Building the brand experience from inception to the shelf

CHICAGO — People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. And if you sell to consumers who believe what you believe — consumers who buy into the “why” — you’ll not only have a fiercely loyal consumer, you’ll have a brand ambassador.

That was one of the key takeaways at the “Architecting a Brand Experience from Concept Through Retail Execution” symposium held here at Navy Pier, Tuesday afternoon, as attendees of the 2013 Shopper Marketing Expo absorbed insights from some of the leading creators of “brand experience” today.

“It is no longer relevant for a brand to have a unique selling feature,” Rob Wallace, managing partner of the global brand identity strategy and package design consultancy Wallace Church, told attendees. “We have to disrupt category conventions, transcend category cues and transform consumers in the process. That is the hallmark of our most successful brands.”

As an example of how to successfully build a brand experience from the ground up, Sean Patrick Harrington, founder of the premium skin care line Previse, which is positioned to help prevent niche skin conditions, talked about just how crucial identifying a brand’s name is to the process. “[With Previse], we wanted to be authentic, transparent, easy,” he said. “We chose the word ‘previse’ because it means to foresee or know in advance. … This is what we gave to Wallace Church [who consulted on the brand development process] — a passion for prevention.”

Presenters Rob Wallace, Doug Van Andel, Sean Patrick Harrington and Lily Lev-Glick walk a group from the Shopper Marketing Expo through building a brand from inception to sell-through.

Symposium presenters identified some best practices in helping to differentiate a brand from a sea of sameness, and creating an authentic brand experience on shelf. It begins with analyzing the category and the consumer buying the category.

Previse, for example, had been formulated to be gender agnostic — appealing to men as much as women because even though women, as the healthcare gatekeepers for their families, typically buy skincare, there were not many solutions for men. “Male grooming in this category is exploding. It’s an untapped opportunity,” Wallace said, but it creates a challenge — how do you communicate to men without alienating women?

That leads to the research integration process, which explores the elements of consumer and shopper research that should be integrated into the brand development process. The research should help list the key drivers or attributes of a category directly correlated to purchase intent. When those key drivers are perceived by the shopper to be a strong part of a product’s offering, it helps to move the product off shelf and into the market basket.

When you evaluate how well the brand does across these key drivers, “those are the attributes that are going to be your brand differentiators,” noted Lily Lev-Glick, founder and chief insights officer for the shopper insights and in-store strategy consultancy Shopper Sense. “More importantly, [if] you do this for all of your competitive brands, you will see where everyone falls.”

That helps marketers define why the new product exists — not just as a differentiator from what’s already on the shelf, but in terms of defining the vision and mission behind the new product. This feeds into the why behind the buy.

There are actually five steps that need to happen before implementing the product design and brand story, Wallace explained: Create a position statement; correlate that statement so that it explains the “why” behind the product; convert the statement into a visually impactful message; test the visual among consumers; and present that “visual brief” to the advertising, promotion and merchandising teams. “Follow these five steps before you begin the design development process and you will streamline the experience at every consumer interaction,” Wallace said. “Now this brand tells its own story. This brand has continuity and consistency. It has relevant disruption and innovation in the category. It tells a different story than anything else in the category, and begins to really reflect the experience and essence around the brand.”

Once those five steps have been addressed, it’s time to approach retail distribution and create a shopper-marketing plan. “You’re not just dealing with the brand and all the brand has to face,” noted Doug Van Andel, global creative director for the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, the brand story needs to dovetail with a retailer’s brand identity. “You’ve got a brand that stands for a particular kind of ‘why,’ and then you’ve got a retailer that stands for a particular kind of ‘why.’ Somewhere in the middle, you have shopper intimacy,” he said. “You have to have some understanding that there is some overlap between the brand that is relevant to the retailer and that the retailer has to live up to [its own brand expectations]. … If you take a close look at a Target shopper vs. a Walmart shopper, they are different people.” It’s important to understand where the brand values overlap, Van Andel said.

In the closing segment, attendees were invited to participate in a mock competition to create a program for the launch of Previse Skincare into the supermarket channel and other mass outlets, which is planned for the coming year. The winning presentation, which was selected on site by the presenters, was rewarded with an all-expense-paid, one-week vacation in Long Bay, in the British Virgin Island Tortola. To help spark creativity a group of marketing students was also in attendance, as an added bonus, Wallace told DSN. “I lecture at Columbia Business School’s MBA program and at the [School of Visual Arts] Masters in Branding program, and find that students’ contributions bring a fresh perspective and enthusiasm that drives design thinking and creative problem solving even further,” he said.

For more DSN coverage from Shopper Marketing Expo 2013, visit


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