Richard Shear: A New Way To Evaluate Branding and Package Design (Part 2)

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 second in a series of articles that will help you find the technique that applies to your brand and use it.


How Evolutionary Search Patterns Influence Consumer Purchase Decisions – And How To Design For Them …

Part 2: That Reminds Me – Associated Search and Brand Equity

Imagine you are traveling down a path on a new and unfamiliar mountainside on a bright summer day—you’re hungry — and as you crest a hillside, you look down and see fields filled with familiar bushes. As you approach them, you recognize the berries and spend the afternoon devouring them with pleasure. Your willingness to try the berries you know in a place you’ve never been is what we would call a search informed by learned experience. While something about the circumstance may be new, your experience suggests it will be good for you.

If our story took place in a supermarket aisle, why might a consumer reach for your brand? It could be a visual element like a logo or the package’s shape, or perhaps they are prompted by an endorsement or positive experience.

When searching in a field of berries, or a retail environment, we gravitate towards things we have associations with. It’s a measure of comfort that comes from, for example, a brand you trust. While you may not have bought this brand’s breakfast cereal, you have had good experiences with its other products. You are intrigued and confident because, as with the berries, it reminds you of a pleasant experience. And what do we call this in the realm of marketing?

Brand Equity

A consumer’s recognition, experience, and trust are part of brand equity. Visually, a package, a logo, and other design elements wrap brand equity into a physical object. For example, the power of a brand’s color cues and logo can grab a consumer’s attention and create immediate recognition.

The brand marketer’s challenge is deciding how to use their brand’s equity on their product. They need to ask if the brand is essential to product messaging or whether it’s better to minimize the brand presence.

Perhaps no soup can is iconic as Campbell’s. In the spring and summer of 2021, the company ran a limited-time Garden Vegetable Minestrone, and Creamy Tomato Soup offer to educate the consumer about its sustainable farming practices. This offering included a can-topping coaster of tomato seeds for the consumer to plant. To highlight this campaign, Campbell’s asked us to design the new label and can-topping coaster.

Campbell’s LTO sustainability packaging designed by Invok Brands


So, how did we imagine our design for this LTO yet keep it unmistakably Campbell’s? Could it be Campbell’s and not red and white? What could we do with the logo? How could we support the flavor message and celebrate sustainability? We were very aware of the challenge to marry Campbell’s brand equity with its desired messaging. Using Campbell’s brand guidelines and our smarts, our design powerfully communicated both so that each design element speaks to communicate flavor and sustainability over brand.

For example, the Campbell’s logo has center-stage, large and white. The giving-hands icon offers a seed, sharing the message of sustainability in an approachable, Zen, and nurturing feel. The linear elements that separate the type are intentionally natural. The green background has a texture of handcrafted paper.

Brand association goes beyond product categories and even beyond demographics. Consumers have different views and perspectives. If you have a global brand, you will be cautious about how often and where to use it or risk brand dilution.

In 2021, Invok Brands helped Nestle with a Del Monte frozen treats brand refresh. We helped them position the brand in the category while emphasizing its importance because it had solid recognition. By understanding consumers’ associations with Del Monte and their frozen treats, we considered what brand equity existed and what signals or cues a shopper would either look for or notice. We aimed to allow immediate recognition in the refreshed pack.


Del Monte refreshed packaging designed by Invok Brands


And we did so with much success. The refreshed design demonstrated that these treats are a better-for-you choice and capitalized on consumer trust by retaining the iconic Del Monte green box and emphasizing fruit-forward flavor cues. Del Monte has impressively continued to grow by double digits while several other brands are declining.

That reminds me, which is how the associated search works, requires that you hit all the right notes in terms of messaging and brand promise in a truly distinct design.