Let’s Get Personal – Five ways to personalize your brand

The expectation that an individual’s world should be tailored specifically to him or her has never been more prevalent, particularly among the Millennial generation.

Personalization is becoming the norm with brands across all industries. Companies such as Amazon and Starbucks are trailblazers of this trend and it has reaped them much success. Initially, personalization of marketing efforts was costly and time consuming. Today, with evolving digital technologies, personalized marketing is becoming more ubiquitous. Consumers can walk into a specific store and immediately their phone starts to vibrate with the latest offer thanks to proximity-based marketing strategies like geo-targeting. Users can browse the web and see ads for sites they visited weeks prior courtesy of remarketing. The packaging industry is no different, with the beverage segment currently creating the most buzz. So how can you personalize your brand to enhance your brand experience and build stronger consumer engagement?

There are two types of personalization in product packaging:

“Create your own” is a concept that allows consumers to pick and choose the elements to create their own unique product  – think Nike sneakers where consumers can create their own pair by selecting from different styles and customizing the colours as they choose. While this concept is a great way to foster consumer engagement, it’s not the most practical in terms of cost and reach.

The second concept is the “Choose your own” technique. This idea involves creating a unique set of packages, which consumers can select from. The “Choose your own” model is much more feasible from an operations standpoint and can reach a large audience, while still creating customized experiences that connect the consumer directly to the brand.

Customized packaging has seen a strong boost over the last couple years, specifically within the beverage industry (both CPG and alcohol). Brands have taken different approaches to the customized package trend, each reaching mass markets but connecting to consumers in a personal way. While some campaigns have had more appeal than others, it’s important to review the whole spectrum and remember there are many different and interchangeable ways to connect with the consumer.

The personal information package

Person, place and thing are simple and compelling themes on which to create personalized packaging.

Probably the largest and most well-known personalization campaign of recent years was Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign, which produced unique cans and bottles labelled with a first name. While the idea was simple, it encouraged consumers to look for and purchase Coke products with their name on it and the names of their friends and family.

Another example is the Heineken “Cities of the World” campaign. Heineken released limited edition bottles printed with the names of different major cities. It was a simple idea that spoke to consumers in a personal way, allowing them to select a specific city they had a connection with.

The emotional package

Recently, we have seen campaigns go beyond the themes of person, place or thing to create personalized packages based on emotions. Two current examples of this are the Pepsi Moji and the Snickers Hangry campaigns. Both have released a series of unique packages that represent emotions. Pepsi’s campaign features the new language of emojis – icons that represent an emotion or a moment. Consumers can match their current mood with the corresponding symbol on the bottle or can, or share that emotion with a friend.

The Snickers Hangry campaign takes on a humorous approach to emotions. Snickers developed a collection of “Hunger Bars” that swap out the brand name on the chocolate bar wrapper with an emotion consumers feel when they’re hungry, such as “Snippy,” “Sleepy,” “Whiny” or “Grouchy.” Both campaigns assist consumers in creating associations between the product and emotions. The Pepsi Emojis campaign relates to celebration and Snickers associates with satisfaction – strong links that may not have been as powerful if not for the unique and personalized packages.

The celebrity package

Another way of connecting with consumers through packaging is by using the endorser strategy. It’s more niche than the mass customization models noted above, but it still resonates with consumers. Brands such as Coke and Sprite have used this strategy to create unique packaging to connect with their target consumers. In the past, Coke has focused on fashion icons such as Marc Jacobs to design their own cans. Sprite recently launched special cans with the lyrics of famous rap artists printed on them. While these campaigns may not appeal to a mass audience, they do become sought after by fans of the endorsers. This strategy can help strengthened the brand’s affinity with current customers as well as introduce the brand to new consumers.

The one-of-a-kind package

Sometimes appeal doesn’t need to come from a specific person, place or thing. It can simply be a beautiful design. Limited edition package designs are nothing new in the CPG or alcohol industry but recent campaigns around this idea have leveraged new packaging technology and the idea of exclusivity to create excitement with consumers. A few examples come to mind:

Bud Light Festival cans featured printed graphics specifically designed for a music festival Bud Light sponsored. The campaign produced 31 million unique designs so no two cans were alike.

Coca Cola Israel developed a similar campaign, producing more than two million unique bottles for Diet Coke back in 2014. Absolut Vodka also created a campaign around this idea. In 2012, the brand produced over four million unique designs so that each Absolut Vodka bottle was one of a kind. While these campaigns don’t connect with consumers through names or icons, they do create a sense of uniqueness and individualism which in itself is personal.

The do-it-yourself package

The final technique to discuss regarding customization is the package itself. Beck’s beer launched packaging using a special substrate that enables consumers to scratch their own designs. While each beer can looks the same when purchased, the cans become a canvas for consumers to create their own personal design. This is a different, user-generated form of customization in packaging that allows consumers to interact and engage with the brand.

It’s clear to see personalization in packaging is not going away any time soon. Brands need to connect with their consumers on a personal level in order to break through all the clutter. With today’s technology, packaging can be used to speak directly to the consumer. Gone are the days of cookie-cutter packaging – say hello to the package with your name (or city, or state of mind, or…) on it.

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