The Name Game

The Name Game

What’s in a name? Everything when it comes to a product. A good name is a balancing act of several needs. It has to communicate to a specific audience through its tone or “personality.” Ideally, it should suggest what the product does and indicate its benefit or a “big idea.” Professional namers are a unique breed. Their craft is a blend of art and science; in effect they are strategic poets. Expert namers define a rigid set of objectives before they brainstorm, then use their creativity and language skills to deeply explore any and all ideas, usually generating thousands of names. Seasoned namers are savvy about what works, what doesn’t, and what’s already been done. Without structure and expertise, a company can waste considerable time and money noodling ideas that will never fly. Or worse yet. Click here to see just how bad it can be. (Naming contests are a great way to get stuck with time bombs.) As brands evolve and product lines grow, it’s important to stay ahead of the pack with innovative, powerful names that go beyond clever. A facilitated naming process can help identify and clarify fuzzy positioning and undefined goals.

kids recycling & Sustainable Packaging

A New Generation Demands Sustainable Packaging

The other day, I was doing some grocery shopping with my eleven- year -old son. I reached for some pre-packaged strawberries and he stopped me. “Too much plastic. Get those,” he said, pointing to the bulk berries. Trying not to look too shocked, I headed for the bulk berries. After a little investigation I learned that this new vigilance came from his school, which now has an on-going packaging awareness program. It includes guest speakers, contests to see whose lunch box has the least left over garbage, and anti-plastic posters in the science lab.

Old habits may be hard to break but a new generation is growing up with a whole new understanding when it comes to choice in the market place—and environmental awareness is starting to play a significant role. Just look at bottled water sales, which are significantly down for the first time in five years. This is partly due to the economy, but also to an aggressive anti-plastic environmental campaign. Some health foods stores have even stopped selling bottled water. In response, Coke recently launched a new PET plastic bottle made with 30% recycled waste material.

When it comes to sustainable packaging, there are basically two strategies. One, use less material, and two, use recyclable or biodegradable material. From what we’re seeing out there, one shouldn’t assume that eco-friendly means a compromise in aesthetics and functionality.  Pangea soaps and Straus Creamery, for example a have distinguished their brands from the pack by pioneering ecologically smart, really cool-looking alternative packaging.

But as I said before, old habits are hard to break. Recently a client was exploring an on-the-go snack idea. The company’s consumer research showed that people wanted less packaging. The marketing department’s answer was to shrink the paper tray that carried six plastic cups. When I showed the concept mockups around the office, the general response was, “Looks like a lot of plastic.” In this case, “less” is not enough. I encouraged the client to find an alternative to the plastic. The response was, “But, people also said they want to see the product, so we have to use plastic.” Actually, they don’t have to use plastic. How about PLA (biodegradable ”plastic” usually made from corn or even better, molded paper with a PLA lid or window? That is a 100% biodegradable container. Would it add to the cost? Maybe, but factor in the added value of building a brand awareness strategy around the company’s environmental efforts. Or, forget the PR value. Factor in my eleven year old son. It won’t be long before he’s doing his own shopping.

Massimo - functional food labels

Getting Real – Why Authenticity Matters

Not long ago The San Francisco Pizza Company came to us looking for help with their packaging. Founder Massimo DiSciullio wanted to update an old-time pizza-parlor look. It would have been relatively easy to take the logo, mark and typography and give it new life. This is what the client was expecting. Ten minutes talking with Massimo, however, convinced us the job wasn’t that simple. A bigger opportunity lay hidden in the sauce.

Anyone who watches Madmen knows that in the past, marketeers created works of fiction and presented them as reality—the practice is still widespread today, though more difficult to spot. Haagen-Dazs is a name that suggests an imported Scandinavian ice cream, when in fact it was created by a savvy entrepreneur in Brooklyn. General Foods’ never-aging home cooking expert, Betty Crocker, is another example of marketing fiction. But this approach is a lot trickier these days. Media-savvy consumers can smell a fake in seconds. (I’ve watched this happen in focus groups. I sat in on a group that was trying out “Home Style Cookies Fresh from Rosie’s Kitchen.” There was no Rosie, no homey kitchen, and the cookies obviously looked like they came out of a factory machine. Regardless of how they thought the cookies tasted, participants blasted the product and the name, calling it “corny,” “dumb,” and “phony.”)

In the case of the San Francisco Pizza Company, we had the reverse situation. Here was a company about to launch a new line of 100% organic, fresh take-and-bake pizzas, and also was developing a line of gourmet, organic, fresh entree dishes. The company’s founder, Massimo DiSciullio, is a five-star chef, born in Italy, who has been chef for some of the finest restaurants in the world. As we listened to Massimo’s story, we were captivated by his Abruzzan charm and his passion for cooking with the simple, wild-crafted ingredients of his homeland. This was not a Madison Avenue creation. This was the real deal sitting right in front of us, and clearly the existing San Francisco Pizza Company label missed the heart of the story.

Massimo embodies the authentic core of the brand. He is everything the company stands for. He’s not selling pizza—he’s on a proud mission to celebrate the great, Abruzzan foods he grew up with.

Company founders like Massimo make our job easy. In this case we convinced him to change the company name to Massimo’s Organic Gourmet; then we created a classic Italian look and a voice that came directly from Chef Massimo. In other cases, however, finding the heart and soul of a company takes more work. A product might have qualities that are real—a long history, high standards or healthy ingredients—but these aspects rarely go beyond the realm of “attributes.” They are call-outs on a package or messages on a billboard, simple points of differentiation. In the past, this is where much of the marketing world has put its focus: “How are we better than the other guy?”

“Authenticity” is a deeper dive. When a consumer starts asking questions like, “What’s in it? Who makes this thing? Where do they come from? What are they like? What do they believe? and How do they treat their workers?” she or he is looking for the authenticity factor.

A few years ago, author Bill Breen wrote an excellent article in Fast Company about brand authenticity in which he outlined the four pillars necessary for a brand to be authentic. He reduced the formula down to the following:

•  A sense of place
•  A strong point of view
•  Serving a larger purpose
•  Integrity

Many companies today spend a lot of time and money defining and expressing their particular values, which extend beyond traditional quality statements: “Caring for the communities we serve,” “Paying livable wages to our employees,” “Using only certified fair-trade ingredients,” or “Dedicated to using sustainable packaging.” This component creates an emotional link between the consumer and the product. And herein lies the difference between an authenticity-based brand, and a brand based on selling. When a brand is rooted in authenticity, it is actively striving to make a human connection.

Why is it worth the trouble and expense to have values at the heart of a brand? Increasingly, 21st century consumers want to know companies care about them or about the things they value. This lays the groundwork for a sense of real relationship between the consumer and the company. That connection might come from exceptional customer service, or from a company showing true care for the environment or the community. A creative or artistic approach to how the product is presented can also create a feeling of connection. Companies that take creative risks by offering up a surprising, fun or an irreverent presentation (as opposed to the traditional hard sell) are rewarded with consumers’ attention and loyalty. Pioneered by Odwalla in 1980, this approach helped build many great beverage companies including The Republic of Tea, Tazo and Jones Soda.

In today’s media-frenzied marketplace, more and more consumers are looking for products that do more than just meet an immediate need. Many shoppers relate to brands personally, and want to align themselves with companies that support their belief systems or their lifestyles. Whole Foods owes its success to this fast-growing consumer category.

If your company is good at making a human connection, you’re more likely to feel the love rather than the disdain. And in this age of niche marketing and social networking, those who love you and those who hate you are going to be having a very public conversation about the relationship.

So what should your company be doing to address this new paradigm? First, look at your own reality. You can start by asking these three questions:

•  Do our actions match our words?
•  Why are we in business, beyond making money?
•  Are we listening to our constituencies?

As you answer these questions you will start to get at the heart of your own authenticity, paving the way for broader and deeper relationships with your consumers and creating a strong community of loyal evangelists.

Getting Real - Why Authenticity Matters

Getting Real – Why Authenticity Matters

Not long ago The San Francisco Pizza Company came to us looking for help with their packaging. Founder Massimo DiSciullio wanted to update an old-time pizza-parlor look. It would have been relatively easy to take the logo, mark and typography and give it new life. This is what the client was expecting. Ten minutes talking with Massimo, however, convinced us the job wasn’t that simple. A bigger opportunity lay hidden in the sauce.

Anyone who watches Madmen knows that in the past, marketeers created works of fiction and presented them as reality—the practice is still widespread today, though more difficult to spot. Haagen-Dazs is a name that suggests an imported Scandinavian ice cream, when in fact it was created by a savvy entrepreneur in Brooklyn. General Foods’ never-aging home cooking expert, Betty Crocker, is another example of marketing fiction. But this approach is a lot trickier these days. Media-savvy consumers can smell a fake in seconds. (I’ve watched this happen in focus groups. I sat in on a group that was trying out “Home Style Cookies Fresh from Rosie’s Kitchen.” There was no Rosie, no homey kitchen, and the cookies obviously looked like they came out of a factory machine. Regardless of how they thought the cookies tasted, participants blasted the product and the name, calling it “corny,” “dumb,” and “phony.”)

In the case of the San Francisco Pizza Company, we had the reverse situation. Here was a company about to launch a new line of 100% organic, fresh take-and-bake pizzas, and also was developing a line of gourmet, organic, fresh entree dishes. The company’s founder, Massimo DiSciullio, is a five-star chef, born in Italy, who has been chef for some of the finest restaurants in the world. As we listened to Massimo’s story, we were captivated by his Abruzzan charm and his passion for cooking with the simple, wild-crafted ingredients of his homeland. This was not a Madison Avenue creation. This was the real deal sitting right in front of us, and clearly the existing San Francisco Pizza Company label missed the heart of the story.

Massimo embodies the authentic core of the brand. He is everything the company stands for. He’s not selling pizza—he’s on a proud mission to celebrate the great, Abruzzan foods he grew up with.

Company founders like Massimo make our job easy. In this case we convinced him to change the company name to Massimo’s Organic Gourmet; then we created a classic Italian look and a voice that came directly from Chef Massimo. In other cases, however, finding the heart and soul of a company takes more work. A product might have qualities that are real—a long history, high standards or healthy ingredients—but these aspects rarely go beyond the realm of “attributes.” They are call-outs on a package or messages on a billboard, simple points of differentiation. In the past, this is where much of the marketing world has put its focus: “How are we better than the other guy?”

“Authenticity” is a deeper dive. When a consumer starts asking questions like, “What’s in it? Who makes this thing? Where do they come from? What are they like? What do they believe? and How do they treat their workers?” she or he is looking for the authenticity factor.

A few years ago, author Bill Breen wrote an excellent article in Fast Company about brand authenticity in which he outlined the four pillars necessary for a brand to be authentic. He reduced the formula down to the following:

•  A sense of place
•  A strong point of view
•  Serving a larger purpose
•  Integrity

Many companies today spend a lot of time and money defining and expressing their particular values, which extend beyond traditional quality statements: “Caring for the communities we serve,” “Paying livable wages to our employees,” “Using only certified fair-trade ingredients,” or “Dedicated to using sustainable packaging.” This component creates an emotional link between the consumer and the product. And herein lies the difference between an authenticity-based brand, and a brand based on selling. When a brand is rooted in authenticity, it is actively striving to make a human connection.

Why is it worth the trouble and expense to have values at the heart of a brand? Increasingly, 21st century consumers want to know companies care about them or about the things they value. This lays the groundwork for a sense of real relationship between the consumer and the company. That connection might come from exceptional customer service, or from a company showing true care for the environment or the community. A creative or artistic approach to how the product is presented can also create a feeling of connection. Companies that take creative risks by offering up a surprising, fun or an irreverent presentation (as opposed to the traditional hard sell) are rewarded with consumers’ attention and loyalty. Pioneered by Odwalla in 1980, this approach helped build many great beverage companies including The Republic of Tea, Tazo and Jones Soda.

In today’s media-frenzied marketplace, more and more consumers are looking for products that do more than just meet an immediate need. Many shoppers relate to brands personally, and want to align themselves with companies that support their belief systems or their lifestyles. Whole Foods owes its success to this fast-growing consumer category.

If your company is good at making a human connection, you’re more likely to feel the love rather than the disdain. And in this age of niche marketing and social networking, those who love you and those who hate you are going to be having a very public conversation about the relationship.

So what should your company be doing to address this new paradigm? First, look at your own reality. You can start by asking these three questions:

•  Do our actions match our words?
•  Why are we in business, beyond making money?
•  Are we listening to our constituencies?

As you answer these questions you will start to get at the heart of your own authenticity, paving the way for broader and deeper relationships with your consumers and creating a strong community of loyal evangelists.

Swoonbs

Thinking Outside the Plastic Box

Swoonbeams is a Fairtrade, Organic fudge. It needed a high-end, elegant look and a package that would engage people in a ritualistic way. Rather than think in terms of a complicated, pre-constructed box, we came up with a simple origami-like folding structure with a band. This made for less material and only one small dab of glue for the band. What’s more, this approach achieved our goal of creating an intriguing series of steps to “unlock” the box and get to the prize. We also made sure the printing inks were soy based. These are not hard to find, are no more expensive, and the quality is outstanding. Finally, we created a shipper that doubled as a display, thus doing away with the need for an extra box. The end result? Swoonbeams could honestly make the “sustainable”  claim without making any compromises on final product.

Basic Guidelines To Strive For

Your product:

• Is beneficial, safe & healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle.
• Meets market criteria for performance and cost.
• Is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy.
• Maximizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials.
• Is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices.
• Is made from materials healthy in all probable end of life scenarios.
• Is physically designed to optimize materials and energy.
• Is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial cycles.

Check out the Sustainable Packaging Coalition for more information and help. www.sustainablepackaging.org