Natural Products Expo East is happening this week, October 14-16. It's another chance for this marketing consultant to meet up with old friends and colleagues, press the flesh with some future clients (always hopeful), hear what other marketing consultants are doing and find out some new facts about the industry and products.
The last time I was at the Natural Products Expo, I noticed someone who I had not seen in ten years. I said, “Hi” but it took her a few seconds to say “Peter?” Pause. “I didn’t recognize you.” Now I’m no Pollyanna. I know I’ve aged. A lot less hair. But I also don’t wear glasses anymore, and I’ve been working out. Not all bad. And fundamentally, I’m the same good guy I was when I first met her.
Over the year’s I’ve grown accustomed to my changes, so it’s always a little shock when someone says they did not recognize me, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. Basically my packaging has changed, and even though to me it’s subtle, that’s not the case for others. They had an image of me, and now I don’t fit it, or more accurately, it takes work for them to find me.
The same can be said for companies that change their packaging. Too often, the change is so dramatic that even though the label shouts out the name of the company and product, it’s not registering for me on the shelves. If I am a loyal customer, I’ll eventually find it, and pretty soon I’ll recognize the new packaging as easily as I did the old one.
So what’s the takeaway here? If you change your packaging too dramatically without taking into account your brand equity, loyal customers will find you, new customers who have never heard of you will find you, and everyone else will find your competition.
So does that mean don’t change your packaging and if you do, do it only slightly? Nope. The answer is far more complicated, and will probably cost you the services of a good branding expert. The only free advice I can give you is change, like aging, happens whether you like it or not. It’s all about how you deal with it. For example, the person I met at Expo who didn’t recognize me – I told her how great she looked, and pretty soon she remembered what a cool guy I am. Next time I bumped into her, she waved. Now if only I could remember her name.
Wish me luck this year. Hopefully everyone will recognize me.