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Should You Consider Rebranding a Food Product?

Consumers are fickle, and brand positioning is often affected by which direction the cultural zeitgeist winds are blowing. For example, Weight Watchers did some rebranding in 2017 due to the rise of body positivity and criticism of the company’s encouragement of restrictive eating, coupled with accusations that it worsens stigma surrounding body shape. 

Rebranding can renew enthusiasm about food products.

Sometimes rebranding is part of a brand positioning strategy that is not related to negative press but is simply a way to keep up with the times. That does not mean that rebranding should be taken lightly, however. Done well, rebranding can generate buzz and excitement, allowing brands to reach new target demographics.

When rebranding misfires, however, results can be swift and humbling. Remember in 2009 when Tropicana rebranded with packaging that featured a simple, clear glass of orange juice? Maybe it was clean and elegant, but it was also unrecognizable. When consumers thought they could not get their beloved Tropicana anymore, they went with competitors. Clearly, rebranding must be thought all the way through.

Signs It Is Time for Rebranding

Sometimes the clearest signal that it is time for a rebranding is controversy. For example, after the criticism of Weight Watchers mentioned above, the brand added more than 200 foods to its “zero points” list, which consists of foods that participants do not need to track. 

Other signals that a renewed look at brand positioning is advisable include packaging that is not environmentally friendly and claims that are outdated. Eco-sensitivity is practically universal these days, and people want to know that packaging is either minimized, easy to recycle, or both.

As for outdated health claims, here are a couple of examples. A long time ago, snack products added oat bran, after reports that it was heart healthy, and they proclaimed this prominently on their packaging. Then, a few years later, “fat-free” was all the rage. People do not really care about oat bran these days, and among some consumers, “fat-free” is not considered a good thing, particularly when it designates a product that is filled with sugar.

Goals for Brand Positioning

Goals of rebranding are slightly more complicated than they were a generation ago. While rebranded packaging must appeal to customers in stores, it must also look good online. That is, it must not only look good on e-commerce sites (where people are increasingly comfortable buying CPG products), it must look good on social networks, like Instagram, where people frequently post food and meal prep pictures.

Is your product ready for its Instagram close-up?

Typical reasons for rebranding today include generating more emotion and “buzz” around products, addressing “clean label” demands from modern consumers, improving brand transparency, and communicating brand values more clearly. At the same time, brands must maintain core brand essentials, or they risk being unrecognizable (like Tropicana, circa 2009).

Packaging Expected to Do More Than Contain the Product

In the earliest days of CPG products, packaging was supposed to contain the product safely. Little more was demanded of packaging until mass media arrived. Today, packaging is expected to not only contain products safely and effectively, but to look beautiful, have a good textural feel, be environmentally responsible, be easy for retailers to stock, and to convey ingredients, health claims, and company values effectively. That is a lot! Whereas the old philosophy was about containing products adequately and cheaply, the new philosophy is that packaging is a fundamental element of brand positioning.

Effective Packaging Has These Elements

When your company undergoes a rebranding phase, it should keep in mind the key elements of effective packaging in the internet age. First, it must stand out from its competitors on the store shelf. People are easily swayed to choose competing products when they have trouble finding their preferred brand in the store. Packaging must also convey a brand’s unique selling proposition, whether that is affordable indulgence, easy healthful eating, or outstanding value.

Furthermore, packaging must understand and speak to its target demographic (and desired target demographics). It must be functional and convenient because today’s consumer simply will not bother with packaging that is too much trouble to use. Furthermore, it must do all this at a glance, in order to close the sale either in a physical retail store or online. 

Brand positioning is not easy. It requires planning, commitment, vision, investment, testing, and iteration. It is not a once-and-done proposition either; most brands continue to refine and tweak packaging after a major rebranding effort. It is important not to see rebranding as an expense but as an investment. When done well, and with due consideration to the consumers who use the product, the ROI can be impressive. 

PKG Brand Design is always on the forefront of new CPG branding and packaging initiatives - to read more, please subscribe to our blog to always be current on the latest package design industry news. 

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