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FUSE 2014: Can Better Design Translate into Better Sales for CPG?

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Last week, Euromonitor
International's Beverages Analyst Howard Telford attended the FUSE 2014 brand
strategy and design conference in Chicago, a premier global conference for the
design profession. Below, in an article from Euromonitor
, he shares his thoughts on the growing role of design in the
food, beverages and food service sectors.

Clearly, design matters in soft drinks, food service and
packaged foods. Amid the important questions of how healthy a product is - or
how much it costs ' it is important to remember that the question of brand
design can play a similarly vital role in shaping consumer experiences. At this
year's FUSE 2014 conference in Chicago, consumer goods took a front seat in the
discussion of how better design can strengthen brands and improve sales.
 In researching global consumer markets, we know design
can shape consumer experiences and expectations (although quantifying this
impact as researchers is difficult to do). While consumer aesthetics in taste
and materials can clearly vary by market and product, the conversation started
at FUSE 2014 helps us to identify the bedrock principles that can lead to
outstanding product design in CPG.
Be Quiet and Stay
True to Your Values

The concept of simplicity is important to consumers, with
successful brand designers in 2014 seeking to provide the oasis of calm in an
increasingly noisy, multichannel marketing universe. Speakers from Chipotle and
Honest Tea spoke of efforts to simplify their distinctive brand identity and
messaging without massive marketing budgets and expensive scattershot TV ad
campaigns. The importance of true marketing messages and authentic 'brand
voice' was reinforced by multiple panelists. There is incredible complexity and
cost in reaching targeted demographics (the vaunted 'Millennials' or 'Boomers')
through carefully tailored, focus group tested messages. A simpler and
seemingly more successful approach for leading food and beverage companies has
been crafting brand message and campaigns that remain true to a company's
values. Consumers value authenticity.
According to Chipotle's William Espey, it may no longer be
possible for the vast majority of brands and retailers to find a way to
effectively reach their consumer base, instead engaging in a hopeless attempt
to identify needle sized target demographics in enormous, multichannel, media
haystacks. Nathanuel Ru, a co-founder of Washington based salad restaurant
Sweetgreen, also emphasized the importance of quiet, values oriented branding
that invites the consumer to come to you, through outdoor festivals, community
outreach programs, warm and inviting store designs and other messages that
could not be conveyed on billboards or TV spots. In all cases, outlet interiors,
exterior packaging and in-store merchandising are immediate, point of sale
design factors that can be crafted and controlled ' even by the smallest of
consumer goods and food service operators.
Be Interesting and

Opinions can be shared, shaped and amplified by connectivity
between consumers. Social channels are a powerful vehicle for brands to master.
In order to remain relevant in the crowded, growing marketing universe, brands
must be producing content interesting enough for consumers to access
information of their own volition. Chipotle's 'Cultivate' campaign ' one of the
major success stories in US advertising in 2013 ' was powerful and informative
enough for consumers to seek it out of their own accord.
Consumer confusion is a big problem in contemporary
retailing, identified by several speakers at the FUSE conference. With
non-standard labelling requirements and new studies, claims and dangers for the
global public to interpret and digest, consumers can struggle to choose between
natural versus organic products, between added sugar versus naturally occurring
fructose, and a host of other health, wellness and sustainability factors '
genuine and faddish. Regardless of television, radio or social ad budgets,
brand and packaging is the one aspect of marketing and merchandising that a
consumer is guaranteed to interact with and therefore represents the most
important tool for informing the consumer and shaping opinion. Choosing a
package that a consumer will identify and interact with is the best, most cost
effective way to answer questions and impact shopper choices.
Give Design a Seat at
the Table

Above all else, FUSE 2014 emphasized the importance of
product design teams, brand management and senior leadership acting in unison
in order to make brand design a success. Keynote speaker Indra Nooyi, CEO of
PepsiCo, took the stage with the company's Chief Design Officer Mauro Porcini.
This marked the first time that a CEO of a Fortune 500 company (a packaged food
and drinks company no less) was a speaker at FUSE, a signifier of the growing
importance the design profession will play, as available choices and avenues
for feedback (positive and negative) expand in modern retailing environments.
Mrs. Nooyi discussed the importance of business 'speaking
the language of design,' and the challenge of creating an inclusive,
design-friendly business culture in a large, bottom-line focused consumer goods
company. Rick Slade, Creative Director of Keurig/Green Mountain espoused
similar thoughts, considering the challenges of creating a new, cohesive brand
voice in a company of appliance engineers and coffee roasters. Giving brand
design a seat at the table ' not simply as an afterthought or 'finishing touch'
' but as an integral part of creating interest, demand for a product and
rewarding consumer experiences is vitally important. Company leadership in the
CPG industry must be involved in prioritizing brand designers.
Demand impacts aesthetic choices but also logistical choices
' Mrs. Nooyi identified the problems posed to Pepsi and its competitors by new,
multichannel retailing environments. According to Euromonitor International,
global online value sales of food and drink will grow by an incredible 15%
annually in constant USD through 2018. In addition to the consumer facing
impact of design, it is worth considering how tangible package design can
contribute or ameliorate the challenges posed by shipping heavy and perishable
items long distances in a sustainable way.
Design and the Future
Market for Beverages

Package design and design centric branding can help soft
drinks manufacturers make a physical connection with consumers ' a connection
that is clearly not being achieved in mature markets by tinkering with
artificial sweeteners and simply increasing the volume of traditional marketing
efforts, such as event sponsorship. The industry must begin to view the staid
aisles of American supermarkets or still shrink-wrapped stacks of product in
European discounters as missed opportunities for consumer engagement.
This connection will be particularly important in the soft
drinks industry of the future. Since their Tropicana debacle in 2009, PepsiCo
have emerged as a company that is not afraid to experiment with the package as
a way of winning consumers. This month, the company launched an advertisement
in Colombia (in partnership with a local agency) promoting a new bottle cap for
Mountain Dew. Cognizant of the brand's young, active consumer base, the company
added a small wrench indentation to the top of the cap, allowing users to
repair the wheel nuts of skateboards. Mountain Dew has been singularly
successful in understanding their audience, but remaining true to the youthful,
energetic values of the brand. PepsiCo have also placed considerable resources
behind the Pepsi Mini Can ' a smaller unit size introduced in the US and
Western European markets, enabling greater portion control for wellness minded
consumers. Competitors Coca-Cola have also tinkered with carbonate package
sizes, introducing energy drink style slim line 250ml cans in Western Europe in

Impulse, on-the-go soft drinks are outperforming in
developed markets ' competing in the packed coolers of convenience stores and
forecourt retailers where they lack the merchandising power of DSD displays and
massive branded grocery aisles that they have long enjoyed in the shrinking,
less profitable multipack segment. Big soft drinks brands must implement
superior design practices and do more to stand out on the shelf, while staying
top-of-mind outside the store.

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