by Gregg S. Lipman
Marketers have had their work cut out for them in recent years: a proliferation of brands, an even more complex landscape for connecting with consumers and that nasty thing called the recession have all made it a challenge to maintain (yet also grow) market share and sales. The current climate results in what is almost a mandate for brands to shake up their respective categories.
Three in particular-U by Kotex*, Dr. Scholl’s and Duane Reade-have drawn attention to their categories and put themselves on top during these demanding times by developing new, unexpected products that alter the marketplace’s visual landscape and the ways consumers interact in it.
U By Kotex*Finding a new way to tell a brand story often requires completely recreating a brand. That’s the case with Kimberly-Clark, which sought to revolutionize a category not normally known for innovation.
The company conducted considerable research and discovered that the feminine hygiene category was basically overlooking young women, who tend to make their product decisions when they first get their periods and then stick with that brand through early adulthood. The findings revealed a rich opportunity to “own” the Millennial category (specifically, 14- to 22-year-olds) and spurred Kimberly-Clark to develop a new sub-brand that spoke to this savvy and potentially lucrative target audience.
Calling it U by Kotex*, the company addressed the fact that Millennials love personalization and positioned the brand as just “for you.” Design followed a forward-thinking strategy that set up U by Kotex* products as accessories (fem-care products have traditionally been considered “embarrassing” items meant to be hidden in bags), and packaging moved away from the decades-old use of pastels.
The new designs incorporate the color black, matte and shiny textures, peek-a-boo windows that showcase the products and a frank, informative “Myth or Fact?” section that inspires and educates with fun information about personal care. U by Kotex*’s edgy, fashion-forward look and honest, conversational voice practically leapt off the shelves, leading to increased market share for Kimberly-Clark and resetting the bar within the feminine hygiene category overall.
Dr. Scholl'sBy creating a new kind of product experience, Schering-Plough’s Dr. Scholl’s brand knocked consumers off their feet with its new Custom Fit Orthotic Inserts. After conducting consumer and in-market research, Dr. Scholl’s realized that most orthotic wearers were either visiting podiatrists for expensive, custom-made insoles or were spending nearly as much money to mail-order them. To hone in on that opportunity, the brand developed an innovative “foot mapping” technology that helped consumers identify problem areas.
Dr. Scholl’s then brought the technology to life through self-diagnosing kiosks that leveraged unused retail space and analyzed consumers’ soles and arches and their answers to a variety of questions to yield a recommendation for one of five semi-customizable insoles.
The product name, Custom Fit Orthotic Inserts, along with the color-coded design and graphics that alluded to its medical nature elevated the product perception and helped it obtain a value proposition. The structural graphics and packaging were developed to be appropriate for the foot-care category, but clearly differentiated from the mass aisle.
Custom Fit Orthotics Inserts were first tested in Meijer's stores, and the response was so strong that Dr. Scholl’s realized it could charge a premium price for the product (with the original $29.99 price increasing to $49.99). Schering-Plough has since created an entire business unit around the Dr. Scholl’s Custom Fit Orthotic line.
Duane ReadeDuane Reade, the well-known New York drug chain with stores in every borough, was beginning to face challenging competition from the likes of Rite Aid, CVS, specialty chains and other local markets. The retailer knew it needed to take drastic measures to maintain market share, grow comparative sales and keep customers happy.
In order to understand its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and get closer to its customers, Duane Reade reviewed all existing customer data and broader consumer and business data, organized a work session with management and conducted quantitative consumer segmentation, qualitative research and internal executive interviews. From there, Duane Reade developed a game plan to reinvent its stores, brand mix and to develop a New York-centric private label offering.
The resulting store brand strategy encompassed premium, value-added foods for the center-store aisles that offered a distinctive quality as compared to national brands, along with fresh foods, specialty beers, sustainable household products, quality-driven health and wellness products and a limited offering of 30 to 50 everyday value items-namely commodities like bath tissue, water and paper plates that were in high volume.
The design strategy for the brand portfolio leveraged one of the company’s strongest assets: New York City. The Delish brand shines Broadway lights on cookies, features parking meters and taxi cabs on nuts, bike paths on brownies and stop lights on salsa, while healthier items feature fashion-driven imagery. The DR Health brand takes on the same clean look that Duane Reade adopted in its stores and continues the “New York” theme by putting “Uniquely New York Since 1960” next to its logo. The retailer’s Apt. 5 and Apt. 5 Goes Green household cleaning brands use illustrated images of New York apartment living, rather than the traditional bold graphics seen in the category. Lastly, the price-driven items-which incorporate just the item descriptor, not a product line name-showcase images of iconic New York landmarks made out of UPC codes.
Duane Reade’s private label reinvention followed a design strategy that romanced the product with a New York sense of style, as opposed to other retailers that tend to focus on product as a brand-a decidedly differentiated approach for the drug store channel that uniquely spoke to the New York City consumer.
From tampons to foot care, the common thread among these three brands is that they all made commitments to mine new opportunities and innovate in ways that disrupted their respective categories. However, once a brand has reinvented a category, it needs to be prepared for competitors to follow suit. There’s white space everywhere, which means that even brands like U by Kotex*, Dr. Scholl’s and Duane Reade will need to work hard to stay on top.
The Takeaways> Never get complacent with your brand. To really shake up a category, you need to constantly look for the white space-even if you are currently the category leader.
> Put the money and staff behind your ideas to get them done right; coming up with “smart concepts” isn’t enough.
> Change the game by going outside your comfort zone and looking to categories other than your own for inspiration. U by Kotex* referenced the fashion and cosmetics categories, for instance.
> Engage consumers with interactive experiences that reinforce the brand’s message.
> Rethink and reinvent the way your brand and its package speaks to consumers so that, as their needs change, you’re keeping up with them.
Gregg S. Lipman is managing partner at CBX, a strategic branding company with expertise in corporate, consumer and retail experiences. CBX clients include Johnson & Johnson, Del Monte, General Mills, Cadbury Schweppes, Kimberly Clark, Petro-Canada, Nestlé, ADP and Petro China. Contact Gregg at email@example.com or 212.404.7980.
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