Browsing a dairy food display can be confusing for consumers. With so many brands touting similar benefits, from “non-GMO” and “high in protein” to “gluten-free” or “low in sugar,” it’s easy for buyers to get lost in a sea of sameness.
How do you get your new product to stand out and translate into sales? Having helped myriad companies successfully launch new products — from major brands to start-ups, with a focus on dairy foods — I know first-hand that there are better ways than others to gain consumer interest and trust.
Here are the top three mistakes I’ve seen dairy food producers make when rolling out products, and how to avoid them.
1. Neglecting to take a position. What dairy food producer doesn’t believe they have the best-tasting, healthiest and most special product out there? In fact, most brands are really good at touting their product’s benefits. What they tend to neglect, however, is creating a brand voice.
If you don’t pay equal attention to taking a stand for something that positions your product as the best choice for consumers over and above its benefits, you’re not giving them a concrete reason to choose your product over the competition. A strong position is what anchors consumer choice. For example, taking a healthy, great-tasting ice cream and positioning it as an guilt-free way to satisfy late night munchies — backed by evidence from sleep experts — was an effective way for a particular to brand stand out and gain significant market share in a crowded category.
2. Failing to align packaging with brand position. Your brand assets are the first thing consumers see and the No. 1 factor that will influence their perception of your company. Once you’ve established a clear, overarching brand position, it’s imperative to back it up with creative, structured packaging that reinforces your key message.
Companies tend to spend a great deal of effort on design elements that look great, but they ultimately end up confusing consumers because they have nothing to do with the underlying brand themes. Dairy companies, in particular, tend to fall into the trap of using generic or simple packaging as a way to keep costs down in a market defined by high-volume refrigerated products.
Low-quality printing might look good on a spreadsheet, but it won’t encourage people to pull your product off store shelves. To ensure a successful product launch, allocate a portion of your marketing budget to creating innovative on-message packaging.
A leading company in grass-fed organic dairy products, for example, has seen exponential growth thanks to bold, striking packaging that reinforces its positioning across its entire product line, conveying the authentic, grass-fed message by using the same iconic bed of grass blades and original (rather than stock) cattle photography, no matter what the product or flavor.
3. Not using market research to strengthen your brand position. Often, companies come to us saying: “Our product not only tastes amazing, but it also has these great benefits. People are going to love it.” But when we push them to tell us what truly distinguishes them in the market, they can’t put their finger on it. That’s where market research — from focus groups and online surveys to man-on-the-street interviews — is invaluable. The more tangible information a company can gather about what people think about a product and the direction it’s taking, the more they can pinpoint a strategy that works.
When we worked with a multi-billion dollar dairy company to reinvent cottage cheese, it was a focus group that informed us that consumers were embarrassed to bring cottage cheese to the office. That’s when we knew we needed to make cottage cheese a cool product option on par with single-serve yogurt. Ultimately, we created a new brand name that evoked creaminess (a positioning that differentiated the brand), was unconventional and unique, and we carried that message throughout all of the company’s assets, packaging structure, design and collateral materials, resulting in a winning rollout program.
If your new product is failing to connect with customers, think twice before heading back to the drawing board. Revisit your launch strategy and consider if your position or packaging is off, or if you just haven’t done the legwork to understand where consumers are coming from. When you tell your story the right way, backed by innovative, creative and clearly aligned packaging, consumer excitement, interest and trust will ultimately follow.