Richard Shear is a professor at New York’s School of Visual Arts and teaches in the Masters of Branding program. He is Chief Creative Officer at Invok Brands where he uses his consumer search pattern framework to help clients get an edge. Invok Brands has conceived a new way to evaluate branding and package design that considers how consumers locate, assess, and select categories of products. These four consumer search patterns are universal and based on the history of consumer behavior – even before retail. This is the third in a series of articles that will help you find the technique that applies to your brand and use it.
Let’s Explore: Free Search
Imagine paddling down a river and coming to a familiar bend where you have always taken the right fork. But today, you’re feeling adventurous, so you go left instead. Soon you come upon the shore of a small sandbar at low tide. The low water has exposed oyster beds that you and your family feast on for several days.
This story of finding an oyster bed by chance is an analogy for a consumer search pattern called free search. It begins part three of our four-part series that looks at how consumers locate, assess, and select categories of products. Consumer search patterns are a tool we use at Invok Brands to evaluate branding and package design.
Consumer Search Pattern Recap
Let’s review the patterns. The first is familiar search, the ‘let’s go back’ impulse, to what we know and trust. It’s a simple and stress-free shopping experience where brand loyalty is high and visual brand characteristics are predictable. The second pattern relies on consumer brand association and brand equity, called associated search, for its ‘that reminds me’ experience. Brand recognition, experience, and trust are the key drivers in associated search.
Let’s Explore with Free Search
The third consumer search pattern is free search; a ‘let’s explore’ frame of mind. This search is filled with the sense of the unknown, discovery, excitement, and curiosity. As in our story of the oyster bed, you have discovered something new and wonderful. In today’s world, free search might be like taking a chance and splurging on a new and unfamiliar wine for a special occasion. Building brands that are found by free search capitalize on the consumer’s desire for new, novel, inventive, or innovative brands.
So, how can we engineer a product to be found by free search?
Here are a couple of case studies from the Invok studio; a ready-to-drink alcoholic beverage and a cannabis product. These categories are well suited for free search because consumers are more open to experimentation and exploration; they expect it. Our brand and package design solutions were intentionally designed to look outside the category’s visual norm in these case studies. But this wasn’t our starting place; it resulted from an authentic approach to telling the brand story.
Using Design to Tell an Authentic Brand Story
Labatt Brewing Company | Anheuser-Busch InBev partnered with us to brand and package a new fermented alcoholic beverage to market. The product was developed in response to wellness trends that focused on ingredients over claims and reflected a yearning for simple, more meaningful things in life.
Like the beverage itself, our design solution was created with simple ingredients – only what was required to enhance the experience — with a relaxed confidence that visually reflected the simple flavor profile while adding a twist of energy, a splash of fun, and a moment of wit.
Our design broke through the visual frenzy on the shelf where one was blinded by color and dizzy from busy graphics. Instead of following the crowd, we developed a progressive design architecture, thoughtful brand expression, and differentiating color palette. The cohesive visual brand story reinforced the product’s analogous attributes and user benefits and thereby delivered an authentic and trustworthy narrative.
Using Design to Appeal to Consumer Values
For a new-to-market cannabis concentrates line, we created a very different look from the predominantly black and white palettes on the shelf, but again, not for the sake of differentiation. A concentrates consumer is a cannabis connoisseur, and the black and white color scheme signals a premium product that appeals to the consumer’s sophisticated, educated and quality-focused nature. They value reliability and need to trust the brands they choose.
So, the new brand identity supported the tight-knit community who pride themselves in crafting their individual experience through cannabis concentrates. In testing, consumers created a strong unaided correlation between colors and moods with ease, often citing how simple and relatable the spectrum was for them.
The result was a unique and ownable visual brand expression that articulated the main consumer benefits of choice and guidance while showcasing a one-of-a-kind experience unique to the category.
From the consumer’s point of view the design was an authentic representation of the brand promise, “I see the array of choices before me and am grateful that someone is leading a new approach to my needs.”
The Spirit of Discovery
For consumers, free search is about curiosity and discovering the unknown. It’s about the happy accident, the surprise, and exploration. Free-search brands can be inventive, innovative, and creative in return. Free search is all about discovery – so let’s explore.