Design to differentiate – WTS? and JKR 3

This 3rd in a series of 5 posts powered by JKR looks at how packaging can be a strong weapon in the battle to stand out on shelf versus own label copy-cats.

Andy Knowles of JKR highlights a dangerous trap that many brands fall into: focusing pack design on category codes, not what is unique to your brand. This leads to your brand disappearing in a sea of similarity on the shelf. And this is a bad idea, when you recall that in the first of the series that your brand needs to be 1 in 1000 alternatives that gets picked off the shelf each time a shopper makes a product choice. You’re also making it easier for own label brands to do what they love to do: stealing your clothes, cutting the price and knicking your consumers.

To be that 1 in 1000, and make it harder for own label to clone you, it helps to identify and amplify the visual "essence" of your brand: a single minded, powerful visual device that allows consumers to "lock-on" to your product like a heat-seeking missile. This takes courage, as it means stripping away the multitude of secondary messages that gets stuck on packaging these days so you can focus on a single-minded big design idea.

A great example of a brand that JKR helped to take this approach is John West, who sell tinned salmon and tune. They started out with a pack that looked very much like its own label competitors, with nothing distinctive to help it stand out. The new design featured an "wave" device with a jumping salmon, which helped both differentiation and communication of product credentials. It also helps the brand’s range look like a true product family.


The new packaging was launched in conjunction with one of my all-time favourite TV commercials, featuring a John West man fighting with a bear for the very best fish. It is a perfect example of telling a product story in an entertaining way, blending product sausage, or salmon in this case, with emotional sizzle.

Like all the brand examples in this series, the new packaging had a positive impact on sales, helping drive growth of 16% and stretching the gap with the number 2 brand considerably.