How can we reach new generations of consumers? That’s what many marketers of mature consumer product companies are asking themselves as younger customers in every age group are actively seeking brands that offer personalities and experiences with which they can align. Read: brands which are relevant to them.
You’d think that this is best left in the hands of disruptors; that is, brash brand startups and fearless entrepreneurs, right? While there are plenty of examples of these kinds of brands, there are also intriguing new launches from consumer product companies with deep heritage, as well. Even more compelling are brands that feature the most common of products in such a relevant manner to millennials and their children, that they’re run-away successes.
How is this being achieved? By creating brands that kid speak, of course. Brands that are infused with personality, quirkiness and fresh appeal. The development of a unique visual and verbal language heightens the consumer’s experience with the brand, based on its persona, which is infused into every marketing platform. But no marketing vehicle can kid speak more persuasively than package design.
Be a stand-out among endless choices
I liked the package design concept for PepsiCo’s bubly sparkling water brand aimed at younger consumers, so I anticipated its success post its February 2018 launch into the marketplace. Now, let’s remember: this is sparkling water, a commodity item, and as is the case in most beverage categories, there are endless choices. So how to make this brand kid speak? Bold, new flavors, for one thing. And a unique delivery. Brightly colored cans with a cool logo, carbonated bubbles and smiles are a clear stand-out among brands displayed in ”standard” industry packaging. There are toothy smiles, smiles that sport mustaches, or tongues clearly smacking smiling lips. Personality? Check.
When consumers make eye contact with this packaging, it’s irresistible. They quickly step up to check bubly out, and surprise! They’re literally greeted. Color-coordinated pull tabs – part of the variety segmentation strategy for the brand – say ”hiya” or ”hey you”, among other colloquial expressions. While these custom pull tabs are expensive for PepsiCo, they clearly contribute to the customer experience with the brand. Consumers then read on pack that all of the flavors are natural, which is very relevant to younger demographic groups. Overall, the visual and verbal expressions of the brand clearly denote fun. But how aligned is it to the company’s vision?
This is from PepsiCo’s own press release on the bubly intro: ”PepsiCo today announced the launch of bubly, a new sparkling water that combines refreshing and delicious flavors with an upbeat and playful sense of humor to shake up the sparkling water category while keeping it real with no artificial flavors, no sweeteners, and no calories.” Consumers are invited to #crackasmile, and you know that’s exactly what we’re doing when we see packaging smiling at us. We smile back.
Bubly brand, design and experience have come together to help PepsiCo beat their revenue forecasts. Not bad for one of the biggest guys on the beverage block, and one that doesn’t fit our contemporary image of a disruptor.
Shake things up at retail
When Sephora landed in NYC from France in 1998, the cosmetics retailer found the sweet spot for younger consumers by offering a new makeup trying and buying experience. Sephora understood that millennials and younger consumers want to go into a store and try any and all of the products for themselves, reminiscent of the joy they experienced when they rummaged through their moms’ makeup bags as kids. Modern, upscale Sephora interiors beat drugstore makeup displays any day. And they’re far more accessible than the makeup counters staffed with lab-coated makeup ”technicians” in fusty department stores.
As you’d expect, the retailer’s stores are cool, but they, too, demonstrate how architectural branding can evolve to keep pace with young consumers, who are less inclined to hit the shopping malls. Just a year ago, a new store concept dubbed Sephora Studio opened in Boston in a mere 2,000 square feet. This new beauty studio, the smallest store in the country, began to offer consumers 45-minute makeovers and 15-minute facials, on demand, in order to foster a “more intimate experience.”
But nothing is more central to the Sephora experience than its branded products. This year’s launch of Sephora Collection #LIPSTORIES, features long-lasting lipsticks in a new, highly-pigmented formula in 40 shades in cream, matte and metallic finishes. But it’s the packaging that shakes up everything else within its category. Each shade has a unique package design featuring an image of a place, experience or object that brings the lipstick to life. It’s cool. It’s art. And it’s in biodegradable cardboard yet. While high-end in appearance, the product sells for a cool eight bucks. This is branding that hits on all cylinders for kids and young adults. Beth Hayes, vice president for Sephora Collection observed: “We created Sephora Collection #LIPSTORIES, a new inspirational collection… that encourages our one-of-a-kind clientele to tell their unique story, as inspired by the colorful shade range and unique packaging.”
Is it any wonder that Sephora is connecting with young consumers? And that it’s redefining the cosmetics business?
The things that appeal most to kids? Toys that are funny, ugly and gross. If you don’t believe me, look at the proliferation of hot toys in the marketplace these days, many of which touch on one or all of these attributes. Hasbro’s hot new game dubbed ”Don’t Step in It” is a great example. So are toys like Mattel’s Monster High dolls. Grumblies from Pomsies. Nickelodeon’s Slime kits that invite kids to make their own slime.
There’s also a proliferation of plush introductions in the marketplace. Some of the hottest brands are funny, ugly, gross but also cuddly! A conundrum? Sure, but it makes perfect sense to kids. Here’s an example of on-trend plush. Spin Master recently acquired the rights to a UK property dubbed Fuggler, a unique line of collectible plush dolls. From a company press release dated July 13, 2018: ”As part of its innovation led growth strategy, Spin Master continually scours the market to identify emerging trends and new opportunities. Having originated in the UK, the funny, ugly Fuggler monsters began to gain a cult following due to their quirky and off-beat nature. Each character features a unique toothy smile or grimace, eyes and a signature butt-on hole. Their imperfectly perfect look and mischievous expressions are irresistible.” The release goes on: ”There are more than 50 unique Fuggler characters to collect, available in 9 or 12-inch sizes. Rare characters can be discovered by checking for glow-in-the dark teeth and eyes.”
Speaking of eyes, there are shiny, glass eyed Fugglers and button-eyed ones and of course the buttons are kooky and mismatched for the most part. Mouths appeared to be hand-sewn on and so are other facial features. These plush characters are reminiscent of sock puppets in many ways, but of course, they’re contemporized versions for a new generation of kids, aged 4 and up. Actually, I can envision this toy appealing to tweens, teens and even adults who enjoy quirky, new pop cult fare.
But if you are a kid, what’s not to love here? In a wise move, Spin Master chose to package its Fugglers in the most basic of brown packaging. Or is it basic? A die-cut window surrounded by monster bite marks enables consumers to see the unique face of a Fuggler peering out at the world. Since the package design is purposely minimalistic, the total focus is on the monster with a toothy, slightly malicious grin. The brand identity, a black cartouche, also features bite marks on its upper left-hand corner. Bite marks also appear on the letter “F” and the letter “R” in the Fuggler logo, which allows the same brown carton color to show through its holding shape. Underneath the logo is a simple three-word descriptor of the toy: “Funny Ugly Monster”.
The only other verbal brand communication on pack features a ”Warning,” prominently posted within a box in the lower right-hand corner. It exhorts kids to ”Adopt at your own risk” and goes on to advise them to sleep with their mouths closed and one eye open. This is the leveraging of kid speak in a highly relevant manner for children. In fact, it makes the brand irresistible.
What Spin Master began on pack is further fleshed out on the Fugglers brand web site with storytelling that has the right tone, a bit of irreverence and a whole lot of audacity that promises to create another pop cult favorite. www.fuggler.com.
You might observe that Fugglers are toys and, of course, they kid speak. But let’s remember that a great deal of plush in the marketplace is cute and cuddly and here’s an opportunity to go counter-culture to great effect. The packaging, as well as the product and its positioning, heightens the brand’s appeal to kids.
Whether a brand is born of a heritage company or a new one, the development of a unique visual and verbal language that is properly rooted in kid speak will be the determining factor its success. And nothing matters more than its interpretation on pack since that’s where the brand meets the consumer in person.