CPG brand development has to constantly monitor changes in consumer habits and what consumers value in order to draw and retain customers. For example, the days of the stay-at-home housewife and mother who did the shopping on a weekday morning has given way to the "co-shopping" couple, family, or household whose shopping trips are dictated more by often-erratic work schedules.
Brand perception is more complex and influenced by more factors than was true a generation ago.
What people value has changed dramatically over the years. For example, 50 years ago, the more "space-age" and high tech food products seemed, the more popular they were. Today, people largely know the long-term risks of a diet composed of highly processed foods and are interested in food brands that minimize processing. Factors like the ubiquity of information and digital tools that assist with comparing brands and prices have also gained importance. Here are four factors that shape contemporary CPG brand perception.
1. The Multi-sensory Experience in Which a Brand Is Presented
People generally want brands to be presented in a context that is appealing (or at least inoffensive) to multiple senses. In other words, they want the store to be clean and neat, and for any music playing to either appeal to them or at least not bother them. They want the shopping carts to glide smoothly over clean floors, and they want the store to smell nice. They want to taste food samples that delight the palate. CPG brand development can be severely obstructed by presentation in a shopping environment that detracts from its strong points.
2. Aesthetically Appealing Packaging
Packaging can have a tremendous effect on how CPG brands are perceived. Bottled water is a prime example. While many people state that bottled water tastes better than what comes out of the tap, blind taste tests often favor ordinary tap water. Yet packaging in pleasing shapes, with imagery of snowy mountains or lush, tropical flowers clearly appeals to people enough to convince them that they are purchasing a better experience. Design simplicity and "artisanal" packaging are two big trends that resonate with consumers today.
3. Perception That Food Is Less Processed
People are as concerned with what is not in their foods as they are with what is in them.
Consumers are more likely to look for fresh foods, and less-processed versions of shelf-stable or frozen foods. Ideally, they want some of the convenience offered by processed foods, without the negative connotations, such as excessive additives, preservatives, and sugar. Packaging or brand content that signals minimal processing of foods can be a powerful force in CPG brand development. Fortunately, developments in packaging methods, like microwave sterilization and ultra-high-pressure processing allow for increased shelf life and safety of foods with less processing. Combining packaging that indicates minimal processing with package design trends, like minimalism or artisanal aesthetics, can speak to the customer's desire to consume a less processed diet.
4. "Moments of Truth" Outside the Store
For a long time, CPG brand development has been based on the idea that a customer's first "moment of truth" happens in the store. But that is less likely to be the case today, due to the vast reach of online content, not only in the home, but in a mobile environment as well.
Today's shopping trip may start with searching online for a recipe, comparing ingredient brands, and learning where they are sold. This means that there are many "moments of truth" from the time the consumer gets the idea to prepare a food to when he or she actually purchases it. Other influencers include retailer websites, digital coupons, and shopping apps.
Innumerable factors affect CPG brand development, particularly in an age when people are bombarded with content and advertising virtually around the clock. Brand perception is affected by the full sensory experience surrounding the brand, packaging that is attractive, indications that the product is minimally processed (at least compared to the competition), and countless "moments of truth" outside the grocery store aisle. The good news is that this gives brands many more channels through which they can shape brand perception, both in the retail environment and online.