SAN FRANCISCO — Everyone has competitors, and if you don’t, you soon will. How do you stand out from them?

Attendees of the 3rd annual BrandStorm event had this idea reinforced throughout the two-day event. 

“Differentiate or die,” said Brian Wagner, owner of packaging consultancy PTIS.

Where better for produce companies to stand out than at the place most consumers make the buying decision — on the shelf at retail. 

Many BrandStorm sessions focused on the importance of packaging and how to stand out to the consumer. 

> Sell the product’s benefit, not the feature. 

Graeme Newell, researcher with 602 Communications, said 85% of a buying decision is emotional, and the other 15% is rationalizing the choice. 

Marketers need to ask themselves, how do you want your customer to feel with your product?

I think the produce industry deserves some credit in the past decade for tapping into this concept. 

> Make the package reflect your brand’s image.

Your product should mean something important to your customers, said Matthew Youngblood, a partner in Trinity Brand Group.

He said packaging at retail must do three things: attract, inform and delight. 

His examples from the produce department were Cuties citrus and Driscoll’s berries. Cuties attract attention with their blue label on orange fruit; clearly tell product attributes; and the label’s cartoon character entertains children.

Meanwhile, Driscoll’s label on berry packages remains consistent, clean and modern and changes slightly for organic and conventional versions. 

> Know your customer.

Kathy Bintz Kenyon, principal in Creative Retail Packaging, said it’s a big mistake to be too broad with your packaging goals.

“You must clearly identify your target audience,” she said.

She said effective packaging takes a process in which branding and the final package look work together. 

> Bring innovation.

“Retailers want to be brought innovation,” said Chelsea Bialla, vice president of marketing for Sonoma Brands.

She said innovation can be a small shift, which allows a product to stand out from its competitors.

 “Adapt when something doesn’t work and make changes,” Bialla said.

Attendees certainly got enough to think about.

One of the things that got me thinking the most is something Wagner said.

“The future of packaging is the future of everything,” he said. 

It sounds so preposterous at first, but the more I think about it, the more it grows on me.

Greg Johnson is The Packer’s editor. E-mail him at [email protected]

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