Five Minutes with Louise Kennedy
Louise Kennedy, strategy director at creative design agency Brandon Consultants, speaks to Transform magazine about the issues around staying relevant and how brands can overcome that, the importance of understanding human behaviour and how packaging can be used to improve brand performance.
How have you integrated your almost two decades of client-side experience at Brandon?
Having worked both sides of the fence, so to speak, when I was client-side I often felt creative agencies were less interested in the day-to-day commercial realities of being in an FMCG business. The less sexy stuff but really critical sales levers and barriers such as range rationalisation, the fight for distribution, range architecture, own label, pricing, etc...
I feel like we really try to understand this client-side perspective at Brandon as it helps us understand the wider context behind the job to be done. Of course, the creative has to look amazing but it has to ultimately do a job commercially.
What have been the most challenging strategic brand issues you have tackled during your time in the sector? How have you overcome them?
The most challenging issue in branding that I have worked on with many brands is ‘relevance’. Brands need to stay ahead of the pack and relevant, and it can be a vicious circle once this starts to decline. Brands lose presence and prominence on shelf, lose credibility with stakeholders, get reduced marketing activity, etc… They become the brand no one wants to work on. The poison chalice.
The solution is not easy and that is often part of the issue. It is about considering what levers will drive re-appraisal of the brand – is it innovation or product renovation? Or a reframe of the positioning with new comms and packaging? The challenge being that to do this properly there is proper investment needed and that can be a problem for a struggling brand to get that support.
How important is understanding human behaviour to create strategies that deliver successful results in the branding role?
It is hugely important. It is widely accepted now, due to more awareness of behavioural economics, that ‘we don’t think like we think we think’. So, understanding what people do versus what they say is critical. I will add here that I am also a big advocate of talking and asking people direct questions as well.
Combining what people think, say and feel with what they actually do in the real world is where the magic happens.
Lockdown has been interesting for this as we have watched a lot of online Zoom research with people one-to-one in their own homes, and there is a definite sense of them being more relaxed and comfortable in their own space and without the group environment; which I think leads to less-considered, but more spontaneous, responses which is great.
Plus, there is nowhere to hide on a 1-2-1 Zoom call. J
What is the main advice you would give brand strategist seeking to learn about and understanding their target audience?
Don’t ask your colleagues! If you work in marketing, branding, an agency, etc… you are not the target audience. Even if you fit demographically. You pay way too much attention to stuff and care too much. We need to stay close to real people not our idealised projection of our target.
How important is packaging to improve brand performance and attract more customers?
Obviously working for an agency with a specialism in design and packaging I am going to say it is critical, but in reality it is only one piece of a jigsaw! An important piece of course, as it is the touchpoint by which most people will come across a brand for the first time and standout on shelf is a huge driver. However, what I believe in more strongly, is the power and the potential of a brand’s distinctive assets and particularly their visual assets. These can be many things from symbols, characters, fonts, colours, logos, etc. but they are often things that you will find connected to packaging.
Developing and nurturing these visual brand assets (not throwing them out every couple of years) and using them consistently and cohesively across all touchpoints is really impactful. There are brands that have been doing this really well for a long time such as Nike and McDonald’s. And some FMCG brands are equally doing a great job here (the recent Nurofen work with its colourful circle device to represent targeting pain), but I believe there’s a lot more scope for brands to do this better.