There is a time for subtlety and nuance. There is a time for brands to play at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, helping us achieve our full potential. This is not it. This is a time for brands to be direct and show how they can help deliver more fundamental physiological and safety needs.
Look at Actimel. As the virus gathered momentum across the world, the Actimel brand team put the simple word “immunity” front and centre on its packaging. Sales have, unsurprisingly, soared.
It’s a simple, straightforward brand strategy that’s right for these times. Whether in-store or online there’s now no time for subtle, nuanced messaging. We’re rushed through stores in one-way systems, or we’re scrolling through an almost infinite number of products – we will pick out the brands whose benefits we instantly recognise and understand.
Activia, also from Danone, is another good example of this approach. As the original gut-health pioneer this brand has been making guts healthy for over thirty years. People over 40 remember the 90s TV ads, but younger shoppers don’t, and with so many competitors now alongside it on shelf Activia has been finding it hard to connect with people.
Our design focuses on the health benefit with a new on-pack descriptor: ‘deliciously good for your gut-health’. The brand now proudly displays its core benefit quickly to busy, distracted shoppers.
Responding to the COVID spotlight
How many brands are out there right now, sitting on shelves – physical or virtual – facing the same issue? Once, they were clearly understood, but over time their messaging has become diluted, or lost amidst similar competitors, or simply forgotten.
In many cases, the brand team is crystal clear about its meaning. They’re passionate about its relevance. They see it every time they look at the packaging. But of course, what really matters is what happens when shoppers look at your packaging.
Many of these brands have ticked along for years. However, COVID-19 has shone a spotlight into every corner of our lives. Just good enough is no longer good enough. Unless they take action now to rediscover how they are relevant today and then communicate that vividly to people, they’ll struggle.
Bear in mind, finally, that this is not about crudely sweeping a pack clean and emblazoning blunt messaging across it. This has to be done carefully. Going back to Actimel and Activia, they both have long heritages, and the redesigns need to occur within that context. It must be sensitive to this, and to retain all the visual associations and design cues that have built up in people’s minds over the years.
Balancing these strategic elements with the bold, straightforward messages that are most salient right now is hard. It takes a carefully nuanced approach.
It’s wrong to say that subtlety and nuance are dead. Subtle and nuanced design is required to create visual identities that are striking, relevant and understood by shoppers. This has always been the case.
Without doubt, though, this is a time, more than ever, for brands to ensure they’re relevant, and more importantly, understood. Maybe even Connect in FULL?
Mike Foster, Founder & Creative Director – Straight Forward Design