Plain brown boxIn the slug-fest that is retailing during a recession (coupled with an interest in green packaging) some of our clients are thinking a lot about their brand identity in the store.

Me, too.

But in a few commoditized categories, there’s an underlying doubt at work. For these manufacturers, research indicates that consumers don’t pick a product on the basis of who makes it. Instead, they are swayed almost entirely by the design of the product itself. Who made the sheets on your bed, for example? The towels in your bathroom? Your socks? Many people have no idea. They just liked the pattern or the color or the feel of the fabric.

If that’s true, why spend money and energy on branding in those categories? Here’s why: Because there are other decisions you can affect and other audiences you’re communicating with that matter. A lot.

Buyers and store managers do indeed respond to the character, consistency and quality of your brand through your packaging, but also through all the other materials they encounter. The impact of the overall experience retailers have with your company lets them know how to position you in the store, what kind and quality of product they can expect, and how you perceive both your company and your consumer. That’s important stuff, and whether or not it controls the consumer’s final decision, it does impact your sales very directly.

While the consumer may well buy a product whose design (character, fabric, style) they simply like, regardless of who makes it, they will have a reaction to your packaging. It lets them know who you are, for sure. But it also tells them who they are if they buy your products. You have a chance to reinforce their sense of self, to make them feel good, or not so good, about their purchase. And, of course, if this is a gift, then you can enhance the perception of their generosity, taste, caring and so on. If that weren’t true, you’d package your stuff in cellobags with cheap stapled paper headers and call it a day. But you probably don’t. And there are good reasons why not.

Web visitors
More and more, the web is the way people learn about your company. And one of the things they learn about is what your brand is like. Their web experience helps them envision the quality if the branding reflects it, and helps them justify their purchase. Consistency with the “you” they see in the store reinforces their decision to buy and reminds them of all the other nice things they know about you.

All in all, since you have to produce marketing tools (only one of which is your packaging) and since you probably care about how you’re perceived as a company, you really should develop your entire brand identity so that it supports you.

And that, in turn, will pay off in sales and market share.