18 September 2018
Our 5 Key FMCG Brand Innovation Principles
What lessons can we learn from Coca-Cola's Life U-Turn?
Just over 4 years ago Coca-Cola launched its first new drink in the UK for over 8 years. You may remember it as the ‘green one’ and probably thought WTF!? As with all NPD innovations it was launched with great intent. A new low-calorie Coca-Cola variant which contained less sugar and calories than regular Coke, with the power of the stevia leaf. However, there was simply no room for another Coca-Cola brand in our lives. Coca-Cola Zero already performed the same job in people’s minds with zero sugar and no calories.
Last week Coca-Cola refreshed its core brands in the UK, bringing Coca-Cola Zero even closer to the Original core to align them more closely with their iconic red colour that we all know and love. Coca-Cola Zero is now a simple choice of whether you go no sugar or if you prefer the full-sugar original version. The lesson in all this is that brands need to look to the human need when extending and creating new products. Coca-Cola is no doubt fighting a losing battle to a large degree, as the wave of global health and wellness takes hold here in the UK. But it’s got to do something to stem the tide other than buying Innocent and Costa. The challenge was that there is no human need for a new Coca-Cola Life as people were quite happy with Zero fulfilling that role. Coca-Cola went back to the drawing board and empowered their core brand and then took Zero further than that. Smart move in my book.
It got me thinking - what can established and iconic brands learn from this in terms of innovation moving forward? We know that the majority of the UK’s Top 100 FMCG brands have been in our lives and our families lives for over a 100 years, but they must continue to evolve in the constant fight for our attention. The fight for relevance means they need to evolve from the core out, or invest in new brands and bring new products to our lives that meet a human need or want or tempt us with something new that we didn’t know we needed in our lives. Finding a gap isn’t always easy and the additional challenge of the major multiples range rationalisation continuing at a pace means there is simply less shelf space to fight for.
Brands have to evolve with the times to survive and add value, so here are our 5 FMCG innovation principles:
1. Nothing Beats a Great Idea
Understand what made you famous from the outset and build from there with a new idea that people can understand quickly and buy into. Driving into that human need and finding a gap that you can exploit with something new and exciting is critical. Test the product concept with consumers in research, refine it from their feedback and go back and test it again. Don’t just get a listing and then start praying for success.
2. Build an Amazing Product & Brand
Creating an amazing product is hard work and may require sweat, blood, tears, plus a good dose of NPD investment. But that is only the start, too many businesses then short-change the brand and simply extend the design from their core brand without enough thought or innovation. Explore whether the current brand can hold the innovation as an extension from its core, or if it needs to move further out to become a sub-brand or a stand-alone brand. More often than not the instant route to innovation is to simply create a more premium version of the core to drive stronger value for the business, but do consumers always want a more premium version? What human need is that premium version meeting? A new occasion, something more exciting to the norm, or a combination of both.
3. Patience, Patience, Patience
There is no quick-win holy grail to FMCG brand innovation success. Investing in innovation awareness and understanding is vital to give you any chance of traction and success. You can’t simply launch a brand on shelf (now more often online!) and then leave it to die, you’ve got to invest with all you’ve got to drive trial and repeat purchase. Investment in that first 12 months is key as you need to cement a role in people’s minds and hearts to ensure that they buy into your product. That takes time to drive the trial and repeat purchase, only the brave will survive.
Is the organisation set up for innovation success? I sit in the privileged position of working with many different FMCG businesses and there appears to be a common trait for those that win in innovation. They have a clear innovation strategy and approach, with the right team of people and processes to help them have a fighting chance to succeed. In certain categories we often see tactical innovation at the request of the buyers and it’s a never ending cycle of innovation as the majority of it fails, the shotgun approach. The sniper ‘less is more’ approach is much more focused on fewer innovations but investing more time and money in them to grow into new brands that people love. If Coca-Cola can’t afford to let sub-brands distract it, should you?
More often than not we see too many FMCG businesses carry proliferated portfolios filled with semi-successful sub-brands that only did well when launched with a strong investment campaign to support them. It’s all too tempting to chase the shiny and new extension capitalising on new white space but forget that it’s the integrity of your core that defines your long term success.
5. Act Like a Start-up
The opportunity for challenger brands to begin to take a slice of the pie from their bigger FMCG brethren icons has never been stronger. I can’t recall a time in my life when challenger brands were welcomed in with open arms by the buyers, probably all striving for relevant differentiation beyond own label. That entrepreneurial spirit is however buried in each and every one of us, so harnessing innovation spirit in the bigger multi-national conglomerates is key.
Some of these bigger branded players are now looking to invest and launch their own new brands in the hope of hitting a home run with one that takes off. As opposed to having to invest millions in buying a challenger brand that has started to become part of the establishment.
The hard truth of the matter is that the majority of FMCG new product innovations will fail, it’s a case of survival of the fittest. Our 5 innovation principles give you a fighting a chance for success and a good performance metric by which to measure yourself. It’s a constant fight for survival and brands have to evolve by extending from their core or creating new fresh brands that meet a human need. Either way innovation is at the heart of any FMCG business looking to grow, you either play the game or slowly die.
Emma Godman, Senior Strategist: The Power of Introverts
Given it's International Women’s Day I have been reflecting on my own experience of what being a woman in business means to me and wanted to share some thoughts…
Richard Taylor: The Making of a Challenger Brand
The Alantra Food & Beverage Fast 50 is full of challenger brands taking on the established businesses in their sector. But what does it take to succeed as a challenger?
Leigh Armstrong: Will artificial intelligence homogenise creative industries?
Brandon MD Leigh chats ChatGPT and the impact of artificial intelligence on creativity.
People Love a bit of DWB!
The world of functional drinks, or ‘drinks with benefits’ (DWB) is a category that has seen huge development.
Meet Executive Creative Director, Steve Conchie
Steve shares the best things about his job, as well as the genius behind “who's nicked my friggin' grapes".
Meet Client Service Director – Simon Ellis
Who knew Simon is a musicals fan? But when he’s not belting out a classic, he loves nothing more than the feeling of absolutely nailing a client brief.
On pack messaging: Brand Purpose versus Distinctive Assets
Louise Kennedy on the strategies that brands implement when bringing together brand purpose and distinctive assets.
Transform Magazine: Iconicity as the route to impact
Managing Partner, Richard Taylor on the importance of iconicity in the route to impact.
The supplements brands gym-bound Brits will be turning to
Richard Taylor speaks to The Grocer about how brands need to cut through in the sports nutrition and supplements world.
Ever wondered what it's like working at Brandon?
We speak to two of our latest recruits to find out...
Design as a powerful asset in the fight for relevance
Strategist Tessa Hill on some of the key relevance challenges we’re asked to solve through the power of design.
FAB News: What do you stand for?
FAB News: Louise Kennedy on how winning the fight for relevance starts with positioning.
Interview with a strategist – Tessa Hill
Tessa loves being involved in a project from a very early stage.
All I want for Christmas... is a good limited edition strategy
Strategist Tessa Hill comments on the learnings from five of our favourite Christmas limited editions.
What role does innovation play in driving brand relevance?
Strategy Director Louise Kennedy with some top tips on how to use innovation to drive brand relevance.
Immunity in 2020
Strategist Tessa Hill uncovers the design codes shaping the immunity category in 2020.
Interview with a designer - Abi Taylor
Hear from our Co-Founder on her love of design and how Brandon came to be.
Reawakening a love for brand books
Senior Designer Jay Bates on why brand guidelines shouldn't be left at the bottom of a drawer.
Five Minutes with Louise Kennedy
Louise Kennedy talks to Transform about how brands can stay relevant and how packaging can improve brand performance.
FAB News: ‘Relevance - The Holy Grail of Marketing'
FAB News: Strategy Director Louise Kennedy on what relevance actually means.
Recession-ready tip #2 – Rethink innovation
How rethinking innovation can be a tool to get your brand ready for a recession.
Interview with a designer - Joe Bembridge
Read what inspires Brandon’s first full-time designer.
How hero your distinctive brand assets
Brand Strategist Louise Kennedy considers the importance of distinctive assets.
Can casual dining brands survive on supermarket shelves?
Richard Taylor talks to Marketing Week about how hospitality brands can make an impact through supermarket retail.
Don’t underestimate the influence of packaging in the home
Brand Strategist Louise Kennedy discusses actionable ways for brands to build an emotional connection with consumers at home.
Interview with a Designer - Jay Bates
Brandon’s self-confessed brand architecture nerd, Jay, on what inspires him every day.
Marketing Week's ‘All change: The complex route ahead for automotive branding’
As car manufacturers face pressure to move to cleaner energy and shift their strategy, Richard Taylor, discusses what that means for brand.
Hero design for the new hero channel
Brand Strategist Louise Kennedy challenges what the hero design is and will become.
Hitting their peak: How brands plan to retain new customers post-lockdown
Managing Partner Richard Taylor talks to Marketing Week about shopping on autopilot and making new habits in the crisis.
Interview with a Designer - Grace Buckley
Grace can often be found in the supermarket rearranging the shelves to show off her work in its best light!
Reflections from the Darkside
Strategist Louise Kennedy’s view on agency life from the perspective of a ‘newbie’.
Will Harrods' bet on a new beauty brand pay off?
Managing Partner Richard Taylor talks to Marketing Week about Harrods' new beauty brand.
Desert Island Ads
We asked our Creative Director for his top 10 ads that shaped and inspired his thinking over the decades
D&AD Top 5 tips to move beyond mediocrity to design greatness
Inspiration from Rosie Arnold at the D&AD Talks 2019
The Joys of Brand Planning
Our Top 5 Brand Planning Tips - identifying new, exciting opportunities for growth.
The Brand Packaging Health-Check
The Brand Packaging Health-Check: 5 Killer Tips to see if a refresh is due or long overdue
The Art of FMCG Brand Architecture
Three principles we apply to ensure a successful brand architecture
Refreshing Established Food and Drink Brands
Here we discuss six routes for a brand to acquire new relevant meaning.
The Grocer - Pasta & Sauces report
The Grocer features Managing Partner Richard's thoughts on the pasta and sauces category.
In a bid for simplification and efficiency, the giants are emulating the discounters.
The Logo. On its last legs? Or fit as a fiddle?
Of late there has been a school of thought which argues that the static logo is terminally ill.