System 1 language distinctively distilled

(And, why Seedlip is destined to be an icon in the adult drinks market)

I had the pleasure of sharing a platform with Ben Branson recently at an event organised for food and drink start-ups. I have to say there’s a lot to like about Ben and his story, and even more to like about his brand Seedlip. Put simply: Ben may have created the Holy Grail of adult soft drinks – something the likes of Diageo and Coca-Cola have been pursuing for decades.

A sense of occasion

Whilst there is a sense of Zeitgeist about Seedlip: Teetotalism is increasing, drink-driving laws leave no room for error, sugar is on the naughty step and craft brands are on the rise. What clearly underpins the brand’s early success is the power of the need that it fulfils both for the drinker and the establishments that sell it; lots of people have been waiting a long time for something like Seedlip.

For us consumers, going out for a meal or a drink in a bar has a sense of occasion to it. Often, these occasions are when we want to make an impression too. Ordering the same sweet drink we drank as a child often feels like a let-down, no matter how traditional the recipe or how natural the ingredients. Shall we face facts? Even cracking the screw top of the most expensive sparkling water isn’t going to make us, or the occasion, sparkle with brilliance.

Seedlip has lost the alcohol but retains the pomp, ceremony and sense of occasion that comes with the finest spirits. The drink alone demands curiosity and closer inspection, and the addition of a mixer brings it alive, opening up countless variations to savour and explore.

It’s for these reasons that the venues that sell it love it too. A spirit and a mixer always makes a better margin than a beer or a wine, and the choice of what to offer people who are not drinking is now only as limited as the imagination of the person working behind the bar. No longer is excitement for the non-drinker limited too deciding whether or not to have a slice of lemon.

Quite simply, there are more ways to make money out of the person who says “I’m not drinking today”. 

Craft at its finest

What Walton Barker loves about Seedlip is the craft of its design. What Seedlip needs to do is implicitly convince us of its credentials for a special occasion and not be lost amongst the vast array of other bottles on the shelf. The bottle and label do this with aplomb: the bottle clearly alludes to spirits by origin, but does not fall blindly into the nomenclature of vodkas or gins, helping it to gain attention and demand closer evaluation. The label - through the beautifully designed animal motifs (formed from sprays of vegetation) - talks to the more animated form the botanicals inside have taken and create an unmistakable visual asset for the brand; an icon that stands out from the crowd and will no doubt serve it well long into the future.

Was this luck? Almost certainly not. You see, Ben has design in the blood; it runs in the family. Part of what made Seedlip financially viable was the funding it received by Ben selling his share in a design business. Simply, Ben had ideas for the brand and the skill to make them come alive long before the liquid took form. Art & Design in its finest form.

Designing from the shelf

Ben’s Seedlip example is a classic case that supports the notion of design as an art form. Would research have helped or hindered him? Whilst many a designer may detest the idea of research, and point to Seedlip as an example of what you get with a free creative reign, you could equally point at half a dozen other brands in the room that night that were destined to struggle for the very same reason. Innovation has a horrible success rate and the design, not the product, can be the fundamental problem. 

Most FMCG brands enter predefined categories and are put on shelves with dozens of other packs where the shopper can take anywhere from 1-30 seconds to make a choice (or not). Much of our decision-making happens at a subconscious level in the System 1 brain. What we take note of in store is largely a function of what is more easily recognisable and what is relevant to our needs and motivations at the point in time. Recognition and relevance are contextual qualities; good is relative to other brands. Being second best typically means being the first loser on the shelf.

New brands can have a significant advantage by knowing and working with the System 1 language of a category when they are created. Existing brands can leverage this knowledge to help manage design changes and communication activity for their strategic advantage. Understanding the System 1 language of the shelf can be critical to a brand’s success. No matter where your inspiration comes from, the lesson is to make sure ensure you are properly understood wherever you end up. A task which is a whole lot easier when you use a good System 1 interpreter.

For more on how we help brands develop their System 1 short-cut language for competitive advantage please e-mail fran.walton@waltonbarker.com

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Fran Walton has worked in brand insight and consultancy for over 25 years for both agencies and clients alike. Fran has always held a keen interest in the human decision-making sciences. He has applied this knowledge to help brands communicate more effectively in retail environments and across new media, and to drive diffusion of disruptive innovations.

Is your Brand fluent in System 1?

(And why Tropicana is still a ‘Glass Half Full’ option for the System 1 brain)

Thanks to their 2009 branding efforts, Tropicana has become the marketing exemplar of how not to do a rebranding and pack change. Over the past few years however, despite the chuckling and Schadenfreude, the brand has been fighting back. In its latest guise - with a new pack and a new brand asset in ‘little glass’ - Tropicana appears to be back in the heartland of what fresh juice needs to offer – an easy, nutritious health boost for all the family.

Has Tropicana corrected all the problems of its past? Is it back in the game against the Innocent leviathan? From our subjective point of view, the answer is that Tropicana are still missing out on a trick or two that would make all the difference.

Winning brands in the System 1 brain          

Loyalty isn’t about love in the world of FMCG branding, it’s about being easy to buy for the System 1 brain. Conscious, System 2 search and decision-making is tiring and limited, so the brain needs those energy-saving cognitive short-cuts that System 1 branding offers. It is impossible to enter a shop, navigate the aisles and find all the items you need just using your System 2 brain – you’d be exhausted. Consequently, like most things in life that require unavoidable effort (driving, walking to work, opening doors with handles, tying shoelaces etc.) we divert as much of the task as we can into our System 1 brain to make it as automatic as possible, allowing our System 2 brain to continue thinking about work, love, last night’s TV and the infernal worlds of politics or sport.

What the System 1 brain needs in order to make its life easier in a shopping context is to be able to rapidly recognise a brand and swiftly determine its relevance to our motivations and goals. Brands that do this well have more fluency in the brain and can be ‘bought without conscious thought’ - literally. So, let’s look at Tropicana again: Is it now easier to recognise, and can it implicitly trigger relevance at point-of-purchase more efficiently than Innocent?

Recognition & Relevance

A simple experiment: If you want to get a good handle on what your System 1 brain uses to recognise a brand in store, just blur the image by about 40% next to your competitors. “Why would I want to do that?” Good question. Our peripheral vision, the part of our vision that both looks out for lurking danger and does most of the search process in store - is blurred. It lacks the definition of our foveal vision or focus.

“Yeah, right!” You say. “If that’s the case, then why isn’t the image I see in my head blurred?” Well, because the image in your head is not the information fed to the brain by the eye – if it was, it would be inverted, have a blank spot where the optic nerve meets the retina and be blurred at the edges. Every image you see in your head is constructed by your brain using a potent mix of reality, memory and imagination - luckily, the brain changes it back to the right way up, too.

Because the brain sees a blur, System 1 uses the most distinctive features of pack design to de-code the elements and re-construct them to recognise a brand on the shelf. So what are these orange juice brands and what is distinctive about each of them?

The answer is that the first one is Innocent and all the others are Tropicana. The Tropicana packs reflect the evolution of the design from the original pack back in 2009, including the ill-fated change in 2009 (note: the packs are not all the same variant).

We do not consciously know what the System 1 brain is using for recognition, but it can be researched if you know how. Whilst we can deconstruct brands at Walton Barker for precisely this purpose, the points below are educated guesses in relation to the recognition of orange juice brands and Tropicana:

·       Fruit is a category generic – it’s the thing that says ‘This is fresh juice’ to the System 1 brain (not just a glass of juice). It is the thing you need on a pack to be in the category.

·       Innocent has strong brand assets in their bottle shape and the halo over a round fruit / circular shape.

·       Tropicana lost something when they lost the straw.

·       The brand name Tropicana is unlikely to be the way it is recognised. More likely it was the name’s relationship with the solid colour bock surrounding the cap (Please note that System 1 does not read, that’s a System 2 process. System 1 brains ‘see’ the form of the letters together).

·       The more distinctive element of the new design (last on the right) is now likely to be the leaf at the top.

Is the new Tropicana pack better or worse than before?

A key function of brand design is to trigger relevance and this happens through the meaning expressed by key design features and the meaning connected with them. This connected meaning along with the power of a visual element to trigger recognition can be built through advertising. So take a look at Tropicana’s ad to see how (or if) they are doing it…

 

Looking at the advert there appears to be no real coherent strategy around building improved recognition in store. Whilst the advert and ‘little glass’ do a great job of building relevance, this meaning is not being connected to the elements driving recognition in store. The advert barely shows the new design with the leaf at the top, assuming that the name will do all the recognition work. This is a weak asset to do this with as Innocent looks similar in the way it is written, plus they show the name in two different forms – without the leaf-dot over the ‘I’ on the pack and with it on the sticker. Neither my System 1 nor System 2 brain can fathom the logic behind this thinking!

Tropicana is simply using different elements to fulfil each role. Unless ‘little glass’ is on a piece of POP material, it has no role at the moment of choice in store, which is a bit like being a world-class penalty taker and being on the bench when the game goes to penalties. Alternatively the leaf, hidden in the advert, might be strong if they build it up by emphasising it visually across channels.

Innocent, on the other hand, has a logo that does both – it’s instantly recognisable as Innocent and the design says “healthy goodness for the family!” implicitly. As such, Innocent has a far superior System 1 short-cut language than Tropicana.  This is not a disaster for Tropicana, but the brand will have to work harder in other ways e.g. shelf facings, advertising spend etc. To put it quite simply, they are not fluent in System 1.

Is your brand?

For more on how we help brands develop their System 1 short-cut language for competitive advantage please e-mail fran.walton@waltonbarker.com or visit our website www.waltonbarker.com.

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Fran Walton has worked in brand insight and consultancy for over 25 years for both agencies and clients alike. Fran has always held a keen interest in the human decision-making sciences. He has applied this knowledge to help brands communicate more effectively in retail environments and across new media, and to drive diffusion of disruptive innovations.

 


Loyalty and the importance of authentication

You’re travelling to work on the train/bus/underground, or walking the streets of a busy city. You see someone you think you know out of the corner of your eye and you’re certain you went to college with them but it has been over a decade since you last met. You take a second look to make sure it’s who you thought it could be. Sometimes that confirmation is instant; other times you hesitate to really make sure.

So, what’s happening in this story? The important point to note is that recognition is the first stage of a two-stage process of identification. A second stage – authentication - quickly follows recognition, a process that is also true of the brands we select when shopping. Our System 1, subconscious brain, scans the environment around us for relevant stimuli (why it picks people out we know we will cover in a future post) when it sees something relevant it begins to draw the attention of the System 2, conscious brain. Authentication is the process of confirming what we initially thought we saw as being the genuine article; this process is either done quickly by the System 1 brain or, if this fails, it becomes a System 2 process.

Primal Instincts

Why we authenticate is a function of our evolution. As we evolved into the species we are today, we were vulnerable when out hunting or gathering. Our predators tended to hang around our food sources or we had a taste for fruits and berries that could kill us. Instinctively we learnt to check more carefully for threat and risk, a process that we ideally did through our System 1 brain as fractions of a second could often mean the difference between life and death. We still carry out this process today when we spot people we know or find a brand we think we want on the shelf of a supermarket store. In the world of shopping for brands, authentication is the difference between making a mistake or not.

How we identify brands is just like how we identify people; the System 1 brain does not store pictures. What it does store are the minimum elements of stimuli that enable recognition and authentication. Certain features, or, in the world of brands – brand assets - are used for recognition. The same or other elements of a brand’s stimuli are used for authentication i.e. Is this genuinely the brand, variant, pack type, flavour etc. for which I am looking? When the same elements of a brand’s stimuli are used for authentication and recognition, or the features used for authentication are distinctive, the process can happen almost instantly within the System 1 brain.

Brands that enable a System 1 authentication process appear to have higher loyalty. However, the truth is that the brand is just easier to buy using the System 1 brain – see it, pick it up, check it and put it in the trolley with no need to consciously think about it!

Life or death?

If the System 1 brain cannot complete the authentication task, the process is taken over by the System 2 brain; a process that opens the purchase process up to more rational, comparative and experiential decision-making where other brands will have a greater chance of influencing the purchaser through price and promotions. Not quite life and death, but it may feel a bit like that if you are the brand manager.

So, if you are worried about loyalty, ask yourself how shoppers authenticate your brands at ‘the moment’ that really matters - the moment when the shopper decides to pick a brand off the shelf and put it in their trolley or, clicks on it to put it in the virtual basket of the online shop – and make sure that it is a System 1 process. It may feel like a small thing but in those fractions of a second it could be the difference between winning and losing!

For more information on the importance of authentication mail fran.walton@waltonbarker.com or ring +44 (0) 3302 230 543.

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Fran Walton has worked in brand insight and consultancy for over 25 years for both agencies and clients alike. Fran has always held a keen interest in the human decision-making sciences. He has applied this knowledge to help brands communicate more effectively in retail environments and across new media, and to drive diffusion of disruptive innovations.

5 things marketers still get wrong about brand assets

In light of Coca-Cola’s global branding design strategy announced last year, we thought we would offer our view, based on our work within academia and in the field, on the 5 things marketers still get wrong about brand assets (or, ‘Codes’ as Mark Ritson refers to them).

1. You shouldn’t ever change brand assets – ever stopped recognising a friend because they grew a beard, dyed their hair or bought new clothes? Thought not. The brain processes brand assets in the same way, so there is always scope for a bit of a freshen-up or a re-styling to fit in as the world around us changes (if needed). Think the new Google coloured ‘G’ – perfect for the small screen of a smartphone.

 

2. A brand assets’ only real role is to create distinctiveness and enable recognition – Distinctiveness is helpful, but conveying meaning is more important. Meaning determines relevance and relevance determines if the brain bothers to notice something - or not. Brand assets need to be implicitly loaded with relevant meaning or communications need to ensure that meaning is strongly connected to brand assets in the brain. ThinkInnocent or the Nationwide animations that tell short stories about events that happen around their home logo.

 

3. Showing the logo during an advert or at the end is enough – In today’s multiscreen world attention is at a premium. Make sure connections to the brand can be made through other cues like advertising style or, sonic signatures such as music, actor’s voices, phrases, key words and jingles. This way you do not fully rely on visual attention for the short moment the logo is displayed. Think Boots No.7, Carlsberg or Intel. You know it’s probably a good idea.

 

4. Having several good brand assets is all that is needed – It can be helpful to have some that can work in different types of media or, at different levels of attention. But it is better to have one brand asset that is superior to the competition’s and that can cut through-the-line at the moment when the shopper is faced with a choice at the shop shelf. Think Nurofen and the power of the target symbol to connect meaning from the advert to the point-of-purchase – you don’t need to (consciously) think about the one that targets pain fast, do you?

 

5. Subjective judgement is good enough to manage brand assets – Brand assets are locked away in the System1, subconscious memory of your consumers. You need different techniques to traditional research and a better understanding of how the brain works to identify the brand stimuli stored in that part of the brain. You also need to know what they do for the brand – recognition, relevance or authentication. Think British Airways in 1997, Tropicana in 2009 and GAP in 2010 – all changes that were thoroughly researched but failed horribly!

Mr Spock had the benefit of mixed-heritage DNA that allowed him to look dispassionately and rationally at circumstances he encountered, but we are not Vulcan. Human decision-making is guided more by implicit, rapid, System 1 reactions to brands and the marketing stimuli they create. Walton Barker offers research methodologies to help understand what elements of a brand’s stimuli drive this process and how they can be developed for strategic advantage. In essence, we help your brands to live long and prosper.

Fran Walton is a Founding Partner of Walton Barker Ltd – a brand insights agency that specialises in the optimisation of brand assets using the latest understanding of how the brain works. For more information mail fran.walton@waltonbarker.com or ring +44 (0) 3302 230 543.

Fran+Office.jpg

Fran Walton has worked in brand insight and consultancy for over 25 years for both agencies and clients alike. Fran has always held a keen interest in the human decision-making sciences. He has applied this knowledge to help brands communicate more effectively in retail environments and across new media, and to drive diffusion of disruptive innovations.

Barack? Or, not Barack? That is the question.

Take a look at these caricatures and see which ones you feel are Barack Obama and which aren’t?

 

So was it easy to decide? Did you really have to think about it, or did you instantly know? Recognition is a System 1, subconscious process. It is rapid and instant. Often it is or it isn’t. There may have been times when you consciously questioned if it could be him? But no doubt you went with your instincts. Equally, I will bet you will agree with other people which ones are Barack and which aren’t.

So what’s the point of this? Well, the point is that none of these are a picture of Barack Obama. They are all images of him that have been changed in some way. For some this has affected their ability to be recognised as Barack Obama and for others it has not. If I asked you what makes a caricature Barack or not, you may have said his ears, eyebrows and hair (possibly his teeth). But all these caricatures accentuate some of these features; even the ones that aren’t him. The truth is you do not know!

Beyond your awareness

The reason you do not know is that this information is stored in the System1, subconscious memory. The System 1 memory stores the minimum elements of stimuli it needs to recognise something or someone. Despite us having no conscious awareness of what these elements are, if enough of them are present, or they are close enough to what is stored in the brain, the brain fills in the blanks. With these caricatures, some artists have been successful in capturing enough of those elements to trigger recognition, whilst others have not.

Furthermore, each of the changes have different implicit meaning. If I were to ask which caricatures represent pride and resolve, deflation and defeat, or happiness, I would guess that you know which ones I am talking about instantly.

Winning the moment that matters

We recognise brands in exactly the same way as we recognise people. Visually-based brand assets, like logos, work for brands on the same basis. The System 1 brain does not have a picture stored; just the minimum elements of stimuli it needs to recognise the brand. Like a caricature, there is scope for change before recognition is lost and that change can be made to enhance or alter meaning at an implicit level.

Consequently, brand assets can be strategically improved for competitive advantage. Having better recognition and signalling relevance at an implicit level increases the chances of your brand being chosen at ‘the moment’ that truly matters for a brand - the moment when the shopper decides to pick a brand off the shelf and put it in their trolley, or clicks on it to put it in the virtual basket of the online shop.

De-risking change

Change for brands often presents risk. Most design changes are done based on intuition and guesswork. This tends to have its flaws and occasionally leads to disaster. No one, no matter their experience, can definitively tell you which elements of your brand assets drive recognition based on their System 2, conscious judgement. System 2 rational evaluation of marketing stimuli almost never reveals true understanding of its role and value. It is a post-rationalised guess. That also goes for the responses you solicit in research; your consumers do not explicitly know either.

There are ways to know what brand assets are stored within the System 1 brain and to explore their scope for change and flex. Understanding how brand assets work requires different techniques to traditional research and a better understanding of how the brain makes decisions about brands. At Walton Barker we use our experience of working in branding and design, and our knowledge of behavioural science, to identify the elements of a brand’s stimuli that are truly valuable in the decision-making and buying process. Simply put we can help you make knowledge-based decisions that help you win at the moment that matters and improve the broader performance of your marketing.  

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Fran Walton has worked in brand insight and consultancy for over 25 years for both agencies and clients alike. Fran has always held a keen interest in the human decision-making sciences. He has applied this knowledge to help brands communicate more effectively in retail environments and across new media, and to drive diffusion of disruptive innovations.