Label Re-Branding – Can it Hurt?
by lauren | Aug 30th, 2010 | Leave a comment

I came across an interesting article in Inc. magazine, a magazine for small businesses, about a California-based tea company.  The owner formulated her own organic tea blends, and put her likeness on the outside packaging.  The full-color packaging design was oozing with wild colors, stars and other “earthy” graphics.  The owner noted, “We did whatever we thought looked good.  We used as many fonts as we wanted.”  While the end result was certainly unique, the majority of product sales came from California, where many consumers could relate to the product’s “hippie” vibe.

Since the company want to grow, they needed to re-brand themselves for the masses, which meant re-designing the packaging to appeal to a larger market.  Instead of marketing the product around a California lifestyle, they opted to revamp the entire brand, focusing on fashion and luxury to gain market share.  As their marketing guru stated, “They’re not tea bags, they are couture sachets.”  Each line of tea would be targeted to a specific audience, and the packaging would to convey a more luxurious feel.

In order to achieve the desired look for the packaging, the designers opted for more modern tins, and toned down the previous design and logo with muted colors and softer tones.  The main focus of the design was now on the product type, not the logo.  While all of this is interesting, the really fasinating part of the article was the owner’s fear about losing her base consumers by trying to reach a larger group.

This fear drove me to think, can a label re-design hurt your brand?  It may be scary to say, but in some cases, yes, drastic changes to a brand can hurt business with your core supporters.  Some may be angry due to price increases (which often happens when changes are made due to more expensive packaging or printing costs, etc.), while others might simply not realize the look has changed, and therefore don’t recognize the product.  We have written in the past about updating designs without losing the general feel, so this is about weighing the risks and potential gain of re-branding your product.

In the case of the tea company, 80% of their business came from local sales.  They were missing a huge market segment because their product wasn’t speaking well to consumers outside of California.  They did experience some growing pains and slow sales as the new packaging was introduced.  By implementing a marketing strategy that included a PR campaign and launching a Facebook page, sales began to soar from 30% to 300%.  Additionally, east coast sales surpassed west coast sales, a true milestone for the company.  There overall sales grew from $3.5 million in 2008 to $6 million in 2009.

Clearly, the risk of re-branding paid off.  Even the owner was skepical about changing her original vision, but she understood that reaching more consumers meant finding a design that they liked, not forcing her design idea on them, hoping they “get it”.  This is the key concept to designing or re-designing a product label.  It takes  more than a good idea or a nice design to sell a product.  There must be a broader understanding of the marketplace and consumer needs in terms of the product your are selling.  Interestingly, the tea company didn’t change their product offering, they simply changed their packaging and branding, which lead to almost a 100% increase in sales.

If you are considering changing your label design, enlist the help of professional designers and branding experts within the product label industry to ensure the changes you are making will have a positive impact on sales.  Incorrectly executing a product re-design can be brand suicide, but if done right, you can be rolling in success.

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