Brand Strategy & Packaging Design

IS THERE STRENGTH IN NUMBERS?

Dyfed “Fred” Richards
CMO & Partner

June 13, 2019

We are surrounded by numbers. The visual examples are virtually limitless …road signs, watches, computers, cars, telephones and, yes, even brands. Numbers can dictate, guide, rule, inform or justify the world around us. They can also power brands to greater awareness and increased sales.

Brands that own and leverage a number can stand out on a crowded shelf. Look at the success that Wrigley’s 5 gum has achieved in its category – case closed. A simple number that helps a consumer relate to a fact about a brand can drive deeper meaning and justify a purchase.

For male consumers, numbers provide an opportunity to claim bragging rights as part of the bonding ritual among friends. Boys are taught from an early age that numbers have value and meaning when they are associated with collectible items like baseball and football cards; these numbers can be traded, exchanged and validated. In addition, male conversations are peppered with number references: batting averages, car speeds, whiskey ages, the list goes on. Most of these numbers are, of course, invented on the spot and are rarely checked or validated… as part of the bonding process it’s assumed that the speaker knows his stats. Finally, numbers can convey wealth and status. For example, men typically use a number when describing the car they drive. It isn’t simply a BMW, it’s a 3.5!

Numbers can also validate a brand’s heritage claims. Listing the year of origin on a brand’s package is a tried-and-true method of conveying authenticity and value. The older the date the greater the chance consumers will acknowledge that – having been in business so long – the brand must be doing something right. In the whiskey category, for example, a product’s age, previously expressed in years, now appears on the bottle label as its “born on” date. Consumers no longer look for 12- or 18-year-old malts; they look for the date the product was distilled. The implication is that a four-digit born-on date sounds older and tells a richer story than a two-digit age – bragging rights again. The purpose of the switch by the entire category is quite clear: These whiskey brands are trying to connect with the consumer at a deeper level. A born-on date can evoke pleasant images of the distillery’s location and process, especially when it is authenticated by the distiller’s signature.

A powerful number at shelf wins points with consumers because the vernacular is used extensively in their everyday lives. A number makes a bold statement about a brand and what it can deliver. This is especially true when a number is part of the brand name itself: Chanel Number 5, Heinz 57, CK1, Mobil 1 and Kronenbourg 1664 are great examples of this practice.

Playing with numbers, particularly in branding and packaging design, can be fun. But the process also has to be strategic. If you want numbers to tell your story, my advice is to look deep into the brand – how it is made, where it is made, what it is made of, and what value can be gleaned from its heritage. Leveraging these elements can help you identify a distinctive number that will be remembered and embraced by consumers.

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