Branching Out: Nationally recognized brands make their mark in a new product category

The average consumer looks for simplicity, convenience and something that will catch their eye when it comes to a product and its packaging. Brand designers and managers can take the risk to develop their brand into a new category through brand extension, in hopes to meet the needs of the average consumer through the new product. With a risk, the odds are 50-50 of failure or success, but experts within the industry know what it takes to make a brand extension run smoothly. 

Consistency is key 

“Any time you develop either a brand new product or do a line extension, there’s always some risk to it, but we try to minimize that with our testing and consumer insights, so if there are issues, we can address it before the product is introduced to retail,” says Marty Ordman, corporate communications director for Dole Packaged Foods. 

Dole Packaged Foods have been on store shelves since the early 1920s, starting with its core product—canned pineapple and canned fruits. So Ordman says Dole has developed a system of testing that it sticks to each time Dole considers launching a product. 

“We have a very laid out process,” he says. Everything from doing what we call ‘top of funnel’’ brainstorming within the company and with outside agencies and consumers.” 

“We brainstorm ideas, what products are out there, if there is new technology to package fruit or vegetables in a different way,” he continues. “You widen down the ideas and then you would take them to consumer testing and see what consumers think of the idea.”
Dole experts askthe questions—does it resonate with the consumer, is it a good price, would the consumer buy it, etc. 

When Dole decided to extend its brand of canned fruit to Smoothie Shakers, the experts observed what was going on in society at the time.

“We did some consumer research and saw what consumers are looking for—value-added, convenience in the frozen fruit aisle, and the first product was Dole Smoothie Shakers,” he says.

The product line hit the market as a way to make a smoothie in 60 seconds without the blender and the mess that usually comes afterward.

Fruit is still at the core of the Smoothie Shakers, Ordman says.

Targeting a different audience

In an era where everything is about catering toward Millennials, not even the packaging industry wants to veer away from that idea. 

“Our No. 1 goal was to appeal to a younger audience and the changing eating behavior,” says Jami Gormley, design manager at Campbell’s Soup Company. 

Jami worked on the brand extension for Campbell’s Soup Skillet Sauces, and she says the company looked at a different category, specifically targeting millennial consumers and younger families with a need for quick meals. 

The Skillet sauces take three simple steps to make and it cuts the cooking time nearly in half for that added convenience for the consumer. There are six varieties of Skillet sauces for the consumer to choose from.

When Campbell’s Soup started thinking about going into a different category, Gormley said it took a lot of negotiating with the sales team about where exactly the skillet sauces would go on the store shelf.

“Prior to its launch, there was not a dedicated dinner sauce category,” she says. “And, in the early days of the launch, it was found on different shelves that varied from store to store. It would sometimes show up near broths, or oils, or barbecue sauces.” 

According to Gormley, instead of developing a line extension of a product that was already out there and known to the consumer, Campbell’s Soup Co. experts found brand extension as an opportunity to look at cross categories and observe what else was going on in the grocery store.

Be strong and confident 

Kristen Borsari, vice president of North American Marketing at Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. says that brand extension is all about being confident in what you know. 

The most important aspect to Ocean Spray experts when they go toward extension of a well-known brand, is ensuring that the extension will build upon and support the master brand, Borsari confirms.

“We have amazing brand equity and consumers not only know that Ocean Spray stands for cranberry, but our DNA of taste, health and heritage play an integral role in all that we do,” she says.

The Craisins Dried Cranberries aligned well with the Ocean Spray brand. 

“The growth was a slow and steady build for us,” Borsari says. “This was mostly due to limited capacity and marketing support.” 

After a few years though, that changed dramatically, and the company has seen double-digit growth. 

Craisins started out at Ocean Spray as an ingredient, Borsari says. 

“Ocean Spray realized that they had an amazingly versatile product on their hands, and it quickly moved into the ‘healthy snacking’ arena,” she says. 

Have Goals

Before going into a brand extension, most teams make goals for themselves. For example, when it comes to branding and marketing for the new product. 

“As far as branding, this was really a great opportunity to really look at Campbell’s brand and say ‘who are we, and who have we been? And who do we want to be?’ Especially now that we’re in a new category and a new target audience—being the younger generation,” Gormley says. 

Even with the package design of skillet sauces, the goal was to appeal to Millennials, so Campbell’s design team took the chalkboard route.

“When anyone sees “Campbell’s” they recognize the white script on a red field and for the first time it’s Campbell’s in white script on a black field.” 

And a goal might be as simple as spreading the word. That was the case for Ocean Spray. 

“Our top two marketing and branding goals were build awareness of the Ocean Spray Craisins Dried Cranberries brand and to create and emotional connection with consumers that builds upon and supports the brand,” Borsari says. 

Borsari adds, “They [Craisins] needed to fit in the ‘family’ of products in a way that naturally will resonate with consumers.” 

Putting it all together

If a brand is just starting out and it’s looking toward brand extension in the future, the experts say, most importantly, understand your brand. 

“You need to be true to your brand and your brand principles,” Ordman advises. “Try not to venture too far outside your brand; you’ll know at your core whether an extension is right and it fits your brand.” 

Ordman mentions that the packaging should be simple too, so designers should listen to their instincts. 

“I think that you see too many packages out there that are way too busy and have too much information. You need to catch their eye with a nice design, call out what the product is and a couple of the attributes of the product, but really try and keep it simple. Consumers get bombarded with so many messages that the simpler you can keep it, the better,” Ordman concludes.

Borsari emphasizes, “You only launch once,” so make the extension a good one.

“Do your homework upfront and go out strong and confident,” she says. “Once you establish positioning, brand equity and brand essence in the market, it’s very difficult and expensive to change course in the future.” 

And above all else, Gormley adds, “It’s understanding what a brand stands for and making sure you stay true to that, so even when you extend into a new category, you still want to be true to the meaning of the brand.”