Biscuits and Branding

I have recently developed a fondness for Tunnocks Caramel Wafers. Apparently, over 7,000,000 are eaten every week, which is 1 millionth eaten in my household alone… best with a cup of tea btw

Until now I have been purchasing these at my local store… but, whilst on the weekly shop, I also spotted them at Aldi this week… I also noticed the Aldi own brand.

This was of course not hard to miss, the packaging was the same colours, and pattern, just with the signature red and gold stripes leaning the other way.

This own-brand packaging was in fact so similar I wondered if agreements were made to produce both, in the same factory.

Customers could make side-by-side comparisons in Aldi, the original or (similar looking) cheaper version, and decide thinking they were getting a choice, but in fact, all revenue still returned to the manufacturer.

[and maybe this is just a conspiracy theory… but look at other own-brand and brand products too, they are there too.. lol]

Genius marketing?

Now, this is either marketing genius or provides an endless supply of (legal) disagreement… but putting this aside, it did point out the importance of branding in understanding a product for sale.

After all, I knew exactly what I where to buy based, not on an examination of the ingredients, but based on the colour and style of the packaging. This was something I recognized, and understood… my subconscious kicked in and I knew where to reach to get a similar product.

I was not fooled and still knew it was different from the original, but nevertheless had a look as it was familiar

I was engaged, reading the label and then evaluating whether I should save the 20p or buy the original. (of course, I bought both – strictly for research purposes, to compare, you understand).

This now had me thinking about the importance of product branding and how should we consider this across our industry and business.

Why this matters?

Sales can, of course, be a challenge anywhere. This can be even more so when it is not a chocolate biscuit, but advice, expertise, research, or services, all of which may yet be delivered.

Of course, customers in the end get a bespoke product, delivering value, designed around their needs… and with a good experience repeat sales are much easier… but that first one can take time.

So can we make greater use of branding to define products, making these services easier to understand, select and consider buying?

Framing the context of a product in this way can drastically reduce the time needed to explain what it is and what it does. Customers are more easily engaged and quicker to the reading the label stage, looking at the features, and closer to deciding which to buy.

We already see this in some areas, broad-brush groupings, such as contact centres, software, and technology types, even data services already use this approach.

However, how can we take this further? What else can be productised, branded to make it easier to understand, recognize and compare?

Better Biscuits

In the end, I found the own brand biscuits were not quite the same.

Yes, the originals were 20p more expensive, but a better quality biscuit and worth the money… and through this experience I also realized that this is not the main reason I buy Tunnocks anyway either… it is in fact the wrapper.

My routine of eating the biscuit, scrunching the wrapper, and then peeling off the foil, to add to my ever-growing ball on my desk, was just not possible with a modern plastic foil-wrapped bar. Somehow I missed this more than the biscuit itself.

It just went to re-enforce further, you may think you are making a quality product for a good price… but take care as customers may be buying the packaging too!

Have a good rest of the week everyone.

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The end of the pub… as we know it?

If you look closely, you can see the economy changing before our eyes.

This Friday I was out for a drink at my local. It is not a frequent event these days, but still nice to get out every so often.

Yet, over the last few months, I have been noticing how it has been getting quieter each and every time. Less people, less menu choice and closing earlier.

This weekend it felt like the music was off, the lights on and dishwasher whirring by around 9:45 pm…we closed the place and were last to leave.

What is changing?

And it is not just me. Chatting to a local taxi driver it seems he is also seeing something similar, not picking up from places in town as much now either.

Rather than everyone going out to meet with friends at the bar, we appear to be increasingly stocking up at the supermarket and having people around the house instead.

Why has this changed?

Now maybe this is all the result of two years of pandemic restrictions… Maybe it is due to increasing energy costs curtailing eating out and increasing prices… Or maybe it is just cost of living increases making staying at home just more attractive, it afterall does cost less. (I know I am guilty of going out less, for at least a couple of these reasons too).

And… not just the pub!

Even on the way back from an autumn walk today, I passed an animated conversation in the street clearly on the topic of Halloween candy… or lack of…

There was talk of hunkering down, turning off the lights and hiding in the back room… maybe the pandemic has just changed us a bit… we are all a little more antisocial.

Something is up

Whatever it is, it does seem like something is happening. On the outside all is familiar, but underneath there are signs society is changing, albeit slowly, steadily, before our eyes. Accepted norms are increasingly being challenged.

This raises an important question for us now…

IF this is indeed happening, AND IF this momentum is there… how should we change our business model and interaction with customers today?

Simply relying on the old business model when an environment changes, in the hope the good old days will return, does not lead to great outcomes… just ask at your local neighbourhood video rental store.

What to do now?

An answer, of sorts, came in the form of another TED talk… Will Guidara and his focus on unreasonable hospitality… listening to customers and creating great experiences.

Now, we cannot all afford to be a high-end restauranteur, nor can our customers necessarily afford, nor business models support, fulfilling every wish and desire.

But, we can listen and watch closely what customers want, look for subtle changes in behaviour that necessitate a change to our products, then making sure we react and change them fast.

To survive we are all going to have to be nimble and working in partnership with customers is surely going to help.

Halloween night

More immediately, extending this principle, I also need to get to the shops quick… Halloween is tomorrow night and a large amount of candy is needed…

Based on my ’customer’ feedback… mini Mars bars, Maltesers and Swizzels are all products of choice … Tootsie rolls not… Some traditions will no doubt continue to survive!

Have a good week everyone… and happy Halloween (& leave any candy-related feedback in the comments below!)

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Getting heard – being listened to – by saying less

I had a very enjoyable trip to Newcastle last week and posted a photo of the train station on LinkedIn to indicate my pleasure in being in the city.

Somewhat to my surprise, it garnered more views than many of my regular posts. It was not a particularly great photo, nor was it really insightful content… it was just a quick snap.

Now, this, of course, may say much about my other posts, but I prefer not dwell on that here 🙂 … but underneath there was also an important lesson to be learnt.

Short is best, when it comes to communication.

Smart Brevity – write less say more… and in their TED talk have made a business out of this. Apparently, the data shows that most of us never read past the first few lines. Those that do only skim-read, before blindly liking and sharing with our friends on social media.

Feeling guilty….? Don’t be (well not too much, we all do it!). The sheer volume of information, we have to digest is a problem… we all naturally find coping mechanisms. The trick, however, is knowing when to skim, when to not and when to concentrate.

Top tips for communication clarity

All of us, if you have ever written an email or created a PowerPoint presentation, are writers of communication. In thinking about our readers, there are areas we can help with clarity, which in turn helps us get heard.

  • Most of the readers will not finish the article, so get to the point quick
  • Keep it short, they only read the start, so key points upfront
  • Use straightforward language, sentences, and words
  • Make it easy to skim and pull out key ideas
  • It is all about the audience… not you

Writing long is easy, writing short is hard

I have always found it somewhat ironic that writing less is harder than writing more, but it is true.

Psychologically the cards are stacked against us – as a society, we just seem to culturally value more – more time, more stuff, and more product equals bigger value. It is a hard-wired and a hard habit to break (Business books are an example, 250 pages that could be summarised in a deck of 6 slides… but would I pay £19.95 for 6 slides, probably not)

Also, having fewer words also means you need to be more careful about what you say, and even more difficult what you leave out too.

Of if this was easy we would of course all be doing it!

Why this is important… in Collections too

Many of my friends, those in marketing, with English or language backgrounds, will know this stuff already (no scoffing please), but it is relevant for the rest of us mere mortals. And, this is not just you and me, but customers too…

Think about most collection letters, emails, and messages you see. Do they follow the points above, and if not how can they be improved?

Most of those I see have clear areas of opportunity. Getting crisp design, clear and to the point is always a challenge… but it is also an opportunity to be heard, by the customer, leading to better outcomes (and business outcomes too).

Customer-centric customer letters I suppose… who would have thought!

… have a good week everyone.

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