A company’s brand is a vital component with a far-reaching influence on virtually every aspect of operation. Its definition is a broad one. A brand entails everything from company reputation to product lines and the actual logo itself, writes Alastair Haarhoff.
In order to ensure continued and future success, it’s essential for a business to regularly evaluate their brand and make changes appropriately. The other important element to consider is market perception towards your brand – what’s the response and nature of the market engagement towards and with your product?
Elliot Young, chairman of Perception Research Services, a company that has conducted over 400 packaging research studies every year for over 30years, has demonstrated that consumers find product packaging more memorable than advertising or promotions. In fact, Young has concluded that in consumer surveys, package colour was the most dominant feature, followed by package shape and brand logo.
Simple and innovative branding is consistently praised and acknowledged as the most effective –by both the design community as well as consumers. The exception to this rule is branding that has stood the test of time and that has been ingrained into the collective consciousness. Brands such as Coca-Cola, for example, have altered their logo over the years only by means of slight simplification in order to resonate perfectly with younger generations. Again, the effectiveness of colour comes into play, red being extremely strong and psychologically enticing.
Packaging is unique because it’s shoulder to shoulder with so many other brands on cluttered shelves and needs to make an impression within a limited time frame (often only a few seconds) while shoppers make their next purchase choice.
The first challenge is to design packaging that’s eye-catching and memorable. Perception Research Services’ Eye-Tracking Studies (a collaborative research with the Wharton School of Business in the USA) illustrates that shoppers never see more than a third of the brands displayed on shelves and that being seen quickly (and visually pre-empting the competition) correlates highly with purchase.
On a more pragmatic level, recall is based greatly on brand familiarity. If you show a shopper the soft-drink category, he or she is very likely to guess that Coke and Pepsi will be positioned there. Ultimately, there is no substitute for actually documenting what happens as shoppers encounter packaging within a shelf context (that is, what they see, actively consider, pick up, and buy – and for what reason they are buying a specific brand). It is important that major packaging decisions take this into account rather than be guided solely by what shoppers claim or what they recall.
Returning to the psychology of branding and design – it’s important to note the myriad of factors that unconsciously influence a person to buy a certain product. Broadly speaking, blue is calming, yellow elicits anxiousness, while green is associated with intellectuality. In a recent study, the colour of pills affected how well they worked – blue sleeping pills worked hours longer than red ones, and yellow headache tablets performed worse than white. Even sleeping pills that bear red packaging had much poorer sales than those with blue packaging, despite the pills being identical.
Everything from how high the product is packed on the shelf to what products are adjacent to it, to the fonts on the packaging, have slight but measurable influences that add up to a consumer choosing one brand over another, and in turn affects a company’s ROI.
In addition to the physical product, services and intangible product attributes such as knowledge, emotion, plus the customer experience, are important and perhaps primary elements in the “total value” equation. Branding and design are therefore crucial factors influencing a brand’s bottom line. Brand loyalty is built on a product’s appearance and it echoes across all aspects of business, whether we like it or not.
Alastair Haarhoff is owner and MD of Just Design