On occasions, I'll make a quick trip to the supermarket to find an item that we may need for dinner (fortunately the store is close-by, so a quick trip for a single item is viable). For the purposes of this yarn, it doesn't matter whether it's frozen peas, canned soup or spaghetti.
Knowing full-well what the packaging looks like, I'll dash to the appropriate location with the intention of grabbing it and rushing out the door (with pause to pay, of course!).
It's nowhere to be seen.
In some degree of desperation, I scan the shelves hoping to find that I've missed it or (worse) seek a suitable alternate.
If (in my total 'maleness!) I don't see the exact image that I saw at home, I will assume the store doesn't currently have it and will have to buy an alternate.
And then I realise... having looked closely at every branded product, I finally note that my product IS on the shelf, it simply looks different. Some (highly-paid) marketing person has decided to 'revamp' the design of the packaging.
Herein is the dilemma of marketing. Leave things alone and there's no need for the product marketing team (including designers, graphics experts etc.).
Thus, these people need to justify their roles and every now-and-again will deliver a "fresh new" ™ look to the product.
The problem with this, is they by doing so, the marketing team, in this rather strong effort to justify their jobs, has granted me implicit permission to look at other brands - at their competitors.
Perhaps there was a major (very expensive) advertising effort across radio, print, TV and social media. Perhaps it didn't reach me, of I simply paid no heed.
Over some period of time, we perhaps decided that the current item was good enough for our needs and bought it regularly, eventually knowing the packaging so well, that we didn't need to have more than a cursory glance to snatch the item off the shelf and into our shopping trolley.
Once that immediate recognition is gone, so too is our product loyalty.
Having been given permission to look at the competitors, we will take up the offer and the brand may never get us back. Until the new-best-friend also changes its look-and-feel, of course!
Product loyalty is a magical thing. Once earned, the best thing for a marketing team to do is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Fiddling with the packaging may-well bring in new customers, but at the cost of losing many currently loyal ones.
I guess it all depends on one's KPI, doesn't it. Will you be rewarded for customer retention or for attracting new ones. What gets measured gets done (just as long as you avoid Goodhart's Law, of course!).
Now, where is that bright pink can of tomato soup? I'm sure it was here last time I shopped....
David Heath is a New Zealand-born Australian resident who initially pursued Geology and ended up with a Computer Science degree.