Without a strong brand behind your product line, there’s little to compel a buyer to choose you over another option. And with so many options in most markets today, branding is more important than ever.
Product branding gives the items in your store an identity within the marketplace. Good branding can allow your specific products to stand out against what a competitor offers, and engender the kind of brand loyalty that pulls customers into your store (even when it’s just easier to grab something online).
That identity is built of numerous components, including:
- Names and descriptions
Product branding is not about any one thing. The whole creates something bigger than the sum of the parts.
These pieces come together to create an emotional connection for the customer. If this feels a little hard to pin down, that’s because it truly is. Branding is all about a variety of aspects about your products (and store as a whole) combine to influence how shoppers feel.
It’s also the promise your products make to customers, and how they deliver. Branding is heavily influenced by the expectations you set in consumers through components of your products and whether or not you meet them.
Creating Great Product Branding for Retail Inventories
So, branding may feel a little fluffy at this point. But the good news is you can learn to apply a few strategies to your own products so that they better connect with customers and leave them with positive feelings about what you sell.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind when developing a strategy for your product branding.
Do the Legwork
Before you start contacting designers and asking them to create some fancy, new logos for your product lines, take a step back. Research comes first.
You’ll want to answer questions like:
- What are the values and beliefs of my business?
- What is the purpose of my products?
- Who am I trying to serve and why?
- How does my ideal customer think about the world? What are their tastes and preferences? What would make them feel seen, valued, and cared for? How can I connect with them on a deep emotional level?
- What promise does my product deliver to customers — and does it deliver?
- How do people see my business and product line right now?
- How do I want people to see my business and products moving forward?
This might require you to go out and interview customers, talk to shoppers, and get feedback from the market. You might also need to carefully consider the why behind what you offer and who you want to sell to.
These questions will help you drill down to a few essentials that can inform the specific message and feeling you want your product branding to convey — and this information is critical to know before you start making decisions on things like design.
Product branding requires that you stay consistent with images, design, quality, and messaging across the board. Consider taking the following steps to create a cohesive brand across your store, so different products don’t clash with each other (even when they’re not the exact same item):
- Establish a clear brand message that every product must convey.
- Designate color palettes for your designs.
- Create a style guide to clearly list out what your brand voice and tone are (and how to follow both).
Get Your Team Involved, Too
If your products can create emotional ties with your customers, imagine the wonders your human team can pull off if they’re empowered to support your branding efforts.
Train them in more than just operating your POS system. Give them the resources they need to forge emotional connections with every shopper they interact with.
This means including your business’ philosophies, values, and missions in their toolkit. Do they understand your biggest goals as a retailers? Do they know what message you want your store and products to send?
Give them this information and allow them to act on it, too. You can give them guidelines for customer interactions that reflect the kind of retail personality you want to project to the public.
Examples of Great Product Branding in Retail Stores
Not sure how to put these ideas to work in developing a stronger brand for your product? Check out how other retailers are building their product branding to understand how to apply the theory behind brand building.
You don’t maintain your spot at the top of the soda game for over 100 years for nothing. Everything Coca-Cola conveys a consistent message and vibe, from their website to their social channels to their advertising campaigns.
Coca-Cola is regimented in the consistency of their product branding — from their logos, ad spots, social media, and even the shape of their bottles, this soda juggernaut maintains tight control over every aspect of its product branding. And it works to their advantage.
You can watch almost any commercial from Target and know exactly what store the ad is for — even without seeing the iconic bullseye logo (or the brand’s Bull Terrier mascot).
The quirky, fun, energetic vibes combined with the aesthetic of each TV spot are memorable and completely in line with the company’s personality and how they want their customers to feel. That’s what excellent product branding is all about, and what keeps shoppers choosing the store over cheaper or more convenient competitors.
If branding is about emotion, Harley-Davidson nails it through a number of efforts to clearly communicate what the company is all about and exactly who it’s for.
From store employees to communities like H.O.G. (or the Harley Owner’s Group), customers feel like they’re part of something that’s exclusive to serious motorcycle owners and riders with no nonsense and no frills — just the freedom of an open road.
Branding can be difficult to grasp because so much of it involves invoking emotions and feelings rather than anything tangible or concrete. But keeping the following best practices in mind will help develop stories and identities for the items you sell so they can stand out to your customers as the best products to choose:
- Branding is about feeling and emotion. Let your values and mission guide you and ask yourself, how do I want customers to feel about my retail store and its products?
- Branding breaks down if your products promise one thing and customers end up with something else. Make sure you’re consistent in both areas like design and packaging and in your messaging and delivery.
- Branding is not the result of a great logo, or an awesome package, or a superior quality product. It’s the combination of all these things.
You can create a consistent message through tangible assets like logos and design and provide a specific experience through your products themselves that speaks to your customer’s feelings and desires. Doing so will help generate brand loyalty and keep your retail business clearly defined in a positive light for the shoppers you reach.