We’re gonna ask you to do something a little different. Take a beat to think about the products in your bathroom. No, seriously. Envision your face wash, toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo. Consider the packaging—how the colors, logos, package shapes, and even typeface all worked together to encourage you to pick that product off the shelves instead of its dozens (or even hundreds) of competitors. Now take that awareness and expand it. Bathroom. Bedroom. Kitchen. Living room. We are surrounded by product branding—from the kibble we feed our pets to the clothes we wear out the door every day.
When done well, product branding goes beyond getting items noticed on a shelf. It appeals to your audiences on an emotional and intellectual level, supports your overall brand identity, and transforms casual buyers into loyal brand evangelists.
Defining product branding
If you take it at face value, product branding is a pretty simple concept. It involves slapping design elements of your brand onto your product’s packaging. Or even on the product itself. Those design elements include your brand’s name, logo, taglines, and color palettes. Think Nike’s globally-recognized Just Do It and that iconic swoosh mark.
But when you dig a bit, product branding goes well beyond colors and logos. It’s a cohesive way of telling your brand’s story When done right, it’s a whole lot of strategy, and testing (and just a little bit of magic).
Why bother with product branding?
If you’ve got the best [insert product here] in the market, you shouldn’t have to worry about branding, right? Your product is so great it practically sells itself! Unfortunately, having a quality product just doesn’t cut it in today’s market. Whether they’re shopping online or in the store, today’s consumers have more options than ever before. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling granola or lawn mowers: without a story, you don’t have a loyal audience.
At its core, product branding gives your items their marketplace identity. And, according to Shopify, it’s one way you can communicate with your customers before they ever spend a dollar on you. “Branding is heavily influenced by the expectations you set in consumers through components of your products,” they write. In other words, if you truly believe that you sell the World’s Greatest Back Scratcher, how you brand that product plays a vital role in setting customers’ expectations around its performance.
How to get your product branding on point
If that all sounds a little complicated, don’t worry. It’s complicated for everyone. Plus, in a market that’s constantly adapting to the world around it (hello, COVID-19), the list of considerations just keeps growing. Luckily, there are some evergreen strategies for product branding to help guide your decision making even during uncertain, unprecedented times.
Know your brand’s identity
Your product’s branding doesn’t just communicate its ingredients or how to use it. It communicates your brand’s entire identity—from the founding story to your commitments, values, and purpose. As you start your product branding journey, you might want to ask yourself:
- Why does our company exist?
- What do we stand for?
- What problem does our company/product solve for our customers?
- Why those customers and not anybody else?
The more specific you can get in defining your identity markers (and your customers’) the better off you’ll be. For example, “We sell computers to Millennials” isn’t going to cut it. Lots of people can do that. Instead, try something like, “We sell competitively priced, lightweight laptops to support Millennials’ with an on-the-go lifestyle, because we believe in helping people work or play wherever they go.” Now, see if you can hone that even further. It may sound counterintuitive, but the more niche your audience the more likely you are to make sales.
Be wary of glitches in your brand messaging
Imagine you’ve built an athletic shoe empire from the ground up. You’ve worked with athletes, scientists, and designers to ensure it supports performance. And you know sustainability is important to your consumers, so you’ve built this shoe from recyclable materials. But then you ship these shoes across the country for distribution, and each mile ratchets up your carbon footprint. Or you package them in beautiful, non-recyclable boxes.
When it comes to consistent product branding, things have to jive every single step of the way. Because today’s consumers are savvier (and expect more) than ever before. So, if your brand prides itself on being clean, modern, and sophisticated, make sure those values are reflected in everything from your product’s design to the packaging it ships in.
Know what makes your product different and run with it
Everyone wants to believe their product is The GreatestTM. But what does it truly mean to be “great”? Or “high quality”? Instead of relying on blanket statements about quality—or using buzzwords like innovative and cutting edge—the strongest brands really dig into their differentiators.
As Wix notes, your differentiators are “the excuse you give to a browsing shopper to select your product over the other guy’s, whether due to some advanced feature you offer, or the message you’re selling along with the physical item.”
Keep it consistent
Whether you’re launching your first product or your hundredth, consistency is key. Why? Well, consistent product branding tells consumers that your new product is part of your brand’s family. This can be especially helpful if you’ve already done the legwork to establish brand trust and have a loyal customer base.
Imagine, for example, that you’re a granola maker. Your customers love that you use organic, whole food ingredients. Your brand’s wholesomeness is also reflected in your kraft packaging and sustainable processing. And you’ve decided to launch a new cereal bar. If, suddenly, that cereal bar is a highly-processed sugar bomb in a plastic wrapper, it won’t benefit from the reputation and goodwill you’ve spent years building. In fact, it might damage your brand’s reputation and have folks looking elsewhere for their granola needs.
Of course, there’s an exception to every rule
There are two familiar bottles in the cleaning supplies section of just about every store: Joy dish soap and Dawn dish soap. One evokes sparkling white dishes and a clean lemon scent. The other conjures images of fluffy ducklings fresh from their oil-removal baths. Both are owned by Procter and Gamble, but their branding is radically different. Why? According to Canto, in this case, “the way each product is branded has given customers a better method to consider the unique benefits and function of each.”
In other words, the branding reflects each product’s individuals benefits, instead of the company’s. And it does so because that allows P&G to target multiple niche audiences. In instances like this, it’s beneficial to think about the unique audiences for each of your products. Are they drastically different? If yes, how so? And how do your different products meet their different needs?
Elements of digital product branding
As a digital marketing agency, we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the digital aspect of product branding. Because, especially in the post-COVID world, how your product looks online is at least as important as how it sits on a shelf. In fact, it might be more important. According to Forbes, COVID-19 has massively accelerated e-commerce growth, which is up 77% from last year. Total online spending in May hit $82.5 billion, making digital product branding priceless.
Things to consider in your digital product branding include:
- Website messaging
- Consistent logo use
- Professional photography (especially if you’re selling something that gets eaten or worn)
- Social media presence
Essentially, all of the little ways your audience can connect with your products (and brand) through the hundreds of different available channels.
Good product branding tells your story
It gets beyond using the right color palette and splashing your brand’s tagline across the packaging. It’s an opportunity to tell your brand’s (and product’s) story. And at Savy, we’ve been in the business of telling stories (and telling them well) since 2007. Whether you need help launching a new brand, a new line, or a new product, we’ve got a data- and experience-driven strategy to help you capitalize on the benefits of strong product branding. Get in touch to put us to work.