Insights - November

Breaking the monotony of shopping

The supermarket shelf has often been a place where rational drivers trump emotional, with packaging playing a safe, semiotic-driven role in the shadow of fun and exciting communications. However, as the level of noise on every channel continues to rise and attention is harder and harder to grab, is it time to rethink this strategy?

The shelf is an amazingly competitive space. Decisions are made in seconds and habit drives the majority of behaviour, often offset only by sales promotions. So how does a brand without a big marketing budget drive itself into the consideration of a fleeting eye? The courage to challenge standard category visual cues can feel counterintuitive but with risk can come great reward. 

Any effort that engages the attention of the shopper is worthwhile. To raise curiosity is to stimulate the consumer to learn a bit more about your proposition and promise. Of course, here we need to ensure that these are meaningful and relevant to this audience, and we also need to be distinct in order to carve out that lucrative position in the mind. But, attention is attention is attention. 

We can assume that almost all shoppers in the modern world know how to navigate a supermarket and to identify where to find the particular category of products they seek. Consequently, we can feel a level of comfort in forgoing more traditional cues to inform category belonging, as you are already stocked on shelf and, therefor, are up for consideration. This opens the door to be a little more creative. 

Brands are built from experiences and positive experiences tend to allow a transfer of positivity onto the product experience itself. Incorporating a funny or enjoyable experience via interaction with packaging is a simple way to build valuable experiences at the point of purchase. A witty name, an unexpected piece of design, a character that tells a quick story – there are lots of opportunities to use fun and humour to break the homogeneity of a shelf and use this ‘zag’ to your advantage. 

Imaginative design in action

Black Swan, an iconic Australian brand, faced a challenge of awareness and distinction in the fast-growing Greek yoghurt category. A research-led response identified an opportunity to leverage the brand’s heritage to build ‘authenticity’ associations into the masterbrand, whilst embracing the humour of the brand’s past above-the-line campaigns to drive distinctiveness in what to that point was a somewhat homogeneous supermarket fridge shelf. 

Black Swan, the market leader in the Australian dip category, enjoys a high level of brand awareness in its core category of dips. However, associations and perceptions of the brand did not extend beyond immediate product benefits and its position as an everyday or premium product was unfocused. Within the Greek yoghurt category, the brand had very low awareness and market share, while its packaging relied solely on carryover equity from the brandmarque. 

Research uncovered potential in the brand’s food market origins, founded at South Melbourne market as a pioneering family business. Also uncovered was strong recall of past humorous advertising campaigns, which opened the door to utilising fun and jest on pack as a point of distinction on a shelf where most brands relied on farming provenance to drive the ‘authenticity’ and ‘realness’ sought by consumers. 

A brave client teamed up with leading design agency, Fluid, to create a design direction that brings to life all of the characters of the modern Australian fresh food market – the larger than life greengrocer, the yoga mum, the Nonna and the handsome helping hand to name a few. The design emphasised the brand’s market origins and re-imagines the Greek story within the category, from product heritage to wider cultural imperative. Illustrated stories on each pack invite the consumer to engage and discover as they sit down to breakfast, finding something new every time. Initial testing discovered that different parts of each illustration would resonate with different consumers - each finding a part of the collage evoking a personal nostalgic memory. 

Results of the new design direction were immediate. The client entered a review with the buyer of a major grocery chain in Australia, to immediately revert direction of deletion to an increase of SKUs. The use of fun and humorous illustration allowed Black Swan to create a unique position on a busy shelf and build a new narrative around their masterbrand story. 

A few smiles later, the lessons crystalised; if your brand has any scope in which to include some fun or humour, its a strong emotional driver to create greater value from your on-shelf billboard in today’s noisy, cluttered marketplace. 

View project

Cam Birrell
Design Director/ Strategy