By Ross Sklar, CEO The Starco Group and Starco Bands
Building a brand which has a unique market presence is a critical skill in today’s crowded customer environment and thankfully there is a proven playbook. Dozens of brands that are launched every year fail to make any kind of headway because they get overlooked or ignored by retail corporate buyers and customers. Their sad lonely death is noticed only by the brand creator.
Making a strategic impact on arrival not only ensures that customers will pay attention to your brand, it also ensures that the corporate retail buying community will give it attention and potentially allow it to compete for coveted retail shelf space. Customer positioning is vital in order to pursue a digital ecommerce strategy but unless one has significant financial support, building your online brand and sales will take time and this road has many twists and turns. If positioned and negotiated right, retail shelf space can provide broad distribution and significant cash flow that supports your marketing and online efforts.
Creating a unique market presence does not just happen by chance; it is the result of careful and intensive strategy planning. The first step is to identify the white space in the CPG (consumer packaged goods) category you are targeting. No matter how crowded a category might appear at first glance, there is invariably a gap that has been overlooked by the competition. It is your job to find it and to launch your product and brand directly at it. Finding a gap isn’t easy or obvious. Understanding the products in the category is vital and reviewing IRI and or NPD data will allow you to see what’s moving, what’s not, price points, demographics, etc. Making data driven decisions allows you to position yourself in a category with more confidence that there may be a gap to fill.
Once you have data behind you and you like a certain category start drilling down into product sectors where you feel there is a lack of innovation and start asking simple questions like; Is your product solving a problem in a slightly better way? Is it easier to use, or faster, or more efficient, or more effective, far more cost efficient? Is it more modern, more relevant, better designed? Does it do the job with less mess or effort, or in a way that might appeal to a new type of audience?
Our hand sanitizer, for example, was launched into what was possibly one of the most crowded consumer categories over the last 8 months but it stood out from the crowd because it was air powered and has a continuous spray rather than a gel, making it easier to use, it dried faster than gel, it wasn’t sticky, it could be applied to others, it was very fast to apply and was less expensive on a per use basis. It was also branded as ‘next gen’ with on-trend colors and design, which was lacking in the competitive set. These elements made it instantly stand out to consumers and retail corporate buyers. The white space was identified in a very crowded market, data was analyzed and the product was then curated. The end result was it massively appealed to our target audience.
Remember, your product can be as innovative as you like, but if customers simply don’t care, you will not sell many of them. To reiterate, data and research driven decisions will set you off on a path with a much higher chance of success. For example, we were approached with a product to keep garbage bins smelling fresh. The product was flipped on and thrown in the garbage can and would last for a few weeks. The technology seemed great and it was solving a problem. But after diligent research and focus groups we learned that no-one cared enough about their garbage bins to spend $10 every couple months on a product to keep them smelling nice. The learning was even though the product solved a problem, no one really cared. Do your due diligence to ensure that your brand really is solving a problem for your potential customers, otherwise it is just going to end up being your problem.
Research will also help you fill out your range. No matter how desirable your product is, it is going to look pretty lonely if it is stuck there on the shelf all on its own. One hit wonders exist and birth all the time, but if you want to build out the line into a full offering or into a sustainable business, a full product line is desired by the corporate retail buying community. Launching a range of beneficial products that meet customers’ needs rather than a single stand-alone product is also going to widen your appeal with your customers. Not only will this ensure that your brand makes a larger and more sustainable impact, it also encourages the retailers to help strategize how they partner with you and build out further shelf space. Retailers like line extensions and ultimately a full line, so it doesn’t get lost on the shelf.
In this day of age, authenticity is key. Does your product stand up to scrutiny in every way – is it well made, from properly sourced ingredients, is it built to last, does it fulfil the function it promises? In this climate, consumers have no time for poorly made products that might look great in their snazzy packaging but don’t deliver on their promise. They want products they can trust, that will love them back and not let them down. The days of the glitzy infomercial promising the magic thingamagig that breaks down on its second use are over.
Messaging is vital. What is it that you want your product to communicate to your target audience – how do you want it to make them think, or feel, or act? Are you trying to inspire them, or comfort them, or make them feel happy, or confident? You need to be really clear right from the start about what your brand’s proposition is – what is its purpose, why does it exist, what is its mission and vision.
Then you need to hold that core proposition tight and let it guide your actions from the front. When you are creating a marketing campaign for your brand it is all too easy to get swept away with the excitement of it all and completely forget what your brand actually stands for. Don’t let all the glitz and wild ideas send you off track. Consumers are more intelligent today than ever before; many spend just as much time reading the back of the label as they do the front and they can spot a mile off when a brand’s message and its image are at odds.
The final step in creating a unique market presence is to have a brand that is brave and bold enough to change people’s behavior. This means understanding at a deep level who your target audience is and knowing what is important to them. When we launched the Breathe Household Cleaning line, it was the first ever high performance powered by air aerosol cleaning line and it changed the landscape or our Breathe Hand Sanitizer Spray, it immediately changed the behavior of our consumers, because it made it easier, faster and safer to use at competitive price points all branded with an imaging and promise that resonated that we could deliver on consistently. This engagement with our consumers made them try it, then use it more often and then try other new products we came out with after. In short, we built a relationship of trust with our market.
Ultimately, if your product is worth having, then creating a strong market presence for your brand is not just good for your business; it is good for everyone. So, it is worth taking the time to get it right.