Knowledge Bank Blog, Range & Portfolio, Shopper Communication

Visual Perfection

How good do you really look?

Last week we talked about the importance of Body Language and how people use simple rules of thumb to make judgements about things.  One of the most basic rules of thumb is how things look.  Whether it is the person you have just met, the new house you are going to see, or the new product on the supermarket shelf.

Two contrasting business stories last week brought this home to us.  Firstly, we had Apple achieving a record market capitalisation of over $700bn.  They make great products and have developed some fantastic business models, but how much of that $700bn is down to how their products look – the simplicity and beauty of their design?  Quite a lot we think.

Closer to home we had the announcement from Morrison’s that they are going to remove the produce misting machines from the 300 stores in which they had been installed.   Perhaps the right initial intention – make your products look as appealing as possible – but probably the wrong solution.  Over engineered, and ultimately, perceived as a bit of a gimmick.

So, why is this relevant to us?  Well, we know that a key influence on the quality perception of a product is how it looks, not just how it tastes or performs.  This is particularly important in fresh food, but can be just as influential in packaged goods.  One glance at a product is enough for a shopper to stop, engage and potentially buy.  And one glance can be enough for the shopper to carry on walking and perhaps never see you again.

Apple have shown the key to looking good is keeping things simple and consistent.  So, how can this play out in the FMCG world, what are some of the simple things you can do to achieve visual perfection?

Hero the Product.  Firstly, through ultra-simple packaging.  There is always a temptation to over communicate.  What looks clear to us on the meeting room table, looks incredibly cluttered on shelf.  Most packs could lose 3 or 4 elements on front of pack to look cleaner and communicate better.  Less is usually more.

Secondly, by showcasing the product itself.  Whether that is framing the product (as with the Rannoch Meat packs above) or stripping back the packaging to make the product itself more visible.  We mentioned last week how Chilled Ready Meals are increasingly doing this.  Tesco’s new produce packaging is another good example.

Get the small details right.  Good restaurants have known about this for years.  As industry insiders, we know in our hearts that at Carluccio’s we are essentially eating ready meals.  But the thick slice of mozzarella and fresh basil leaf laid on top of the pasta help us suspend our disbelief.   The bit of garnish, the drizzle of sauce, all drive visual appeal.  What are the small details for your category? It is often the small things that people see and remember.

Know your best side.  Is the way you are merchandised helping you to look your best?  If you look much better front on than side on, can you develop merchandising solutions, at shelf or though SRP, that allow you to be seen in this way?  And if you can’t have your best side facing the shopper, can you look as good side on?  That is often the angle from which most shoppers see you as they walk down the aisle.  It is also often the angle that you are seen in the home.  Hence most cereal boxes are now as well branded on the side as they are on the front.

Designing for the Small Screen.  The first time a shopper may see your product is as an image the size of a fingernail on a smartphone. Is this product image crystal clear?  Are you looking better than the images around you?  2D visual perfection will become as important as 3D.

We are all told ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’.  Very sound advice, but rarely followed.  So, if people do judge a book by its cover, then your book needs to look a lot more appealing than all the other books around it on shelf.  Do they?

On a slightly different note, from Monday, we are expanding our commentary, and will start ‘tweeting’ good examples of the things we are seeing when we are out and about. They will reflect our approach and philosophy, the types of things we talk about in our Blogs.  Hopefully you will find them useful and relevant.  If not, please tell us!

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Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.