shopper supermarket salad

The world is on fire. We’re lurching from existential crisis to existential crisis, and operating in a leaderless vacuum. Daunting, I know, and not something you expect to read in The Grocer – but bear with me.

In this world of crisis, people are looking for safety, comfort, and some joy to look forward to. Within this context, people expect more from brands.

It’s not enough to just deliver a great product, you need to deliver an experience. However, as we venture through our current paralysis paradox – a time where we face multiple crises but opinions on how to solve them are polarised – people expect brands to step in. People aren’t just looking for a great product experience, but to align their values with like-minded allies. We’re shifting to a values economy.

The imperative for brands to be distinctive has never been greater.

Standing out from the flock is easier said than done. We live in an increasingly noisy world, constantly bombarded with marketing messages. And brands need to cut through the clutter, creating a share of mind to achieve a share of wallet. 

If that wasn’t enough, people face a choice of up to 35,000 products in their average supermarket. Yet the average person only shops around 100 brands. Therefore, brands must work hard to stay in that shopping basket, or even harder if they want to replace another brand.

In our noisy world, brands face a common enemy: indifference.

The ugly truth is that people don’t care about your brand as much as you do. They only care when they need to.

Brands should be focused on acquisition, rather than loyalty. Staying front of mind is the name of the game. It’s vital that brands avoid the bland and unadventurous, as it has no point of difference. It offers no encouragement for people to buy into your brand.

However, the default of most brands is ‘mimetic isomorphism’ (aka follow the leader). Because the leader in a category does something, it must be right, right? That’s why so many cars look the same today.

This presents opportunities for brands willing to find their unique positioning in the market. To stand out, businesses need to understand their category’s commonalities, what distinctiveness to build into their brand, and how to communicate that distinctiveness authentically.

Take the vegan food category. It’s full of shouty, ‘worthy’ attitudes, all at the same volume in the same way, with packaging a sea of green, beige, and orange.

This created an opportunity for a new unapologetic vegan junk food brand that could buck the trend and come up against industrialised meat-based fast food companies.

With an in-your-face rebellious attitude, plant-based junk food brand VFC has achieved this. It’s showed that plant-based food can go hand in hand with indulgence. It’s brought the joy of the junk food category into a space that is bogged down by worthiness, and in the process has gone from a DTC startup to something much bigger.

You need to be consistently distinct from the competition. Our ‘lizard’ brain is hardwired to spot difference. That’s how we’ve survived and evolved as a species.

As VFC proves, to achieve meaningful change, you need to ruffle some feathers. To be memorable, your brand needs to be less of a chicken.