The magical half-second

Adrian Collins, Managing Director of Ziggurat Brands, outlines the three simple steps to make the leap from ‘brand ignorance to brand advocacy’.

Adrian Collins
Adrian Collins

FOR most new products it is hard enough persuading consumers to notice the product, let alone try it, become loyal to it, or start recommending it to friends and family.

In the fleeting half-second between shoppers noticing a new product amongst the familiar ones, there is the opportunity to make or break a fledgling business.

New products have three vital jobs to do if they want to replicate the success of food products such as PepsiCo’s Sunbites, Belhaven’s Craft beers Pies, or Independent David & Oliver, all once strange imposters on our supermarket shelves.

1: Achieve credible on-shelf stand-out

In 2007, Walkers new health snack Sunbites experienced high repeat purchase rates in the ‘Better For You’ segment. However, the health-focused packaging put off consumers measuring taste alongside health in their purchases. In that respect, it was not achieving credible shelf stand-out.

Changing this to an exciting, colourful illustrative style and using language to reflect just how tasty and enjoyable Sunbites are and engaging new consumers who were attracted to the idea of trialling a healthier, tastier snack, had an almost immediate impact.

Nielsen sales data revealed a 26% uplift in sales for the first three months – impressive given that packaging rebrands often see an initial fall in sales as consumers find the new designs unfamiliar. This was no short-term spike. Sales of Sunbites have risen from £8m before the rebrand to more than £40m now. This success began by getting noticed on shelf.

2: Get from shelf to basket 

A brand can stand out on the shelf, but if it incites indifference or even revulsion it is not going to succeed. It must be desirable enough for the shopper to pick it up and put it in the basket.

Brands need to think carefully about on-pack visuals – product imagery, colours, logo etc. – and the copy they use to describe themselves. What product attributes do they want to convey? What tone do they want to adopt?

For example, when Scottish brewer Belhaven took the decision to enter into the booming craft beer arena, it brought Ziggurat on board to convey the spirit of Scotland, without resorting to predictable clichés such as tartan and thistles.

How do you create an identity for Scotland’s oldest brewery in a way that appeals to a new, younger, UK-wide audience? The solution started by using the brewery’s iconic maltings chimneys to create the framework label design. Ziggurat and Belhaven then developed individual names and quick witted descriptions that play to the Scottish no-nonsense, caustic sense of humour, such as Twisted Thistle: bold, bitter, juicy.

The distinctive visuals and brand language struck a balance between trusted heritage and contemporary trends. The identity works across the range to create a robust brand that grabs consumers’ attention, encourages them to snap up a bottle, and share the brand with their loved ones.

The overall sense of something typically Scottish carried through the brand has struck success with its customers. After launching the new brand in January 2014, its supermarket success has already led to plans for expansion.

3: Give consumers a story 

People love stories. We love hearing them, and, crucially, we love sharing them. If your brand gives people a story they can pass on to their peers then it is well on its way to creating brand advocates.David Holliday and Oliver Shute set up their own business in 2011 selling soups, stocks and pasta sauces made from wild game. They knew they were tapping into a growing food movement. More people are turning away from the mass-produced farm-bred meat, and towards a more traditional, sustainable source. Yet, by 2013 it was clear the business was not taking of as it should.

The first change was to insert ‘and’ into the name. “David Oliver” sounded too formal, whereas, “David & Oliver” brought the brand back down to earth. Introducing countryside green resonates with the British heritage, along with the iconic tweed jackets and caps worn by two new characters, David and OIiver, who are the embodiment of the brand. The logo, now full of life, excites the customer and communicates exactly where the ingredients have come from.

Again, this investment in branding paid off. David & Oliver, now listed in Waitrose, is adding ready meals to the range and is expanding into export markets including France and Belgium. The company has a small army of brand advocates across the country enthusiastically retelling the story of two entrepreneurs daring to do something different. The product, just like Sunbites and Belhaven, now succeeds in that vital half-second.