment from three perspectives: client, market and consumer/human. This insight and understanding yields the path to success. We cast our research net wide early on to avoid surprises later on. This research phase includes talking with select divisions within a company, key vendor and retail partners, and the target consumer audience. This helps us avoid what we call “unveilings.” We have an axiom at work called “Business hates surprises.”


Truth 2: Buying Is Emotional

Shoppers shop emotionally. There’s actually a part of our brain (it’s called the fusiform gyrus) that’s stimulated when we see human features. Eyes especially. This has been proven empirically. Web tracking studies have shown that eyes gravitate toward the humanity (eye, hand, or anything human) on a web page. I much prefer humanity to a piece of plastic or metal—no matter how good the product photography. Placing human features on a package is just one way to forge an emotional connection with consumers. It’s a strategy we used successfully in a global packaging refresh for Sesame Street.


Truth 3: Less Is More

It’s a busy, crowded, rough and tumble world at retail, especially on the highly coveted shelves of mass-market retailers. When it comes to packaging, simplicity means find-ability. There are diminishing returns for the information you pack on a package. Try taking an edited approach: What really needs to be there? What elements are helping you make that emotional connection? And what’s a distraction?


Truth 4: Unseen Is Unsold

Research firm Perception Research has done studies showing the number one reason products fail at retail: They can’t be found. There are basically three ways you can stand out at retail: form (the engineered shape of your package), visuals (what renowned marketer Al Ries would call a “visual sledgehammer”) and color (think Coke red and Pepsi blue). In a color audit of leading kitchen and housewares products, for example, we found space for the Food Network product line to own green.


Truth 5: Moms Are Key to Success. Kids Are Major Influencers.

According to the book, Marketing to the New Super Consumer: Mom and Kid, thirty percent of kids are “major influencers” of purchase decisions, including products traditionally for adults. According to the book’s author Dave Siege, today’s kids are “informed and in control” and have “conditional” input as early as two years old. True Fact: By age eight, “one out of four kids (25%) dictate the type of detergent a family uses” because “kids like or dislike the smell.” For more insights on this key consumer group, check out our Five Mom Truths.

Is your brand leveraging any of these truths to win at retail? Have you discovered other retail truths you live by?

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