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Is Packaging Part of Product or Promotion? Should it be Both?

Which did you answer subconsciously when you read the title? Do you consider your packaging to be a part of the product, protecting its contents and framing its on-shelf life? Or do you consider it to be an integral part of your connection with your customers at an important moment of truth, that of purchase and usage?

If you answered both, then I believe that you are making maximum use of your packaging or at least you recognise its potential for communication.

If you answered only one of the choices, then you may be missing an important opportunity. Let me explain, with a few examples.

 

People don’t read instructions

We all expect most things that we use or consume to be intuitive these days. In other words, we assume that we will understand how to build / cook / use them without reading the manual / instructions.

We all expect most things that we use to be intuitive these days. We assume that we will understand how to build / cook / use them without reading the manual / instructions. How intuitive is your brand? Click To Tweet

If you are like most people – myself included – this has nothing to do with the complexity of the product concerned . I myself will only turn to the instructions when something doesn’t work: I end up with left-over screws when mounting a flat-pack piece of furniture, or I can’t achieve multi-recordings on my smart TV or DVD recorder.

In the article How Likely Are You to Read the Instructions they  they link behaviour to personality types. It makes an interesting read and offers at least some explanations why many (most?) of us still don’t read instructions.

As internet results in us having access to more and more information, we seem to be reading less and less. Therefore we need to ensure that any vital information is called out in some way on the packaging – and perhaps visually as well.

 

People do look at packs

Whether it is the cream we put on our faces, the cereal we eat for breakfast, or the dip that we offer to friends on match night, there are moments when we are faced with packaging for more than a split second. It is at these times that we are likely to read at least some of what is written on a pack.

It therefore makes sense to provide more than just a list of ingredients. After all you have your customer’s attention.

 

Order our Pack AuditCheck your packs are connecting effectively with your customers

 

 

Here are a few examples I have come across recently:

Nestle compass on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionNestlé does a great job of providing useful information on their packs with their nutritional compass, which includes four different pieces of information.

What I particularly like about what Nestle has done, is to combine mandatory information on nutritional values, with useful information for the consumer. While they may not be the most consumer centric company around, at least they did think consumer first in the development of their compass.

 

 

Juvena message on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionJuvena of Switzerland: The short message to "Enjoy the smoothness" on the back of the Juvena hand cream sample tube I recently received makes the usage experience both more enjoyable and longer-lasting.

Users will almost certainly check out the promised smoothness after their application, bringing to their attention a benefit that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Clever.

 

 

Yucatan message on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionYucatan Guacamole: I love Mexican food and especially guacamole. The message I discovered on the inside of a tub I bought in the US, made me smile.

The manufacturer has turned what could have been perceived as a negative, into a healthy positive. I just love that.

While you may have to click on the image on the right to be able to read all of the message, their website is very clear. Now that's what I call impact!

 

 

Pringles message on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionPringles have done something similar with their “Bursting with flavour” message. Again it explains what some might have perceived as a negative – the bulging top – into a positive.

They used to put this only on the inside seal, but they have obviously understood the power of this message since they have now added it to the pack as well, as the photo on the left shows.

 

Heinz message on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionHeinz Tomato Ketchup: A final example, also from my trips to the US is a ketchup bottle that had a very important message on front of pack, as you can see from the photo on the right.

Heinz ketchup packaging message is both product and promotionHeinz now uses their front label to announce many of their initiatives and promotions. It has become something that consumers are used to seeing - and reading.

A fun campaign they started running in 2019 with Ed Sheeran includes a pack label change - of course! The accompanying TVC ad shows Sheeran adding ketchup to a dish in an exclusive restaurant. While it is funny, I am not sure the anguish many will feel watching it is positive. What do you think?

 

 

These are just five examples of companies using their packaging more creatively. There are many others. If you have a favourite example then please share it in the comments below.

If you're not confident that your packs are optimised to connect with your customers, why not get us to run a pack audit? We will review all your packs and discuss how you can make them more customer centric. Why not communicate with your customers when they are ready to listen, as they use your product?

Order our Pack AuditCheck your packs are connecting effectively with your customers

 

 

People are willing to help you

Geneva airport customer feedbackCreative messaging needn’t be limited to packaging of course. I came across this incredibly simple solution for gathering customer feedback in a Geneva airport toilet (restroom). That was five years ago, but they seem to be everywhere these days. This shows how instant customer feedback has become a necessity in so many industries.

What I liked about it, is its simplicity, it's fun look, and its lack of invasion of customer’s time in providing their feedback.

Our customers’ time is valuable and we should respect it. The information we provide must be relevant and useful for the customer; something they would like to know, not (just) something we want to tell them.

Our customers’ time is valuable and we should respect it. The information we provide must be relevant and useful for the customer; something they would like to know, not (just) something we want to tell them. Click To Tweet

We also need to be careful to connect only when invited, or find other ways to provide information that a customer can access when they need it. This is why social media has become such an important element of the communications plan. However, packaging has not, as yet, met with the same level of consideration.

Our customers’ attention is pulled in all directions today, with thousands of messages pushed at them, from so many channels, products and services. Capturing their attention is more likely to be successful when they are open to learning about your product, that is to say, when they are actually using it. It therefore makes good business sense to use packaging more creatively; wouldn't you agree?

For more information on the support we can provide in product innovation and branding, please check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/training

This post is regularly updated and expanded from the original published on C3Centricity.

You’re missing out on A Free Communication Channel! (Any guesses what it is?)

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Are you as shocked as I am, to think that there is a free communication channel which most marketers are not using effectively today?

So what is this incredible channel? The Internet? No. Social Media? No.

OK, so everyone is excited about the web and have jumped on board the digital train. But some are already seeing that online advertising is not the “safest” way to communicate.

Take P&G for example. A recent AdAge article stated that:

Procter & Gamble‘s concerns about where its ads were showing up online contributed to a $140 million cutback in the company’s digital ad spending last quarter… 

P&G didn’t call out YouTube, the subject of many marketers’ ire earlier this year, … but did say digital ad spending fell because of choices to “temporarily restrict spending in digital forums where our ads were not being placed according to our standards and specifications.”

Will others follow? I don’t know. But I would like them all to reconsider their total advertising spend in light of this underutilised but highly effective channel that I’m about to share with you. Have you guessed what it is yet? It’s packaging!

Think about it. Packaging communicates in-store, on the shelf as shoppers pass by.

Packaging communicates in-store, on the shelf as shoppers pass by #Packaging #Instore #Retail Click To Tweet

It communicates to users when they take it home and open it. Although for how long? See below for some developments in that area.

And it may also communicate when it’s used, whether it is snacks, drinks, breakfast cereals, cookies, pharmaceuticals or a whole load of other products which are consumed straight from the pack.

So if a pack has the possibility to communicate, why are so few marketers using it?

I believe it’s because they don’t see packaging as a communication channel, which is a serious mistake. After all, it’s free!

There are two very popular posts on C3Centricity on the topic, which you might like to read before continuing. The first is “How Communicating through Packaging is more Informative & Personal” which shares some great examples of how creative pack usage has become the basis of full media campaigns. Click the link above to read more.

The other is “Is your Packaging Product or Promotion?” which talks about why people don’t read instructions – until they need them – but they do read what’s written on packs. Click above to read more.

Both of these posts provide some great examples of companies which have used their packaging to communicate with their consumers. However they are a couple of years old now, so I wanted to update my thoughts on the packaging channel opportunities, as well as the examples I share.

After all, customers have become more demanding in recent years and want to know far more about the products they purchase.

Customers are more demanding & want to know far more about the products they purchase #shopper #purchase Click To Tweet

And if you can’t wait to start a review of your own packaging, why not book a complimentary advisory session with me?

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Food and Beverages

NHS TRAFFIC LIGHTS
Image source: NHS UK

The F&B category has seen and continues to see the introduction of a lot of packaging laws.

When Nestle launched its "Compass" way back in 2005, most other food manufacturers were keeping things simple. Some had colour codes like traffic lights to indicate calorie content, while others had five or seven bullets on front of pack that showed the ingredient breakdown in terms of daily limits of fat, protein, sugar, carbohydrates etc.

Today, purchasers check far more details on labels in-store before buying. According to research by Prepared Foods and BevNet, they are looking for very specific guarantees in addition to mere ingredients, such as:

  • gluten free, dairy or nut free.
  • no additives or preservatives
  • recyclable packaging
  • healthier packaging materials
  • functional properties such as a good source of calcium, fiber, antioxidants, protein, omega 3 or probiotics.

Unfortunately with such demands for so much information on pack, there is little room for anything else. That is why manufacturers are getting creative with their packaging.

There are so many new ways to use packs for communications, but here are three of the most on-trend tactics today.

There are so many new ways to use packs for communications #packaging #communications Click To Tweet

Smart Packaging

It has always amused me that we spend time reading product contents, but still try to connect electronics or build flat-pack furniture without reading the instructions! Clearly we think we understand technology and furniture better than food, or at least we think we do! Therefore thank goodness that smart packaging is now available!

Smart packaging, including NFC (near field communic­ation) tags, transforms conventional packaging into a digital communication channel with customers. Not only does it transmit information at the point of sale, but also after purchase in the home, with such benefits as refill reminders, freshness alerts or usage tips.

Connected packaging is a real win-win for both manufacturers and customers. It can collect consumer habits and behavior that provides brands with a new level of understanding which can then be used to develop future products.

According to Research and Markets, the global smart packaging market is expected to grow to $52 billion by 2025, thanks to adoption in categories such as personal care, beauty, food, healthcare and pharmace­uticals.

Smart packaging works by tapping on the pack with your smartphone, to receive information about the product, usage suggestions, sourcing and ingredients. This brings an intimacy with the customer that will differentiate the brand from its competitors and hopefully increase loyalty. It also provides a guarantee of authenticity, which is an added benefit in certain categories plagued by counterfeits.

As packaging is also required to show more information on pack, and in multiple languages as sourcing goes global, smart packs have arrived just in time to save the customer from needing a magnifying glass to read what's printed on them. With the aging population in most developed countries today, this is an additional benefit.

 

Free communication on Tapped
Image source: Tapped

Attractive Packaging

Amongst the numerous trends highlighted by Mintel in their report "Five key trends set to impact global packaging markets in 2017" the importance of appeal, especially online, was mentioned. This will mean a desire for packs which stand out from the competition, especially in the smaller sizes on-screen.

 

 

An article on 99Designs shows how manufacturers have risen to the challenge in a number of creative ways:

Free communication on Sweety & Co packs
Image source: Sweety & Co
  • Simpler, bolder designs
  • Exceedingly bright colours
  • Unusual designs
  • Illustrations as narratives
  • Eco-friendly packaging

 

 

There is one additional benefit of unusual or attractive packs and that is their "buzz" value.

There is one additional benefit of unusual or attractive packs & that is buzz value #SMX #packaging Click To Tweet
Free communication on Smash Mallow packs
Image source: Smash Mallow

People love to be the first to share a new purchase when it is out-of-the-ordinary in terms of colour, shape or usefulness. It's a matter of forget the contents - at least the time of a YouTube video clip - and love the look of the pack!

Personalised Packaging

This is not a new trend but has attracted attention from many brands in recent years. In an article entitled "The pros and cons of personalised packaging for FMCG brands" eConsultancy reported that:

Free communication on Heinz soup cans
Image source: WeAreSocial.com

The success of Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign proved that people can’t get enough of  personalisation.

However as they also point out, personalisation is not really "personal" since so many people have the same name around the world.

Enter the trial of true personalisation. Heinz offered their soup range with a "Get well soon ... " message.

Although it was almost twice the usual price per can, the reasons it worked were many. It included a donation to charity for every one sold. It communicated online rather than on TV, adding to the personalised feel of the campaign.

Also in the second year they even allowed fans to vote for their favourite soup to join the tomato and chicken flavours they already offered. (potato and leek won, by the way)

One company that has had less success with its own attempts to copy Coke is Nestle. They proposed a pop-up "KitKat Chocolatory" in London's Westfield shopping mall.

Free communication on KitKat packs
Image source: eConsultancy

It was built on Coke’s naming trend and the success KitKat had with the concept in Japan.

Although the personalisation went beyond the name, with customised toppings and flavours too, it made a number of basic mistakes:

  • The UK is not Japan. KitKat is a cult brand there and has been for years, especially for gifting.
  • The process was digitalised, so people didn't get the chance to make nor even see the bar being made for them - unless they hung around for an hour or so.
  • Purchasers had to wait (at least) 90 minutes before their personalised bar was ready.
  • The "experience" added up to a few moments using a touchscreen; neither personal nor very exciting.
  • It cost seven pounds! 

I believe most of these points could have been corrected if they'd bothered to be a little more customer centric. The text message sent when the bar was ready, while a nice touch, meant providing Nestle with additional information about the purchaser, which no doubt they will use in the future to contact them, whether they like it or not!

I suggest that Nestle learn from how Pret a Manger did pop up retail brilliantly. You can read about it in "Eight ways Veggie Pret innovated pop-up retail strategy" from eConsultancy.

Like Veggie Pret, the KitKat example does include a personalised product offer too. But that's not new. Many food and confectionary brands have been offering these for many years on a promotional basis. Again the prices are higher, but the impact of the product too is greater. At least that was one thing Nestle did get right.

Returning to the topic of packaging, the change in retail, which I spoke about last week in "The Future of Retail is in the Stars - or it is the Cloud?" means that packs too have a new role to play beyond protection and container. They can be a free communication channel too.

In some industries we are seeing a return to non-packaged products where the customer provides their own containers. 

Bulk offering of essentials has been used for years for washing powders, chocolates, candy, juices, wine, vinegar, olive oil etc, but with the crackdown on recycling, many purchasers are leaving the cardboard outers in the shops.

Manufacturers will have to get smarter in the way they communicate, when their outer no longer exists. It will certainly make communicating even more difficult unless manufacturers follow the trend to smart packaging.

What do you see as the future of packaging? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Your Pre-Vacation Marketing Checklist: Don’t Leave the Office Without Doing It!

Have you already taken your mid-year vacation, are you currently on it, or are you eagerly anticipating your departure, as you finish all those last-minute tasks?

If it’s the latter, then you will find this checklist extremely useful. For those of you who have already taken your vacation, then this list will provide you with a simple way to catch up and even get ahead of your colleagues, before they return. Either way, enjoy this quick “To do” list for an easier Summer at work.

1. Check Customer Changes

Describe your customer personasWhen was the last time you reviewed your customer persona or profile? This should be a document that you keep near to you at all times, and update with new information every time you learn something. (>>Tweet this<<)

If you don’t yet have one, then you can read this post on how to complete one quickly and easily. There is even a free template to store all the information, which you can download from the Members area. (FREE to join)

With people changing fast in response to the incredible progress witnessed today, in technology in particular, you have to constantly keep abreast of your customers’ changes. (>>Tweet this<<)

2. Check Sales to Plan

This might sound like a no-brainer since I am sure you are certainly already following your sales monthly, weekly, if not daily. However rather than the simple comparison to plan, mid-year is a great time to review versus your annual objectives and make the necessary adjustments to meet them before it’s too late. If you wait until everyone is back in September, it will almost certainly be too late to have much impact on the numbers.

The other “no-brainer” that some top managers seem to forget, is to check your market shares and segment shares, not just your sales progression. Even if you’re growing at 20% p.a. if the market is increasing at a faster rate, you will be losing share! (I’m always amazed to find just how many companies are still only following sales and profits)

3. Check Communications to Image

Again it is easy to get lost in the detail  and end up reviewing merely the creative of your past, current and planned advertising. However, this is a great time to assess in detail the first six months’ advertising of both your br and and its major competitors.

Campaigns should complement each otherWhat is the overall message? Is everything coherent and building towards a story (>>Tweet this<<), or does each campaign appear to be an independent part of the total puzzle? It is surprising how few marketers ever look at all their campaign ads together and yet this is what the customer will see and hopefully remember – at least in a best-case scenario – over time.

At worst your customer will only see a selection of them across all the campaigns, which makes it even more important that your messages are coherent and building your story and image, or at the very least are complementary over the year, as well as years.

4. Check Distribution and Stock

Summertime can often be a strain on distribution and stock levels, as people leave on vacation and less experienced temporary personnel are hired to replace them. If your product is weather sensitive, such as ice cream, soft drinks, or Bar-B-Q articles (in Summer), stock levels can vary tremendously. Make sure you have plans in place to reduce or increase deliveries based upon these external factors that are out of your control.

Especially where temporary staff are concerned, whether on the retail or manufacturer’s side, they might not underst and the possible wide variances in stocks that can quickly take place. This must be carefully explained before the more experienced staff leave on vacation.

5. Check Value versus Price

Customers are more sensitive to value than priceIn addition to (hopefully) good weather and variable distribution, summertime is also one of the major periods for sales and discounts. This is because retailers often want to clear seasonal stock in preparation for the new articles to come in the Autumn. Therefore price tends to become a more important decision factor for customers (>>Tweet this<<) as they witness and welcome the increase in price cuts and promotions.

Depending upon your industry, customers may therefore start to compare your price to the articles on sale and decide that it is no longer worth its (higher) price, because in the current climate, it has become of lesser value to them.

Whether you respond to this with your own sales prices, or bundle promotions, it’s clear that price cannot be left until your return.

6. Check how your Customers will be Serviced

Customer service excellence has become an increasingly important part of most products. Just because it is vacation time, doesn’t mean that you will no longer receive customer complaints and comments. Will they be h andled in the usual, efficient way or will time to respond be negatively impacted by the vacation period and perhaps less experienced personnel?

Customers remain just as impatient as ever, to receive a response to their contact with you, so you will need to ensure that your service continues at the same quality level.

7. Check for any New Trends that are Developing

Although you should be working with longer term future scenarios, rather than just following trends, it is always good to keep your finger on the pulse. This should be a part of point #1 above on customer personas, but I have separated it, as there may be new trends developing which might offer opportunities for new products, services or even categories.

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In order to be ready to benefit from any new market situation when you return from vacation, before you leave, put in place a social media scan and analysis around any new emerging trend. This way you will have all the information available upon your return to decide whether or not it is something worth considering.

These are the seven most important items which should be on your pre-vacation marketing checklist. In fact it’s a checklist my clients work with all year long! Is there anything else that you would add? If so, I’d love to hear what is on your own pre-vacation checklist. Just leave a comment below.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThe images used in this post come from Denyse’s latest book Winning Customer Centricity, which is now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and in all good bookstores.

If you are not yet a C³C Member, sign up (for free) in the C³C Members area. You’ll get a discount code to buy the book, many useful templates from it, as well as case studies, videos and audio presentations to download.

How to Stop Customer Satisfaction Drip, Dripping Away

I recently spent a few days in a condo that I have rented before in Miami Beach. It is a wonderful penthouse suite with panoramic views of the sea to the east and Miami city and port to the west. I rent it because I am always delighted to spend a few days of vacation in such a perfect place.

However, this last time I wasn’t happy. What has changed? Very little really but enough to make me feel disappointed. That made me reflect on how quickly our customers can move from delighted to dissatisfied because of some small detail we might have overlooked or which we ourselves see as irrelevant. Let me explain.

  1. I arrived at the condo building, but the usual doorman with whom I had built a good relationship has been replaced by a new person. Just as efficient but not “my” doorman; he didn’t know me so he came across as less welcoming and friendly. In the business world our customers like to be recognized for their loyalty.
  2. The condo was as perfect as ever, but had obviously been cleaned in a rush in time for my arrival. It smelt wonderful of course, but I didn’t notice the high-sheen tiled floor was this time wet and I went skidding onto my backside as soon as I entered. Customers notice when things are wrong more than when everything is right.
  3. The usual paper products were supplied, but only four sheets of kitchen roll and not many more of toilet paper! No big deal but it meant I had to immediately go out and buy them first thing the following morning instead of lazing at the beach. Customers will sometimes buy a competitive product rather than go searching when yours is out-of-stock.
  4. I went to bed early upon arrival because I was tired from the sixteen hour trip and the six hour time difference. I had never noticed before but neither the blinds nor the (too short) curtains cut out the daylight, so I tossed and turned for hours before sleep finally took over. Small issues with your product or service may go unnoticed – at least until there are many more “small issues.”

I am explaining these details to demonstrate how little things can build upon one another to create dissatisfaction. The same can happen to your customers. So ask yourself, what little changes have you been making that your customers haven’t (yet) noticed?

  • Reducing pack content just a little
  • Reducing the cardboard quality of packaging
  • Making the flavouring just a little more cheaply
  • Increasing the price just a few cents
  • Shipping just a few days later than usual
  • Call centres being not quite as friendly as they used to be
  • Response time to queries and requests a little slower than before

These adaptations are unlikely to be noticed by your customers at the time they are implemented, unless they are already unhappy with your product or service. The minor changes you have been making over the past months or years will have gone by without any impact on sales. Therefore you decide to make a few more. Each will save you a little more money, which adds up to big savings for you.

However, one day your customers will notice and question their original choice (>>Tweet this>>). To avoid this slow drain on your customers’ satisfaction and delight, here are a few ways to avoid this situation arising in the first place:

  1. When you run product tests, compare not only to the current product and your major competitors but also to the previous product. (or its ratings if the product is no longer available)
  2. Run a PSM (price sensitivity meter) or similar test to check levels of price perceptions and acceptable ranges.
  3. Measure br and image on a regular basis and review trends not only the current levels.
  4. Check that call centres are judged on customer satisfaction and not (just) on the number of calls answered per hour.
  5. Offer occasional surprise gifts or premium services to thank your customers for buying.
  6. Aim to make continuous improvements in response times both online and in call centres.

Perhaps surprisingly, in many categories, customer satisfaction, loyalty and delight come from the small differences and not the big basics (>>Tweet this<<). For example:

  • Consumers are delighted by the perfume of a shampoo more than by the fact that it cleans their hair.
  • Amazon surprises and delights its customers by occasionally offering premium delivery for the price of st andard.
  • Kids will choose one fastfood restaurant over another because of the “free” gifts offered.
  • Women love to buy their underwear from Victoria’s Secrets because they walk out with a pretty pink carrier bag overflowing with delicate pink tissue paper.
  • Men buy their girlfriends, wives and mistresses jewellery from Tiffany because they know that the little aqua box they present to their loved one already says it all, even before it is opened.
  • A car is judged on its quality and safety by the “clunk” of the door closing, more than its safety rating.

In today’s world of dwindling product / service differentiation and an overload of choice, which I already spoke about in the last post entitled “Do your Shoppers face a purchasing dilemma? How to give the right customer choice every time”, your customers want to be made to feel cared-for, not cheated. Find new ways to surprise and delight them and they will remain loyal, even if you have to increase your prices. As L’Oreal continues to remind its consumers every time they buy one of their products, “They’re worth it”.

If you would like to review your br and building and learn new ways to catalyse your own customers to greater loyalty and delight, then contact us for an informal discussion of your needs. I know we can help.

Winning Customer Centricity Book

Don’t forget to check out my latest book Winning Customer Centricity. It’s available in Hardback, Paperback and eBook formats on Amazon and andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”>Barnes & Nobles, as well as in all good bookstores. And if you haven’t yet joined, sign up for free to become a C³Centricity Member  and get a DISCOUNT CODE as well as many free downloads, templates, case studies and much more.

C³Centricity used an image from Miami andBeaches in this post.

 

Are you Jeopardising your Customers’ Loyalty? Or is it Going to Disappear Anyway?

As you have no doubt already noticed, my Blog posts and those of many other Bloggers too, are often prompted by real-world experiences. This week is no exception.

I want to share with you some examples of how companies jeopardise the loyalty of their customers and also seriously limit their chances of getting repeat purchases. But manufacturers aren’t the only guilty party; there have been some interesting comments on retail loyalty as well these past few weeks, so I will touch upon that too.

Promising More than the Customer Gets

This week I bought a new br and of bacon; I fancied a real English breakfast for once. When I opened the pack up, I was shocked to see that under the first three or four deliciously lean slices, was a pack of rather fatty, poor quality meat. Now why would a company do this? To make the sale of course. Seeing such great quality you would rightly expect the pack to contain similar meats to the front slices.

Another example which uses a similar ploy involves packaging. How often have you been enticed into buying a new product because of the picture on the pack? Or perhaps it was in an advertisement showing a delicious-looking meal or an amazing improvement to the skin or hair? Sometimes the pack content or product result may be acceptable, but when it’s not, you’re disappointed rather than delighted, aren’t you? (I previously wrote about one such experience in a post on br and honesty here) Again, why would a manufacturer set themselves up to deceive the customer into buying – once?!

Are such behaviours customer-centric? Certainly not! They are deceitful tricks used to sell customers less than they were led to expect. Yes you may get the sale, but you won’t get repurchase and certainly not loyalty. Which do you want? One, several or long-term purchases?

Raising Prices without Saying so

Most major markets have seen low rises in their CPIs (consumer price index) in 2014 with Switzerl and actually in the current situation of a deflation! However that hasn’t stopped several manufacturers from increasing their prices. Or should I say decreasing the content of their packs, as that seems to be the more usual response of many of them? This is not a very customer-centric approach to pricing.

The shopper is buying the same br and at the same price, but the contents, which the consumer rarely verifies, have decreased. If the reduction is significant, consumers may notice that the pack is significantly larger than the contents inside, which may then prompt them to check the actual weight they have bought.

A recent article in the UKs “The Telegraph” talked about some of the most noticeable offenders, including Birds Eye (Pirmira’s Iglo Group) and Twix (Mars) c andy bars. However many categories were using the same method of hidden price rises.

A survey of 1,257 UK’s Which? members found that over half (58%) said they would rather prices rose than packs got smaller. A further 37% would rather the pack shrank, but only if they were told. (>>Tweet this<<)

 

M andatory Sign-ups for Free Products

There are hundreds of new offers on the internet every day, trying to entice new customers to “try before you buy”. However some sites dem and m andatory sign-up to the paid program before allowing their customers to test their service. Credit card details and other personal information is requested, supposedly to “help the customer to subscribe more easily” should they decide to buy after the trial period.

However there is also most likely an automated transfer included from the free to a paid service should the customer forget to cancel in time. They then find themselves in the situation of buying a paid suscription without full knowledge of it. Is this customer centric? Of course not. If a customer decides to buy, he would be much happier to provide the necessary information to do so at the time of purchase. Again, you may have sold one more membership, but are extremely unlikely to get a happy or loyal customer.

 

Cheap isn’t Always Less Expensive

More and more airlines and hotels are selling their services “on the cheap” or at least that’s what it looks like. However, when you start adding on the extras, those attractive prices don’t seem quite so cheap anymore.

Take a low-cost flight for instance; in Europe that would probably be with Ryanair or EasyJet, and in the US with SouthWest Airlines or JetBlue. In addition to the cost of the flight, you will often pay for hold luggage and sometimes  carry-on items too, as well as food on board, priority boarding, seat reservation, pillows, blankets, headphones and even entertainment.

Hotels will add on charges to guarantee bed type, taxes, WiFi, breakfast, gym use, bag storage, resort fees and even m andatory gratuities.

IMG_0217Retail advertising and promotions are other areas where shoppers need to have their wits about them and a calculator on h and. The old adage that bigger is better no longer seems to apply. If several sizes are offered purchasers really need to check prices per 4 ozs or 100 gms. The BOGOF (buy-one-get-one-free) and BOGO promotions can also sometimes work out more expensive than buying one pack at the usual price charged.

One of my favourite promotional ads of all time is one I photographed in the UK at the local Pound Store, the equivalent of the Dollar Store in the US. See the photo above. Now that really is a bargain!

Consumers are Getting Wiser

The above are just a few examples of “tricks” that manufacturers and retailers play on their customers. It’s almost as if they are trying to see just how far they can go before their clients notice. Well, I think we have noticed, and this is confirmed in an article on CMO.com that caught my eye last week. It mentioned a panel discussion at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City. Faisal Masud, Staples’ chief digital officer and EVP of e-commerce, who was part of a panel discussion at the event, made the following comment:

“Consumers are agnostic to where they shop. The days of window shopping and just paying the price you think is fair are gone. A lot of folks don’t even want to interact with people or companies. They just want their goods fast and at the lowest possible price. For that reason, a lot of the retail loyalty programs are a little bit doomed.”

I would add that a lot of br and loyalty will go the same way if practices such as those mentioned in this article continue. I believe these behaviours are short-terms acts of desperation of a losing br and. In fact I spoke in detail about using pricing in another post calledAre you on the way to br and heaven or hell?

Winners treat their customers as important people who have a choice and to whom they offer the best product or service they can, to satisfy, delight and why not also surprise them? If you are still thinking of such trickery as a way out of your current br and decline think again. It’s just not customer centric.

Do you have other examples you have seen of behaviour that is not customer centric? If so, I would love to hear about them.

And if you would like help in finding a solution to your own current business issue I would love to help. Just contact me for a chat and let’s see where it takes us.

C³Centricity used an image from Microsoft in this post.

Sourcing & Services Matter: Why Price Alone Won’t get your Customers to Stay

Price wars are a st andard challenge of marketers, whether working on the retail or manufacturing side. They have become more frequent in the last couple of years following the recession. Consumers are today even more price sensitive and are searching for great value and even greater deals. However as most retailers are now claiming lower prices, it becomes less of a differentiator. I therefore read with interest that Walmart is moving from its emphasis on low prices to one on sourcing.

Walmart gives serviceIn 2007 Walmart replaced its “Always Low Prices, Always” slogan by “Save Money Live Better”, so this new push with the message “ Made in the US” is worth noting. This latest announcement is made in conjunction with its promise of an additional $10 million in grants to non-profits focused on “on-shoring” manufacturing efforts.

 

Target gives serviceTarget announced last October its plans to introduce the “ Target Sustainable Product St andard” which was developed to “establish a common language, definition, and process for qualifying what makes a product more sustainable.” Target will ask vendors to complete an assessment that is designed to determine a sustainability score for their products. Products will be assigned a score of between zero and 100 “based on the sustainability of ingredients, ingredient transparency, and overall environmental impact”.

 

Both these initiatives show a move to a more caring retail environment. A study run by the Boston Consulting Group at the end of last year, found that more than half of companies with sales greater than $1 billion are actively planning or considering to bring production back from China to the U.S. This rise from a mere 37% just six months earlier shows a significant shift in American sensitivity.

 

Jumping across the “pond” to the UK, something similar is happening in terms of shifting attention from price to value, or should I say values?

 

Tesco gives serviceTesco recently introduced their “ Price Promise”, a pledge to match the price of a basket of both own-label and br anded products at Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons, or to offer customers a voucher at the till for the difference. Sainsbury’s has appealed to the Advertising St andards Authority, arguing that this claim was misleading customers. However, their wrath was, in part at least, sparked by the fact that this new Tesco pledge came in response to their own highly successful “ Br and Match” scheme, although the latter only compares br anded products.

 

Sainsbury's gives serviceSainsbury’s has now retaliated with the launch of a new campaign with the title “ Same price, Different values”, a possible dig at the fact that although Tesco won the ASA appeal, Sainsbury’s might appeal as they claim that their own-label products cannot be compared since many are locally produced. To support this position, the National Farmers’ Union has now taken a stance, backing Sainsbury’s. In light of last year’s  horse-meat sc andal, the values of retailers and the sourcing of food has become even more crucial, and Sainsbury’s sees this latest row as an opportunity to emphasise the difference between itself and Tesco.

 

If pricing has become (still is?) the entry stakes for retailers today, what else can they do to differentiate themselves and propose a viable alternative that appeals to today’s shoppers? Here are a few I came up with, based upon some of the more interesting initiatives and current trends in societal sensitivities:

  • Individualism: I live alone, as do a large minority of people in the developed world ( 47% in Sweden according to Euromonitor) How about offering smaller packs and individual servings? I would happily pay more for the convenience and the guilt avoidance. (I throw out vast quantities of food that is past its sell-buy date)
  • Localism: the horsemeat and other food sc andals have made people wary of buying from countries where they are unsure of their controls, hygiene or ethics. Identified sourcing and traceability brings trust and reassurance.
  • Fair trade guarantees fairness  and serviceFairness: This helps eliminate the guilt attached to buying (too) cheap products. We now know that products from the East are in general cheaper than products from the West. However, we still want reassurance that workers are being treated fairly. Fair Trade associations and the end to child-labour are causes most shoppers would be will to pay (a little) more for.
  • Sustainability: Recent weather changes have finally convinced everyone of the need to look after and protect our planet from further degradation. Therefore sustainability has become something to fight for. Whether this is reducing the use of palm oil to protect Indonesian rainforests or finding alternatives to bottled water which both wastes resources and pollutes the l and, people are dem anding more of manufacturers.
  • Packaging: Packs are no longer just for protection and shelf-impact, they provide information on ingredients, sourcing and links to apps that provide more about the company who made it or give access to reviews from other buyers.
  • Lowe's offers virtual room designerServices: Some retailers are offering schools for cooking, home repairs, creative pursuits or decorating (see Loew’s virtual room designer as a great example of this). No longer is it sufficient to sell products, people are getting help with making the best use of them and thus getting more value from their purchase.

 

These are just a few of the ways that retailers are building their relationships with their shoppers. They may come for price, but that is an unsustainable competitive advantage in today’s world. Retailers that maintain the loyalty of their customers will be offering more in terms of support and services to keep them coming back.  

If you would like to update your own retail environment and services, why not contact us for an informal chat? We can provide shopper journey mapping, in-store eye-tracking, at shelf facial imaging and many more forward-thinking tools.

C3Centricity used images from Dreamstime and named company websites.

Is Honesty still the Best Policy? Walking the Talk of Customer Centricity

I got an email today that irritated me, I mean it really insulted me, and prompted this post on customer centricity. I am sure it would have annoyed you too; in fact you have probably already received it or at least something similar yourself in the past.

It announced a “massive 46-page eBook” that I had been chosen to receive for free. It sounded as if I should be happy and feel privileged to receive it. I wasn’t. I don’t know about you, but I don’t call 46 pages massive. A jumbo jet is massive; War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is massive; not a measly 46 pages – even if it was for free.

ASA Logo protecting customer centricityWhy do companies continue to think that they can treat people like idiots? In my opinion, it can only be a very short-lived business strategy. People will quickly learn the truth, especially in today’s connected world. Or should I blame the advertising agencies for coming up with these “lies”? However, it seems to me to be just a little too close for comfort to the “misleading claims” from which the Advertising St andards Authority in most countries should be protecting us.

If you are looking to be truly customer centric, here are some other examples that you are hopefully NOT doing.

Claims

The above illustration is just one example of many exaggerated claims which seem to have become prevalent these days. This is most probably because the internet makes it so easy to reach new, “naive” customers, who still trust organisations to do the right thing. Why do so many companies use overly attractive adjectives that their product or service can’t live up to? They are setting themselves up to disappoint their potential customers, especially if they don’t register what comes after that word before buying.

Massive, mouth-watering, heart-stopping, mind-blowing, huge discount, best price ever; most of the time the products are not, which is probably why they feel they have to use such words. Customer centric companies don’t use these claims unless they can substantiate them.

Packaging

One area that often suffers from exaggeration is packaging. How many packs have you opened to find the product sitting miserably in the lower half of it? What a disappointment from the promise of the packaging. Or worse still in my opinion, are companies whose packs have been discretely reduced in contents over time. Companies may print the weight of the product that is inside the pack, but customers recognise and buy the pack without checking its weight each time they buy.

What is particularly offensive in this example is that it is the company’s most loyal customers who are being cheated. The company reduces the pack’s quantity but not its price; they are getting a price increase without informing their customers. That isn’t customer centric.

Value

Customer centric companies price on value not costAnother area that often suffers from exaggerated claims is price value. I was recently offered access online to a video “worth more than US$ 997” for just US$49.99. I don’t know any videos, even those of the classics or Oscar-winning films, that are worth that amount, and certainly no such offers proposed on the internet.

To paraphrase the infamous quote of Oliver Platt:

 

“Value is in the eye of the beholder, not the seller” (>>Tweet this<<)

 

How are you pricing your own product and service offerings? Do you base it on company cost or customer value? If not the latter, you may also be leaving a lot of money on the table, as your offer might actually be worth more than you are charging for it. The most important information you need to decide on your price is what your customer is prepared to pay for it; that is what value is all about. Customer centric companies know and apply this on a daily basis

Promising but not delivering

Airlines are renowned for this, especially the low-cost ones. They advertise flights at ridiculously low prices that few, if any, end up paying, since you need to add on the cost of paying by credit card, booking your seat, taking a bag on board etc. etc. Yes the advertised price attracts attention, but once you have made a few attempts at reserving these low prices, you underst and the “game” and compare before buying. And most of the time the “normal” airlines are cheaper. As I’m sure you’re heard many times and to quote Thomas (Tom) J. Peters:

 

“The formula for success is to under-promise and over-deliver” (>>Tweet this<<)

 

Zappos

Amazon and Zappos are two companies who regularly do this; in fact it’s a part of their business model. They occasionally provide priority delivery at no extra cost, as a delightful surprise for their customers. Amazon also proposes useful suggestions of other books, music or other products to buy whilst you are surfing their website to purchase something. Yes, I know it is in their interest to get you to buy something else, but it is a service and highly valued by most people. Customer centric behaviour is always a win-win for both the customer and the company.

Hidden renewals

You subscribe to a service on a free trial basis, or a one-off monthly fee as many Telecom companies now offer. What you don’t notice or remember, is that it is automatically renewed at the end of the trial period unless cancelled. Yes I know it’s written in the terms and conditions or at the very bottom of the online page if you scroll down, but I don’t read font 8 very easily, even with my glasses! And be honest, none of us reads to the very end of the terms and conditions, and the companies that use this tactic are counting on it.

Of course, when you are informed that your subscription has been renewed, you realise what has happened and immediately cancel, with hopefully only a one month and not an annual unwanted payment. Yes the company has gotten a payment it probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, but they certainly didn’t make us a loyal and happy customer, did they?

If you are using this type of “hidden selling” to get customers, please stop. Customer centric companies invite people to continue their subscription, perhaps at a special price. In this way they will get almost as many customers, but they will most certainly be happier and more likely to continue to purchase from them.

These are just a few examples of how companies are intentionally aiming to get customers to buy something that is not worth the money being asked in many cases. If the product or service they propose did offer true value, then people would buy or repurchase without the need for such tricks. As Peter Drucker said:

 

“The aim of marketing is to know and underst and the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself” (<<Tweet this<<)

 

I would go one step further and say that it is the aim of customer centric businesses.

With today’s ease of sharing experiences on the web, why do companies continue to try to cheat unsuspecting customers? It is most definitely a short-term business strategy. Unhappy customers used to tell ten people, now they tell tens of millions, with a simple Tweet. And if there are several unhappy customers who Tweet about similar experiences, then others will start to see the trend and become wary. Whilst there will always be a few disgruntled customers who complain, more than that will highlight a real issue.

This reminds me; I hate doing it but I am one of the people who have tweeted about poor customer service because I am not getting an answer when using the provided phone and email contacts. Customer service is all about taking the customers’ perspective (>>Tweet this<<) and offering multiple ways to be contacted and then responding quickly. Companies do respond to negative tweets, usually in record time and certainly faster than connections by other means. Why are companies forcing their customers to go public with their dissatisfaction to get heard? Most would be happy and would probably prefer to share their complaints with the company in private – IF they get a quick response.

So coming back to my question, the answer is a resounding yes. Most companies now speak about the importance of being customer centric, but so many of them are still doing many of the practices mentioned above, which are most definitely NOT customer centric behaviour. Are you one of them? Do you have other examples that you yourself have experienced? Why not share them here?

C³Centricity used images from the ASA in the UK, Dreamstime and Microsoft in this post.

How Communicating through Packaging is more Informative & Personal

Two posts caught my eye this week as they both referred to the importance of multi-channel communications. If you are looking for inspiration and new ideas in this area, then read on. In particular we will speak about the often forgotten opportunity for communicating through packaging.

The first article was by Jim Tierney at Loyalty360 in which he commented on the results of a new survey in the USA by IBM, concerning cross-channel integrationThe research found that “only 35% of leading marketers currently integrate their campaigns across all channels, with 8% indicating they are not currently integrated at all. In comparison, only 12% of the remaining marketers surveyed currently integrate their campaigns across all channels, with 39% saying they are not currently integrated at all”.

The other post on the same topic was from Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief at Direct Marketing News. In it she spoke of the recent Responsys Interact2013 event and the keynote speech by Scott Olrich Responsys’ President:

“Most marketers still cling to blast campaigns,” he said. “Smart marketers focus on digital and addressable.” They’re now able to deliver on the promises of personalization made 10 years ago, Olrich added.

Why is doing so important? Customers today expect personalization, choice, and value—because they get it already from leaders such as Amazon, which is one company creating personalized experiences at mass scale.

One way to do this: Flip the model, said Steve Krause, SVP of product management at Responsys. Today most marketers start with the campaign, create an offer, schedule it, and send to mass audience; instead, Krause said during his presentation, marketers should start with customer, build profiles, design experiences, and personalized interactions.

As a customer centricity specialist myself, I particularly liked Steve’s comment about starting with the customer; do we still need reminding that this is the first business essential today? Perhaps we do. However, neither article spoke about the opportunity of communicating through packaging, so I would like to add my own thoughts.

I wrote a post last year about the opportunity packaging provides to connect directly with customers at the critical point of product trial (you can read it HERE).

In that post, I gave some good examples from Kellogg’s Pringles and Nestlé’s Nutritional Compass. This time I would like to add a couple of other interesting examples I have come across recently, where the messaging has become even more personalized.

Pringles goes from allaying a negative to a full blown campaign

 

Communicating through packaging
Source: Zigspics.com

Who doesn’t know Pringles, the  br and of potato- and wheat-based stackable snack crisps sold in 2012 by P&G to the Kellogg Company?

Pringles started using the freshness seal to communicate to their consumers, by printing “Bulging with flavour” to explain the swollen lid. At the time I was fascinated by the fact that Pringles had been able to turn what might have been perceived as a negative (bulging lid = altered product inside) into a positive, through this simple message.

Today, I am even happier to report that since then, Pringles have turned that short message into a full promotional campaign for the brand.

 

Food & Beverage manufacturers become more transparent

Nestle communicating through packaging with nutritional compassNestlé has been communicating on-pack concerning the ingredients of their products since 2005. According to their  website, the “Nutritional Compass” provides their consumers with four valuable pieces of information:

  • standardized nutrient table
  • “Good to Know” panel explaining ingredients or nutrients relating to the product
  • “Good to Remember” panel with tips for responsible product enjoyment
  • “Good to Talk” panel with contact details and links to consumer services.

By the end of 2008, they were claiming that its Nutritional Compass had been added to 98% of its global product packaging by total sales volume.

communicating through packagingArguably more appealing today, many other food & beverage companies have started using infographics to share similar information.

One example from :OTVETDESIGN in Russia and included in an interesting post at PATH, is from Selizharovo Cannery.

Selizharovo is using this approach to communicate the contents of its products, with clean and concise graphics that are an integral part of the branding. Innocent do something similar, but only for the list of their ingredients on the side panel.

By making the ingredient list so visual and key to the packaging execution, the brand projects transparency, honesty and authenticity – all important attributes for consumers tired of recent scandals concerning product misinformation. To read the full post and see more packaging examples using infographics, click HERE.

 

Newer, more personalized messaging

Recent uses of packaging for direct connection with the customers, show an exciting and much more personalized approach.

Coke communicating through packaging with namesFor example, Coca-Cola is putting people’s names on its bottles and cans this summer as part of its ‘Share a Coke’ campaign.

They will be printing the most popular names in each country, or using a simple “Him” and “Her” label, when this is not possible.

 

communicating through packaging with personalised credit cardsMany banks offer their clients the possibility to personalize their bank or credit cards.

Although this has been true for many, many years, there seems to have been a recent revival in emphasizing this personalized alternative to the standard cards.

 

The often forgotten media channel

Packaging is a wonderful medium for communicating with your audience and yet many companies still seem to be ignoring it. My question to all marketers is therefore “Are you aware you are doing this?” I am sure many of you see packaging as purely a product protection mechanism or a facilitator of shelf impact. Whilst both of these are of course important, the opportunity of engaging with your customers whilst they are in the process of using your product has enormous value. Isn’t it time you took another look at yours?

If your company is effectively using its packaging to communicate more than just its ingredients or usage instructions, why not share it below and let your br and get the recognition it deserves and shine in the spotlight? We would love to see even more best-practice examples.

For more information on br and communication please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage

Do you feel that your communications could be even better? Is your copy testing coming too late or stifling creativity? Let us show you a new way to evaluate your concepts earlier in their development  process. Using it will save you considerable resources of both time and money. Contact us here.

This post has been adapted from one that was first published on C3Centricity Dimensions in April 2012

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Creative Messaging for Competitive Advantage

Most companies have issues with their products at times. Often they don’t immediately correct them unless they are considered to be significant and could have a direct impact on sales.

You could argue that this will always be the case eventually, so better resolve them as soon as they are identified. Some companies however are creative enough to turn what others might see as an issue into a competitive advantage. Let me give you a couple of examples.

 

Pringles Freshness Seal

Most consumers associate bulging lids and packs with a product that has deteriorated in some way. This is not at all the case of Pringles, for which a bulging seal under the plastic cap is a sign of freshness apparently, or at least is a normal phenomenon.

What I love about the br and is that whereas in the past the seal’s surface was used for communicating promotions and competitions, it is now used to send a positive message to their consumers about this situation.

On a pack I recently bought the seal was printed with the words “Bursting with flavour”. How is that for making a positive out of what might have been perceived as a negative? I love it! It adds to the br and’s image and also to the taste and pleasure expectations for the consumer who is about to open the pack. I can imagine that this came directly out of consumer insights, to answer a query about why the seal was always bulging, which as I already mentioned would usually be associated with a product that had “gone off”.

 

Heinz Tomato Ketchup

Another br and which has recently started using the “Bursting with Flavour” tag on their pack is Heinz. However I am not sure whether it has the same impact as it does on Pringles. Heinz started inverting their ketchup bottles in 2003, because their product was so thick it took time to slide down the bottle and onto the plate. This resulted in impatient consumers banging the bottom of the bottle, leading to the product being shaken out in a burst of splashes, not only on the plate but the consumer and tablecloth too! Perhaps this is where they got the original idea for the slogan.

Whilst I admire Heinz for putting different, and usually very relevant, messages on their ketchup bottles, the lastest one I saw didn’t live up to the others in my opinion. Why? Because the product is now much thinner and slides easily when the bottleis upturned. In fact it is so thin it doesn’t even need to be turned upside down anymore. As for bursting with flavour; it might have been appropriate in the past, but not any longer for this thin sauce. Pity.

 

The strange taste of Marmite

In contrast to Heinz, another well-documented example of a product that converted an issue to its advantage, is that of Unilever’s Marmite. Marmite claims to be a nutritious savoury spread, although non-Brits would describe it more as a very strange tasting concoction. Even UK consumers are divided in their opinion of it; they either love it or hate and there is apparently no half-way sentiment here.

Marmite created a very successful campaign around this love / hate relationship with the product which has now become a social phenomenon, and this divide has even been emphasised in their advertising and on the web. In the UK they even sell Marmite flavoured food – chocolate and cashew nuts – as well as br anded T Shirts, Kitchenware, Books, Cooking, Merch andise and more. How would you like your consumers to pay their hard earned money not only for your products, but for br anded promotional goods too?

In 2011, Unilever took the love / hate relationship into the kitchen, by developing and sharing simple recipes using Marmite for people who hate to cook. Each commercial of the campaign, called “Haute Cuisine, Love Marmite Recipes” ends with the “u” in Haute being blocked by a jar of Marmite, making “Hate Cuisine” and continuing the love / hate theme with which Marmite has become associated. If you would like to see some of the ads from the campaign, you can find them  here  and their website is  www.marmite.co.uk .

These are just three examples of creative messaging but there are many more br ands that have turned a negative into a positive and made it an appealing competitive advantage. Does your br and have an issue and if so could you turn it into a strength? Do you have any other examples you can think of? I would love to hear about your ideas.

This post has been adapted from one first published on March 29th 2012

For more ideas on br anding check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com and Kozzi.com

How to Innovate better than Apple

Last week I gave a lecture to a group of Executive MBA students at Miami University. It was a fabulous new experience for me, having only done lecturing in European Business Schools until now. There were lots of great questions and many comments about why organisations do what they do when looking to innovate.

It’s always easier to identify the sub-optimal processes a company uses when you’re on the outside and even easier to suggest possible changes that are needed, but when you are in the heat of the action, it is not so obvious.

I therefore thought it would be useful to list some of the ideas we came up with, in the hope that it will help all those challenged to improve the status quo within their own organisations and to provide some new ways to look at innovating outside the box.

 

#1 What business are you in?

When you are looking to innovate, instead of starting with your own current technology and skills, or products and services, how about taking a step back and thinking about what business you are really in. Lego is a great example; they realised that they were not selling (just) toys; they understood that they were in the imagination business. Which business are you in? Do you have an opportunity to redefine it? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Food: Family Time, Neutraceuticals – offer family sized portions, children’s play areas, partner with another industry as Nestlé did with L’Oreal when creating Inneov
  • Cigarettes: Personal Pleasure – tobacco companies should be going far beyond their current simplified expansion into electronic cigarette offerings
  • Alcohol / Beverages: Fun / Relaxation: br and lounges, music, video or internet services
  • Pharmaceuticals: Wellness – instead of curing or treating, offer prevention

 

#2. Can you add something new to an existing product?

Professor Steenkamp Knox Massey Distinguished Professor of Marketing and Area Chair of Marketing at Kenan-Flagler, proved back in 2007 that at least for Fast Moving Consumer Goods, small innovations (which are often referred to as renovations) can be just as successful as large step-changing breakthrough innovations. His research came to the conclusion that it was the ones that fall in the middle of “newness” that don’t meet with significant customer success. So what small changes can you make to your current offer to make it more appealing?

How about adding sound to a food, as Kellogg’s did with their Rice Crispies or Nestlé did by adding a layer of chocolate to the top of their cream deserts in France? Or what about adding smell to your outlet, as bakers and coffee houses already do these days, or Singapore Airlines did many years ago? A small change can have a big impact, especially if tapping into a different sensory perception from those customers are used to having stimulated.

 

#3. Can you add a service to the product?

Some products are actually designed to work with services, which are quite often the more expensive part of the sales equation (e.g. razors and blades or espresso capsules which are not only br and specific but can also only be bought online). However, there are other products that have provided additional services to their customers, by building upon their relationship with them, and boosting loyalty, even significantly in many cases. Examples include:

  • Starbucks offer more than coffee; their outlets are a “home away from home”, offering comfy sofas, free internet, tables for working and meetings
  • Purina offers pet insurance
  • Gerber offers college fund investment packages

 

#4. Can you change the packaging to make it more convenient?

Observe how your customers are using your product in their normal daily lives, as well as the products of your major competitors. Identify issues they have whilst using it, or ways they compensate for a product that is less than ideal for them and then add this extra benefit not offered by your competitors. Some recent examples:

  • Adding a simple h andle to a larger pack makes it easier for your customers to carry; these can be found on Dog Food and Toilet Paper, but not on all Cat Food and Kitchen Towels
  • Repackaging your product into smaller or single portion packs, if this is how most of your customers are using it. Incidentally these single portion packs may find a further use in developing markets where the price point is important for attracting potential new customers.
  • Inverting the tube of thick or creamy substances – as Heinz did for the Ketchup, or many toothpaste manufacturers did for some of their br ands

 

#5. Can you combine some of your current offers or extend a br and into an adjacent category

P&G have many examples of doing this very successfully, following the reduction in the number of br ands they offered about ten years ago. For example, they combined the sheeting action of Cascade & the water-filtering technology from PUR to create a spotless car-wash product under the Mr. Clean br and. Both Nestlé and Unilever have extended their confectionery br ands into ice-cream bars.

 

#6. Can you deliver the product or service in a different way?

Many airlines, including British Airways and Air France, now offer a fourth class on board their aircraft, premium economy / coach. The extra services they offer include priority check-in and boarding together with business class, as well as more legroom and better services on board than economy / coach.

Zappos has been built on service and they even have it in their slogan “Powered by Service”. They regularly surprise and delight their customers by offering express delivery for free. As their CEO Tony Hsieh is quoted as saying:

“Customer Service shouldn’t be a department;

it should be the entire company”

How could you surprise and delight your own customers by exceptional or additional services?

These examples have hopefully stimulated your own thinking, to take it outside your current innovation box. If you have other ideas, then please share them below; we would love to hear about your own creative examples.

However, if you would like support in reinventing your own innovation, why not do like many of our clients and start your journey in the fast-lane, by asking for a 1-Day catalyst session? We would love to catalyse your business to even greater success.

For more information on innovating brilliantly, please also check out our website: www.C3Centricity.com

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6 Ways to Offset Low Customer Dem and

Last week I spoke about how companies can become more customer centric, but in ways that will differentiate them from their competitors. This week I want to give some more concrete examples of actions, inspired by the latest results of McKinsey’s recent survey on the economic outlook.

As their chart below shows, whilst sovereign-debt defaults, economic volatility and geopolitical instability are considered to potentially be the biggest threats globally, low consumer dem and continues to be seen as the greatest barrier to business growth at a local level.

McKinsey economic threat chartThis has been the case in the last six months of results, so I thought it would be a good time to share some thoughts on what organisations can do to offset this (potential) threat to their renewed growth.

# 1 Customers

This should be the starting point for all strategy and plan development, but is so often only an afterthought. Tough times have a nasty habit of showing up an organisation’s incomplete or total lack of underst anding of their target customer. If there are any areas of your customers’ life of which you do not have a deep underst anding, including how they are likely to react in turbulent times, then this must be what you start to investigate, before going to the other five points.

Are your customers pretty resilient to price? Do they often switch br ands, products or outlets? Are they portfolio purchasers or highly loyal? The answers to these questions and more, will help you to be better prepared for tight times and to know how to respond to their specific needs better than anyone else.

# 2 Value

Many companies have reacted to lower sales by reducing price and increasing promotions. In most cases, this has been a waste of time, unless they have always been selling at a price higher than their value. If you don’t know what your customers believe is your true value to them, then you need to run some research urgently to find out, and only then, if your value is below your current price, should you consider either of these actions.

# 3 Offer

In an attempt to maintain pricing, some other organisations have been reducing the size or quality of their products and services, usually without making this clear to their customers. Whilst this might work in the short term, your customers eventually look at the details of the pack content or their service agreement, and realise they are no longer getting what they thought they were. This will both annoy them and make them lose trust in your company; you are at risk of also losing their business too, sometimes forever.

Instead of making reductions in your current product, why not empathise with your customers by offering smaller packs or reduced services for a lower price. In this way, should they decide to switch, it will at least be to another of your products / services, so they can remain loyal and hopefully return to the offering they previously purchased, when times become less difficult. You will also be building their trust and appreciation of your company and br and, by showing them that you underst and their pain and have searched to find a relevant solution.

# 4 Promotion

As previously mentioned, some companies are offering cheaper prices if a customer is willing to buy more of the product, as in a BOGOF or “3 for 2” promotion. Whilst this may make the price per unit less, it is also asking the customer to actually spend more than he / she usually does on the product.

A much better way, especially for companies manufacturing products in multiple categories, is to offer bundled products. In this way you are not necessarily asking your customers to buy more, just differently, whilst also giving some of them a chance of buying a product that they may not as yet have tried. A wonderful win-win for you both.

 # 5 Outlet

As customers become more sensitive to what and at what price they are making purchases, many will have decided to shop around or even change outlets. This means you need to stay connected to them and monitor their place of purchase in order to react should their habits change.

# 6 Communications

Are you one of the marketers who has faced a budget cut in the recent past? Unfortunately, when organisations are looking for money, advertising is often one of the first budgets to be cut. In the short term this often goes unnoticed, but by the time the reduction has an impact on sales, as it will, the slippery slope of share decline is often too difficult to reverse.

A much better reaction to hard times is to maintain or even increase advertising, since it can often be bought at a discount, due to lower dem and. Therefore you can get even more for the same budget and also increase awareness due to less competition and thus also a higher share of voice.

Have you already started thinking about what you can do to offset your own customers’ lower dem and for your products and services? Do your actions include any of the above, or have you decided on a different approach? Either way, we would love to hear about it; why not share your own story below?

For more information on how to better underst and your customers and their needs, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

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Simply better communications

One of my recent posts was prompted by a pack of Pringles, where the freshness seal was printed with the words “Bulging with flavour” to explain the swollen lid.

You may remember that I mentioned being fascinated by the fact that Pringles had been able to turn what might have been perceived as a negative (bulging lid = altered product inside) into a positive, through this simple message.

In today’s world of social media, most companies are jumping onto the latest craze and extending beyond the creation of br and websites, to Facebook pages, Twitter and many other forms of online / on-the-go communication. It was therefore a double pleasure for me to see a company making use of its most intimate form of communication to its customer, that of its packaging.

Nestlé adds valuable information on pack

If I am not mistaken, Nestlé was one of the first companies to see the value in communicating not just promotional content on its website, but actually providing useful information to its consumers on its packaging. According to their website, the “Nutritional Compass” provides their consumers with four valuable pieces of information:

  • a st andardised nutrient table giving amounts per 100g, per serving and as a percentage of Guideline Daily Amount;
  • “Good to Know” panel explaining ingredients or nutrients relating to the product, such as fat, sugar, fibre or calcium content;
  • “Good to Remember” panel with tips for responsible product enjoyment and its place in a daily balanced diet;
  • “Good to Talk” panel with contact details and links to consumer services, websites and other materials.

Nestle's pack informationNestlé started working on this initiative back in 2004 and by the end of 2008, they were claiming that its Nutritional Compass had been added to 98% of its global product packaging by total sales volume. This is an incredible achievement in such a huge and diversified company, and shows what can be achieved with passion and dedication.

The often forgotten media channel

Packaging is a wonderful medium for communicating with your audience and yet many companies seem to be ignoring it, whilst at the same time significantly increasing their investments in online media.

My question to all marketing people is therefore “Are you aware you are doing this”? I am sure many of you see packaging as purely a product protection mechanism or a facilitator of shelf impact. Whilst both of these are important of course, the opportunity of engaging with your customers whilst they are in the process of using your product has enormous value. Isn’t it time you took another look at yours?

If your company is effectively using its packaging to communicate more than ingredients or usage instructions, why not share it below and let your br and get into the spotlight?

For more information on br and communication please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/

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