Telling a Marketing Story from the Shelf

With the short window of time you have in your customer’s eyes, whether they're scrolling through products on their phone or staring at hundreds of them on the retail shelf, how in the marketing-world do you communicate your story in such a compelling way that they purchase Johnny-on-the-spot?  Unfortunately, the visual aspect of your brand, and time you have to tell your story, is THAT important.  It’s the first brush your potential customer has with your brand.  The story starts with how you 'look'... it's sad but true isn't it?  But truth be told, we ALL naturally judge based on appearance.

Their Time

At the Retail shelf

When someone approaches a retail shelf, it’s impossible to know whether they’re in a rush, or if they intend to commit some time to comparing products.  Either way, they’re quickly going to scan the entire area that includes the product type they’re needing.  What are they going to look for?  Well, besides price… what product most prominently communicates the best solution to their need?  Since this can be a quick initial assessment by the consumer, here are a few Retail Shelf tips to draw their eye… think SIMPLE, BOLD, DESCRIPTIVE:

  • A simple yet effective product name is important.
  • A concise, descriptive subtitle can also be helpful.
  • A bold package design can catch their gaze. Don’t be afraid of FUN, (as long as your brand story lends itself to fun).
  • More shelf space of course is beneficial, be it a box instead of a bottle, a shelf talker, or multiple product placements – some of which is at the store’s mercy.
  • Will the retailer allow for point-of-purchase displays? Signage? Window clings? Try to claim as much real estate from them as you possibly can.

NOW, once some of these elements have hopefully captured their eye - QUICK - find a way to work in your company’s story!  Some things to think about… What inspired you to start your brand in the first place - how did it come into existence?  Wherein does your company's story lie?  What's your company's personality?  What do you care about, that your customers probably care about too?  … So, how are you communicating these vibes on your product?  Does your company’s name or logo support your story, or is there space for a tagline or slogan with your company logo?  What colors and even subliminal – or maybe not subliminal – graphic messages can you include in your packaging design that support your story.  If you want to communicate superior quality, what certifications or logos can you include?  Can you set aside some of your label space for telling a compelling story, making sure it puts your customers' interests first?  Even the style of font used conveys some type of story or message to your consumers.  Whatever you do, just DON’T LOOK PLAIN JANE.

On the eCommerce ‘shelf’

In the supplement industry, everyday we’re becoming more aware of the importance of eCommerce – understatement of the year, right?  According to the Nutrition Business Journal (Apr 2018 issue), internet sales are projected to have the highest growth in sales across channels for supplements.  Since I’m on a roll, another understatement in case you enjoy them, the brand story you're telling on your product’s online platforms is very important… whether it’s a 3rd party eCommerce platform or your own company website.

The Daily Egg tells us that most internet shoppers stick around on an eCommerce website less than 59 seconds before clicking away.  This is a very limited amount of time to not only appeal to the consumer, but also relate or connect to them through your brand story.  Without these elements, they are going back to their search results, and moving on to another, more appealing product down the screen from yours.  Keeping your brand story visual on your website and product pages can help communicate your story faster, such as using infographics, charts, and images that appeal to your target persona.  In Elegant Themes’ article on Bad Web Design, they list some helpful design principles to follow for your eCommerce site; a few are: 

  • Proper use of color
  • Proper use of animation
  • Pleasing to the eye
  • Appropriate to the topic
  • The design elements don’t get in the way of the content
  • Great content that’s easy to find, navigate, consume, and share

The Nutrition Business Journal also mentioned that a 2018 New Hope Network survey of natural and organic product manufacturers revealed that 3rd party eCommerce sites are where they’re seeing their strongest distribution growth.  When on a 3rd party eCommerce platform and a consumer searches and comes to a ‘product list view’, what small amount of product details show up, and have you optimized these details for not only story, but also keywords?... (keywords are important so that your product appears in the search results from the get-go). 

As you know, it’s better to include the highest priority keywords in the beginning of a product name so that it appears higher up in search results, but is there room for other descriptive words toward the end of the title to help establish somewhat of an appealing story?  For example, a product title of a supplement containing our flagship ingredient, NEM® could be “Joint Cartilage Support, Relieve Exercise-induced Pain & Stiffness, Promote Flexibility – All for Long-term Joint Health. Sustainable, Wholefood-sourced Skeletal Nutrients from Eggshells – with NEM brand eggshell membrane”.

Also, on the actual product webpage, some 3rd party eCommerce websites offer options to add more descriptive information and/or graphics into your product’s page, giving you the opportunity to further enhance your brand story, as well as improving search results if the right keywords are included in its description.  

Compelling Story

Now that we’ve talked about the short window of time, let’s check that story.  What is it about your story that’s compelling to your target market?  Why should they care, or what’s going to stop and make them care?  (I love to write articles in question format, have you noticed?)  Hey, my goal here is just to get you thinking about the answers to these essential questions.  Sometimes it’s a matter of explaining to them why they should care, which is obviously much easier done on eCommerce (especially your own website), just due to the amount of content you can pack in vs. in retail.

Your brand story must truly have some convincing appeal to your target market.  Maybe you’re saving the world by donating product or a percentage of profits to feeding the hungry or supporting animal shelters, practicing sustainability reducing our Earth’s waste stream, becoming fully traceable and transparent touting the cleanest of ingredients for their family’s sake.  Maybe you find creative ways to share humor to make them laugh, or insights for them to glean wisdom from.  Maybe it’s a specific way you’re appealing to a market niche, so that they feel your brand is especially for them, whether they’re Gamers or CrossFitters.  You speak their language, you stand for what they stand for, you GET them.  The more you can communicate this relationship with your target market, the more they will buy into your brand story.  And these are just some examples; your brand story is even better when it’s unique to your company, so if you’ve got it flaunt it

‘Different’ is Good

As a final note, just remember: a story is good when it’s different.  Your brand story is just easier to develop and convey when it’s unique from your competitors.  This can translate into having unique products as well.  How does your company’s one-of-a-kind story drive the one-and-only products you’re developing?  Don’t dive into the pool with the same ol’ floaties as everyone else.  Bring something different to market – something that aligns with and communicates your distinctive story.  Make your own brand story path.

Now, happy brand storytelling to you all!

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