16 November 2021, 07:15 AM
  • Challenger brands must think creatively to be seen, heard and loved, writes Lawrence Barnett, owner and managing director of Wonderland Design
Lawrence Barnett, Wonderland Design: “How to make noise on-pack”

I love nothing more than browsing the food and drink aisles to take in the sheer variety and inventiveness that populate our shelves.

Now – more than ever – our retailers, online and in store, play host to an Aladdin’s cave of exciting products and their packaging. But being that disruptor brand or just standing out on shelf isn’t easy, even if you have a highly innovative product. Challenger and start-up brands must use everything at their disposal to get their packs seen, understood and picked up.

It’s a misconception that only start-up or young brands can have that disruptive influence. Of course, they have the advantage of being new with a different story to tell. But well-established brands can be highly effective too by using their own advantages to good effect.

Successful disruption on shelf is an art that needs discipline. Starting with defining what your brand stands for (established challengers included!). Get this nailed down and it’s easier to work out what you want your pack to do and say. Pack graphics and messaging offer so much opportunity to present your difference, be distinctive and stand out. It is what will build consumer recognition. But keep your discipline here too and embrace simplicity.

Let’s take branding. Clear confident branding is crucial, yet it’s astonishing how many brands hide or overlook their biggest asset at the expense of other clutter. Be confident with your branding – it’s your identity, something to be proud of, and as important off pack as it is on pack. Then there’s colour. Colour has many associations, so consider it carefully. But clever use of colour can genuinely create shelf disruption and become a strong visual equity.

A design component that often gets overlooked is language. Create a way of talking about your product that has its own style and reinforces your personality. That engaging style will enable the brand story to emerge and for the product’s difference to be fully appreciated.

Beyond graphics, think 3D. Bespoke pack structures are expensive but off the shelf options are more varied than ever before. Largely thanks to smaller producers being flexible and creative, yet no less eco-friendly. And don’t forget to take inspiration from other categories!

I’ve always been a firm believer that your pack is your brand’s shorthand. But social media is now another important communication tool. Stand out on shelf is great but it must be capitalised upon and reinforced on social media platforms.

Today’s breadth, depth and variety of choice in our ever-changing and growing food and drink world is why so many smaller producers are now part of our food and drink must haves. Consumers love that choice. And it’s precisely because of this that the biggest brands have had to up their game. Are those big brands winning? I don’t know. But if the challengers keep their discipline and use design effectively to make themselves seen, heard and loved, then the biggest brands will be looking over their shoulders for quite a while yet.